Archive for film

SDCC: Green Lantern Gets a Green Game.

Posted in Comics, DC, film, Green Lantern, videogames with tags , , , , , , , on 24th July, 2010 by Adam Redsell

These are the Manhunters, former protectors of the universe.

Another comic-to-film-to-videogame adaptation has been announced by Warner Bros. Interactive; this time for Green Lantern.  The game will be titled Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters, which hopefully indicates strong ties with Geoff Johns’ work on the character.  Unless it’s also the full title of the film, which hopefully will also draw heavily on Johns’ stellar run.  The game will release Summer 2011, or Winter for those of us in the southern hemisphere.

I’ve never played a Green Lantern videogame before, so it’ll be interesting to see how they handle his virtually limitless powers: using willpower to forge constructs out of green light.  Now a thought-controlled videogame – that I’d like to see.

Advertisements

Deadpool is Green Lantern…Wai–Wha?!

Posted in Comics, DC, Deadpool, film, Green Lantern, Marvel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 27th July, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool, is Green Lantern?

Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool, is Green Lantern?

I was more than shocked to read in passing that ‘[Geoff] Johns is really excited about Ryan Reynolds as GL.’ This was during the Blackest Night panel at the San Diego Comic-Con. While I’m sure Geoff Johns was just being polite and towing the company line, DC (or should I say, Warner Bros.?) must be stark, raving mad to sign an actor connected with not just one, but two sword-slinging, smart-mouthed Marvel properties, to portray their now-flagship character, Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern. I am of course referring to Reynolds’ turn as Hannibal King of Blade fame, but more importantly, to his recent role as Deadpool in the Wolverine film (soon to be reprised in a central, starring capacity).

I couldn’t tell you how many hits Bat-Shark Repellent receives on a daily basis, from Google searches on “deadpool”, “deadpool movie”, and “deadpool ryan reynolds” [sic], but I can tell you it’s a lot.  I can tell you first hand that there is a lot of interest surrounding Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool film, and despite Marvel’s mishandling of the character in Wolverine‘s final act, their interest is well-placed.  Reynolds’ nailed the ‘Merc with a Mouth’ aspect of the character, with a lithe, muscular physique to boot.  He’s perfect for the part.

But not for Green Lantern.  Hal Jordan is a straight-shooter with a carefree abandon, but he’s not a smartass.  Not to Ryan Reynolds levels, he isn’t.  Hal Jordan’s wit and charm hearken back to the James Deans and the Steve McQueens of the day – the ‘Rat Pack’, not the ‘Brat Pack’.  In fact, I was watching The Great Escape the other day, and Hal Jordan is exactly like Steve McQueen.  He dislikes authority; he plays by his own rules; and he can’t be couped up because he wants to be free, no matter the cost.  So in the absence of Steve McQueen, WB should be signing someone like him.

Witty one-liners are the skill of the superhero – more important than flying or super-strength – but there are different brands of wit, and I’m sorry, but Reynolds just doesn’t have Hal Jordan’s.  But hey, what do I know?  This is Hollywood we’re talking about here, and I very much doubt that Warner Bros. concern themselves with stuff like this.  No-one outside of Comicdom really knows Hal Jordan, so they’re likely thinking of him as a blank slate – not a sacred cow like Batman or Superman.  The pitch probably went something like this: “think Wolverine meets Superman” and BAMMO! “Get Ryan Reynolds’ agent on the phone, pronto!”

Reynolds must love him some comics, as this deal would make him the first actor to portray characters from both Marvel and DC.  He was also attached to play the Flash a few years ago.  Now that I can see, provided they meant the quick-witted Wally West Flash and not the straight-down-the-line Barry Allen Flash.

To my mind – and I’m sure to many others’ – Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool.  Steve McQueen is Green Lantern!  I’ll probably see this film regardless – and I’m sure Warner Bros. know this – more out of morbid curiousity than anything else.  But who knows?  Maybe Reynolds can channel McQueen and all will be right in Sector 2814.  (That’s Earth.)

For my money, this Green Lantern fan’s vision of a film starring Nathan Fillon makes a whole lot more sense:

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born Hardcover

Posted in Comics, Dark Tower, film, Marvel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 24th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell
Welcome to Stephen King's living, breathing world.

Welcome to Stephen King's living, breathing world.

