Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Double Team'd: Searching for Good DC.

We comic book fans have heard repeatedly about the on-again-off-again saga of DC comic titles at the hands of Warner Brothers Pictures. The Justice League was on; now it's off. Superman came back, but is now gathering dust on a shelf. The Flash was revving up, only to have the brakes deployed. We won't even get started on the repeated raping of my Wonder Woman hopes. Now rumors are that the Ryan Reynolds'-starrer Green Lantern is about to suffer from wishy-washy syndrome due to rising costs of an Australian production.

Luckily, the Animation arm of Warner Brothers knows how to put product on the street. Granted, they may not always do a bang-up job, but at least we comic nerds have two recent choices for our fix.

Wonder Woman

DVD Release: 03.06.2009
Rated PG-13
1 hour, 14 minutes

See It, Take a Friend, Buy the DVD!

US Air Force pilot Steve Trevor (Nathan Fillion, Serenity) crashes on an uncharted island. He finds himself at the feet of a race of warrior women, the Amazons. No man has ever set foot on the island of Themyscira. During his appearance, the war god Ares (Alfred Molina, Spider-Man 2) escapes from prison and begins to wage war on the world. By winning a challenge, the Queen's only daughter, Princess Diana (Keri Russell, Waitress), is tasked with being the first Amazon to enter the world of man to escort Trevor home and capture Ares.

I honestly don't get how Warner Brothers Pictures can't greenlight a Wonder Woman film. This animated tale rocked! The story, penned by Gail Simone and Michael Jelenic, sucks you in from the start. In the opening sequence, we see the Amazons in brutal battle with the armies of Ares. Though much is done in silhouette, viewers can feel the slicing of the blades and watch the carnage as heads literally fly. The rough-and-tumble is balanced with comedy; first at the awkwardness of Trevor in his foreign surroundings, and then by Diana as she attempts to manuever in strange lands.

The voice casting is perfect. Nathan Fillion's a hoot as the quick-with-a-line Trevor, but his voice carries the weight of the cojones to back up Diana in dangerous situations. If a live-action film ever goes forward, only Fillion should be considered for Trevor role. Unfortunately, I can't envision Keri Russell sporting the bracelets and lasso, but I think she could definitely fill any other Amazonian woman's boots.

There's not much more to say about Wonder Woman. An action-packed, captivating story and great voice casting combine to make the movie I only wish the studio would get off their ass to make. The only way to make it a reality is to show love for this well-deserving character by putting your money where your cinema wishes are.

Green Lantern: First Flight

DVD Release: 07.28.2009
Rated PG-13
1 hour, 17 minutes

Second Run Seats

While running simulations, test pilot Hal Jordan (Christopher Meloni, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle) is abducted by a dying alien. The alien's power ring has chosen Jordan to succeed the alien as a Green Lantern, an intergalactic police force. Jordan is taken to Oa, the home planet of the Lanterns' creators, the Guardians, where he is trained and evaluated by Sinestro (Victor Garber, Jeffrey) as to his worthiness to wear the ring. Meanwhile, the evil Kanjar Ro (Kurtwood Simth, RoboCop) works to develop a weapon that will rival the Lanterns' power.

After my Wonder Woman experience, I was stoked to see the marvels achieved with the adaptation of Green Lantern's mythology. Watching this, I got to ask, is that the best you got? The story and central conflict are taut and intriguing, thanks to the writing of Alan Burnett (Batman: Gotham Knight). The voice casting was solid, but lacked nuance. When you're dealing with a gaggle of blue-skinned, stubby floating aliens, it should really be easier to distinguish one character from another.

Voicing quibbles aside, the huge letdown came with the animation. The power of Green Lanterns is in their rings, not their physique, so I'd have preferred the gangly classic Sinestro to First Flight Sinestro's impressive Schwarzenegger stature. There are also continuity issues concerning the power rings that nagged at me. Those issues are minor when compared to the action. The awesomeness of a Green Lantern is its ability to fabricate any number of objects to resolve the conflict at hand. Occasionally, Sinestro wills into being a net or Jordan conjures a golf club, but by and large, the Lanterns just point and shoot green beams of energy like Old West gunslingers. Ingenious fabrications created through sheer willpower, not Mighty Morphin' blaster rings, are what makes the Lantern Corps cool.

I think the live-action Green Lantern film is a mistake. Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps would make a far better television series. Spend the first year focusing on Jordan learning the powers of the ring, then by season finale have the world of the Guardians and the Corps revealed to him, when bigger budgets would only improve the series. I've gotten off track a bit, but the point is Green Lantern is a complex mythology and a full length feature will be hard pressed to do it justice. First Flight made a decent attempt, but aside from being a passable entry into the DC DVD line, it never shatters any barriers.

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