Creative Director: Stephen King
Script: Peter David
Plot: Robin Furth
Artist: Jae Lee
Inker/Colorist: Richard Isanove
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Associate Editor: Nicole Boose
Editor: John Barber
Senior Editor: Ralph Macchio

Stephen King is no stranger to comic books.  I can confirm, for one thing, that he has at least read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series.  Whether or not he read the whole thing, I can’t say for certain, but he definitely knew his stuff when writing the foreword to “Worlds’ End”.  What came through in King’s foreword was not only his deep respect for Neil Gaiman as an author, but also for the comic book medium itself.  It should, then, come as no surprise that King enlisted the services of two notable comic book artists to illustrate his long-running series and “magnum opus” The Dark Tower, Dave McKean and Bernie Wrightson.  Then I read King’s afterword to The Dark Tower, and discovered that he’s also read and loved Watchmen, Preacher, and V for Vendetta.  All of this bodes well for a Stephen King graphic novel.

The Dark Tower, as a comic book adaptation of a Stephen King novel, is a difficult book to review.  If it’s well-written (and it is), who gets the credit for it?  Stephen King, who wrote the original novels?  Peter David who wrote the scripts?  Or Robin Furth, who plotted the thing?  Well, if I had read the original novels, I’d be able to tell you!  But I haven’t, so I’m just going to have to thank King for the source material, Peter David for his speechcraft, and Robin Furth for his encyclopaedic knowledge of Mid-World (apparently he knows more about the world of Dark Tower than Stephen King himself!).  I’ve also been informed that The Gunslinger Born is a prequel after some fashion, beginning the story in chronological order for the first time, and so in many ways, this is new ground for the series.

Mid-World – the world of Dark Tower – is an interesting milieu of cultures.  The gunslingers are Old West, but their dialect is known as the High Speech.  The consistency in language really contributed to this feeling of a living, breathing world.  There are wizards and mystical orbs of power, but they still need oil supplies to refuel their World War I tanks.  The unusual placement of familiar objects is all at once surreal and fantastical, but with echoes of reality.  It feels as though Mid-World has always existed, and is simply being revealed to us bit by bit, rather than being built from the ground up.

The Gunslinger Born follows a pretty simple mythic structure.  A boy named Roland Deschain undergoes a rite of passage to become a man, then leaves his family and sets out on a perilous journey with his mates (or his ka-tet).  The gunslingers are an Arthurian Order, Roland falls in love with the damsel in distress, and all the while a dark lord is preparing his army.

The presentation of this comic is probably the most cinematic I have seen, so I have little doubt that this will work brilliantly as a feature film under J.J. Abrams’ care and attention.  The characters are beautifully drawn by artist Jae Lee – again, playing on that grounded surrealism – while Richard Isanove’s colours are moody and atmospheric.  My only qualm with the art, and indeed, the entire book is that the backgrounds are a little too samey from panel to panel.  One the one hand, it maintains this consistency of place and atmosphere, but still, it’s a little minimalistic given the stunning foreground detail, and it did wear me down eventually seeing only one background colour per page.  I know it’s cinematic, and I know it’s fantasy, but it’d be nice to have a hand-drawn background every once in a while.  Still, the book is gorgeous.

As someone who’s never made it through a Stephen King novel, I can honestly say this was an enjoyable read with an enticing world and interesting characters.  The Dark Tower is a great touching point for anyone who’s new to the medium and wants to read a story without the baggage of continuity.  It’s also a great place to start for Stephen King fans who want to gain an appreciation of graphic storytelling, to see what it can do with their favourite story.

Iron Man Lives Again!

Posted in Comics, film, Iron Man, Marvel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

First of all, let me qualify this review by saying that I am a huge DC Comics nut. One need only look as far as my blog header to determine that. So the fact that a Marvel comic-to-film adaptation caught my eye was an achievement in itself. After seeing the trailer for Iron Man a few months ago, it did more than merely ‘catch my eye’; it actually made me excited for the film. If you haven’t seen it already, take some time to have a look:

What you can take away from that trailer, and what I ultimately took away from the film is this: a grounded plot and believable acting can sell an iron man, comic book films are supposed to be fun, and Robert Downey Jr. is a perfect fit for Tony Stark.

Downey Jr. portrays an utterly human Tony Stark in the Marvel tradition – conflicted and flawed, but ultimately likable. The billionaire industrialist, like his father before him, has built his entire fortune and empire on weapons manufacture and military technology. In the film’s opening scenes, you really get the impression that Stark believes in his company’s role in global stability. This all comes into conflict, though, after an explosive sales-pitch in the Middle-East, when Stark is grievously injured and captured in a terrorist firefight. Iron Man is really born in his prison-cave, long before the suit is built. Indeed, he is born almost out of necessity – Stark wakes up connected to a car battery – an electromagnet the only thing keeping shrapnel from his heart. But more than that, Stark is forced to confront the reality of his world [he’s also forced at gunpoint to re-create his own missile, but that’s another story]; a world in which his own weapons are proliferated for evil designs. His fellow prisoner Yinsen becomes his closest friend, who not only inspires him to be Iron Man, but also helps him build Iron Man. It feels as though Downey’s brought a lot of himself to the table: the slick, aging ‘rock star’ who yearns for release from the shallow trappings of wealth and fame. It’s almost ironic that Stark manages to fill that void by constructing a shell for himself.


Downey Jr. is Tony Stark. Tony Stark is Iron Man.

Iron Man is rich with themes and metaphors like these. The most obvious themes being those of financial, military, and creative power, and accountability for that power. In many ways Iron Man represents the America that it wants to be. On his first jaunt as the finished Iron Man, Stark ventures back to his place of capture to destroy his own weapons and take out the terrorists, without a single civilian casualty. It’s a pity that these excursions are few and far between, but that’s the price of the obligatory first-film-as-origin-story approach. Having said that, Iron Man features one of the better origin stories this side of Batman Begins, and it’s really necessary to sell us on the idea of one man having the mental, financial, and technological capacity to build such a complex suit of armour. Having witnessed the level of detail in the special effects, it really made me wonder how anyone could have believed in an Iron Man as early as the sixties. That’s more a testament to the film than a criticism of the source material.

As amazing as the special effects are, it’s the performance of the cast that really carries the plot. All of the major players (Downey Jr., Terence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges, and Shaun Toub) serve as strong reference points with believable and well-rounded performances. Tony Stark is more than just a billionaire playboy, Pepper Potts is more than a love interest, James Rhodes is more than just a ‘token black guy’. You really get the impression that these characters are in it for the long haul, and there are a few gentle nods toward this notion. As I alluded to earlier, Robert Downey Jr. was the perfect choice to play Stark, winning us over with his wit and charm, and convincing us in those grim, life and death moments. Iron Man really has the right combination of comedy and mature content for a comic book film, and is reflective of the age and sensibilities of the comic readership. A majority of the laughs are dealt in the suit-testing phases. In these scenes, wealth and technology become his uncomfortable allies, and slowly we see him scorn the former for his Greater Purpose. Granted, this message can be a little hard to swallow with all the product placement (Iron Man would like to thank Burger King, Ford and Audi for their support), but it’s another day at the office for Showbiz.

In what I perceive as its central theme – Creativity vs. the Man – Iron Man takes more than a few stabs at big corporations. In Iron Man, we ultimately see Stark as the creative human being, and the Corporation as a perverter of creativity, and a thief of great ideas. When Iron Man faces off against his own technology in the final battle, he asserts his position as a responsible and accountable force in the world. Again, he is the America that America wants to be.

With spot-on characterisations and richness in theme, credit must go to the scriptwriting team for mining and distilling the wealth of the source material, and director Jon Favreau for handling the film with utmost respect for the character [it all comes back to using power responsibly, see?]. Iron Man brings home the gold, but it also keeps a few aces up its sleeve. If you’re a comics fan, you should have a fair idea of what to expect in the sequel, just don’t look too hard before you actually see the film.

When all is said and done, Iron Man stands tall as a great comic book film. It works both as an action film and a comic book story, denying the power of neither medium. Favreau, Downey and Company sell an iron man to a new audience, even to this DC Comics fan. Well done.

Review on the Run: Hancock.

Posted in Comics, film, Hancock with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 15th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

I went in with fairly low expectations, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised with Hancock. Once you get past the five-minute slapstick opening (CG seagulls – you’ll see what I mean), it’s all smooth sailing. Probably the best performance was given by Jason Bateman, who plays a struggling PR man. He finds new purpose in improving the super-lout’s public image, but he certainly gets more than he bargained for.

There’s a few nods to other superheroes here and there, including Iron Man and The Hulk, mostly because Hancock’s always getting drunk and breaking things. But even if you’re not a comic-book nerd like myself you’ll find plenty to enjoy. CG seagulls aside, my only real gripe with the film is the lack of a real imposing villain. Of course, my points of reference are Lex Luthor and the Joker, so that comparison may not be fair.

The Darkest Knight Ever: A Dark Knight Review.

Posted in Batman, Comics, DC, Detective Comics, film, The Dark Knight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 11th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

The Gotham underworld is in ruins as it struggles to rebuild itself. Criminals stray from the shadows, and hide in the daylight, for the shadow is the Batman’s domain. Clawing desperately like rodents from flame, the mafia turns to a man they do not understand. An agent of Chaos, they call him the Joker.

The shadow of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight looms large over every Bat-film, nay, every superhero film before it. By the film’s conclusion, it struck me just how apt the title was: its darkness surpasses even Burton’s Gothic interpretation of the franchise. Nolan’s real-world Gotham makes the presence of a Joker all the more frightening. I’ve never thought about the Joker as a terrorist or even an anarchist before, but Nolan and Ledger gave me a real sense of, this is what the world would be like with the Joker in it, and this is what he’d do. It all seems so obvious now, but the truth is, there’s never been a Joker quite like this before. As Nolan has stated in various interviews, Heath Ledger’s Joker truly is a force of nature. He’s a hurricane that sweeps through each scene, stealing it and then destroying it for no other reason than that’s what he is. There is a tangible tension in the air; a siren sound builds in the background (courtesy of Zimmer and Howard), and neither the audience nor the Batman knows how to deal with him, because we honestly don’t know what he’ll do next.

Ledger's iconic Joker. There's no telling what he might do.

Ledger's iconic Joker. There's no telling what he might do.

It’s this unpredictability that propels the entire film for two and a half hours – no mean feat if you’ve ever seen Lord of the Rings. There are plot twists a-plenty here, and each one of them is a bold move on the part of Goyer and the brothers Nolan.

Like all good comic books, The Dark Knight is first and foremost a character drama. Christian Bale plays a brooding Batman, and a conflicted Bruce Wayne once again. But it’s clear this time that Wayne has moved beyond revenge, and is far more concerned with the repercussions of Batman’s actions, not only for his loved ones, but for Gotham City as a whole. One of the film’s major themes is sacrifice, and you’ll see plenty of moments where all of Wayne’s friends and allies pay high prices for the love of their city. I could really feel Bruce Wayne and Harvey Dent’s love for both Gotham and Rachel, and Jim Gordon’s love for his family as well. It is Harvey Dent’s inextricable importance to Gotham and all of its major players that makes his destiny all the more tragic. That Aaron Eckhart’s Dent won me (and Batman) over within the first few minutes only amplified the tragedy. Again, I knew what to expect, but I was continually surprised by the journey.

Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon is a comic fan’s dream come true. His resemblance to the character in the classic Year One is uncanny, both in personality and visage. Maggie Gyllenhaal was the perfect choice to replace Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes – not only does she look similar; she plays a stronger character with more substance than a pretty face. Take this from someone whose pet hate is changing casts between sequels – that the first four Bat-films featured the same Alfred Pennyworth, yet three different Bruce Waynes irked me to no end! Speaking of Alfred, Michael Caine shines through as Bruce’s mentor and friend. I was initially wary of his casting in Begins, mostly due to his rustic speech, but he has captured the essence of a butler who oversteps his role, and cuts straight to the heart of the matter. Morgan Freeman reprises his role as Lucius Fox, Batman’s ‘Q’ and now-CEO of Wayne Enterprises.

The movie’s other major theme is Chaos. Chaos is the Joker’s modus operandi, and he sees himself as the necessary Yin to Batman’s Yang. Bale underscores this notion in playing the thinking-man’s Batman. While there is little emphasis on Batman as the World’s Greatest Detective, he is certainly portrayed as an inventive and rational force. Joker, on the other hand, is all kinds of insane. He simply doesn’t care what happens, as long as something happens; his life an amoral dance of cause and effect. It’s almost refreshing to see the Joker’s sheer abandonment and wanton destruction, as it represents a way of life so different from our own.

Nolan and company cottoned on to the character’s greatest strength: his mysterious origin. Nolan makes no attempt to explain the Joker’s origins definitively; a wise choice that not only saves valuable screen-time, but enriches the character as well. A wry smile crept across my face every time Ledger licked his lips to recount a different origin story to his victims. Indeed, there is a certain black comedy that permeates his dialogue and the film at large. Heath Ledger’s mannerisms are clever and understated, simultaneously manic and aloof. His performance chilled me to the bone, and yet I couldn’t wait to see him return for the next scene. It represents a fitting swan song to his career, and I would love nothing more than to see him win that posthumous Oscar.

The Dark Knight definitely comes off as a self-contained film, and no expense was spared to give it all the dramatic weight possible, with almost complete disregard for sequel potential. As lofty as they are, comparisons with the likes of The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather: Part II are apt. With such a take-no-prisoners approach, where do we go from here? Disheartening, though it may be, it’s a beautiful problem to have.

There are so many more things I could say about The Dark Knight, but nothing that hasn’t already been said more eloquently by someone else. To give you a detailed account of every happening would only diminish its profound impact. Needless to say, it distills some of the greatest elements in Batman’s rich history and combines them to create a thrilling, multi-layered narrative. With Iron Man and now The Dark Knight, its refreshing to see the medium of the comic book movie treated with such maturity and respect for the source material. More than that, The Dark Knight actually transcends the genre of the superhero movie. It’s not for the faint of heart (or for children), but anyone can and probably will enjoy this movie on its own merits. Run, don’t walk, to your nearest video store and catch The Dark Knight.

Riddle Me This: Batman Three.

Posted in Batman, Batman Three, Comics, DC, Detective Comics, film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 9th May, 2009 by Adam Redsell

This one seems to have flown beneath the buzz radar. But I’m chomping at the bit at the prospect of having Johnny Depp take on The Riddler. Problem is, these early casting rumours rarely ever come to fruition. My other problem is: has the story treatment for Batman Three even been written yet? I don’t like the idea of The Riddler and Penguin being shoe-horned into a Batman story [though I surmise this is what happens with most comics, we’ve already established that ‘The Dark Knight’ has transcended its source material].

All misgivings aside, if anyone has a decent chance of one-upping Ledger’s Joker, it’s Depp. Not necessarily because he’s a better actor – and he is – but because he’s a great character actor, equally adept in Hollywood blockbusters as he is in obscure thrillers. That he’s worked with Tim Burton on more occasions than anyone else [with the possible exception of Danny Elfman?] damn-near infuses Mr. Depp with a biological connection to the Batman mythos. Whether or not you appreciate Burton’s Bat-films is entirely beside the point, one thing is clear: Burton has an innate sense of the Gothic, and the Comic.

Can the Joker be beaten?

Can the Joker be beaten?

I could care less that Philip Seymour Hoffman was approached to be the next Penguin. He looks like he could be a Penguin, but that’s merely an aesthetic consideration at this point. Without a doubt, he’s a fine actor, but a fine Penguin? Not so sure. I suppose that’s because conceptually, I hold Burton and DeVito’s Penguin on a pedestal nearly as tall as Ledger’s Joker [that and it marked the first and last occasion that DeVito played a character other than himself]. In a real-world context – that is, Nolan’s context – the Penguin simply bores me as nothing more than a mobster with a disfigurement. The Penguin of the comics has never been compelling. Ever. And I’ve read a lot of Batman comics.

But I can see The Riddler working, particularly in the hands of Depp. My story treatment goes something like this: Edward Nygma [surely they will need to change his name, who wouldn’t guess that this guy is secretly The Riddler?!] is the detective charged by the GCPD to track down the Batman and incarcerate him. When he clocks off, though, he becomes the terrorist known only as The Riddler, putting the Dark Knight through his paces with a series of life-or-death riddles, designed to trap and expose him. Here is a pragmatic force, determined to unravel the mystery of the Batman at all costs, even at the cost of civilian lives. This effectively fuses two of the most popular [and tenable] interpretations of the character: a villain obsessed with the mystery of Batman’s identity vs. a rival detective and GCPD informant, as he has appeared most recently within the pages of Paul Dini’s Detective Comics. It’s also a scenario that fits well with the Batman-as-Enemy-of-the-State theme alluded to in The Dark Knight’s final act.

So, The Riddler and the Penguin in Batman Three?  Certainly a possibility.

So, The Riddler and the Penguin to feature in Batman Three? Certainly a possibility.