Wednesday 21 March 2012

Panda and I watched: Green Lantern

Panda and I love us some comic books. There are some brands (or titles) that appeal for different reasons than others. We like Watchmen, but we also like Green Lantern, Justice League, Hawkworld and both hold a particular fondness for Adam Strange. Normally when a franchise we like comes out we get in line psychologically. We don't actually line up. We're too lazy for that kind of behaviour. It is probably better to say that we put it on the to-do list. It becomes imbedded in our psyche, which we share, as a thing that will be done, and until it gets done we check and re-check release dates, figure out who we want to see it with, and speculate over the goings on that will be witnessed of which we are already emotionally involved. That is our modus operandi and that is exactly how we rolled on the whole John Carter situation. This is also how we rolled when Green Lantern was approaching, but due to poor responses that often included the word 'shit' we started avoiding it. We were worried. We didn't want to be disappointed, but I have been feeling unwell lately and that means that Panda gets what he wants, so we watched it.

It is not a good movie, but more than this it is not a good Green Lantern Story. I feel like they missed the point of making a movie and the point of telling a Green Lantern story, then to top it off they cheated us. When I say us I am not just talking about Green Lantern fans, but the story consuming public as a whole.

I'm going to digress and regress for a little bit. When I was nine I went to the US of A for five weeks with my friend Gabriel, who himself has made some interesting points on stories and story telling in his time. While there I bought some comic books and the pen and paper role-playing game DC Heroes. These materials introduced me to the Green Lantern Corps which took my fancy straight away. On a a not unrelated note: It was on this trip that I became curious about and eventually obsessed with how a game with actual rules could possibly cover the seemingly infinite uses for the GL power ring, which in turn rekindled a fascination with how games work.

Once I got back to Australia I started picking GL comics up whenever my local newsagent stocked them. I didn't really have access to the funds to procure back issues or trade paper backs at the time so I just read what came my way. I was reading pretty avidly for a couple of years when the "Emerald Twilight" storyline came along, which is a story of how a grief stricken Hal Jordan becomes the mind-controlling reality-bending Parallax.

Where is that story?

We won't get that story, because that was the end (for a while) of Hal Jordan being the Lantern. It wasn't an origin story. I know that they retconned it so that he had actually been hanging around "Since the beginning", but Parallax (who eats fear?) doesn't really belong in Hal Jordan's origin story. He comes later on when you are invested in the character. When the impact of him creating a construct of his recently deceased girlfriend because he isn't coping with the loss really hits you hard.

After I finished high school I would duck in and out of Green Lantern and from time to time I would pick up the odd omnibus or trade paper back, amongst them were "Emerald Dawn" parts one and two, "Secret Origin" and "Sinestro Corps War", which all catalogue Sinestro's fall from being one of the Green Lantern Corps' greatest heroes to becoming one of their most persistent enemies. This is a big story that explores the concepts of the ends justifying the means and the often horrific preemptive nature of order and control of a populace.

Where is this story?

We won't get this story because the creative forces behind the movie felt that it was important that Sinestro first dons his yellow ring in a mid credits sequence giving the event little to no impact. The creation of the ring itself feels a lot like it was added as an after thought. I am aware that Sinestro was a villain from early on in the piece as far as the comics are concerned and most of this story was told later, but I feel like they tossed away a great opportunity so that they could bust a grizzly for themselves (it's a term for masturbate).

Neither Panda nor I are total sticklers for continuity and neither are we hell bent on remaining true to all the details of the original source material, which rarely stays true to itself these days, but these divergences are just cheats that turn Green Lantern into another piss-weak origin film that doesn't really have an engaging story. My experience with the Green Lantern comics is that at their very core they are about will, fear, grief and varying concepts of what is right. Powerful stuff if you can show it. The recent film talks about some of these things a lot, but doesn't really give anyone an opportunity to convince the audience.

A lot of people have complained to me about Reynolds' casting, but as far as I can tell it is the writers of the film that have failed to convey the true heft of Green Lantern, and at the same time prevented themselves from being able to really give two of the most important stories in the franchise the weight they deserve. Likewise there is no real opportunity for Reynolds to really sink his teeth into the role of  Hal Jordan. This says nothing of the daylight robbery of Mark Strong's role. Imagine his surprise when, after being cast as one of the most interesting villains in the DC multiverse, they gave him a handful of dunce scenes and dialogue to match. It doesn't really matter if you are a Lantern fan or not, you have been cheated.

I would love to see a sequel, but I hope they really drill down to the core of the franchise and find the themes and the stories that don't get explored anywhere else, otherwise it is just another superhero movie based on a comic book, and there are a lot of those.

Panda agrees.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Playing old games

I recently made the conscious decision to return to a method of writing I have often (and repeatedly) turned my back on. When it comes down to it my only really useful skill as a writer is to be able to sit down and knock out a couple of thousand words of story in an hour. Which is about as much as you need if you want to write a new version of a chapter from scratch.

I actually highly recommend cultivating this as a method for essay writing. It is the one I used during my short stints at university. Sitting down and writing four drafts and then cribbing from all of them for the final is a much more fruitful and less time consuming method of writing just about anything. Write, review, write review, write, review, and so on. and so on. I know that it is a lot less stressful than mulling over a single draft wondering what is missing or isn't working. You pick those things out in the review.

Whatever other benefits there may be, I know that it is by far the fastest and least stressful method of writing that I have ever used. If it doesn't work you can have another crack. Try something different, try adding different characters to the scene, or try moving the scene to another room or geographical location.

My recent return to this method have tightened up the early chapters in the Book, and given me three of the best chapters I have written in months.

I swear by it.

Some assembly may be required,
dependent on the degree of care taken during shipping.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Everyone? Yes, everyone!

When I was a wee lad of about nine, or thereabouts, I read a few books from the Barsoom Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Though I have carried this around in my head ever since, it has been only recently that it was jostled to the forefront of my mind and I felt the need to say something about it. This is no doubt due in no small part to the ad campaign for John Carter, which hits Australian cinemas tomorrow.

I loved these books. I always thought that I got them from my cousin, who passed on many of his books to me. This may have actually been arranged by our parents and been without his knowledge, leaving him to wonder where all of his books were going. I believed that this was how I must have acquired the few Barsoom books that I had, but I recently discovered that he hasn't read them. I distinctly remember not reading A Princess of Mars first because it didn't sound nearly as interesting as The Warlord of Mars.

There were a number of reasons that the Barsoom series might be appealing to a lad of about nine, or thereabouts. It is full of sword fights, high adventure, amazing battles, ancient mysteries, fabulously monstrous aliens, and not a small amount of nudity. As E.R. Burroughs presents it, everyone on Mars is naked! The heroes don't wear pants, the princesses don't wear pants, and the giant aliens, whether they are green, red, white or kangaroo men, certainly don't wear pants. Discovering this made A Princess of Mars seem a lot more interesting, and it also made my reading them feel somewhat clandestine. I was starting to be curious about 'the ladies' and here they were. Naked. Naked in words.

I'm not at all bothered by the apparent lack of nudity in the upcoming film. I say apparent as I haven't yet seen it. Actually I know "a guy", he worked on it, and he swears there isn't any nudity. The aliens in the ads look pretty naked, but I didn't question him too closely on this. Perhaps Disney sees them like horses. No one ever wonders why the horses don't get pants. I would never expect a film based on this series to stay true to the original costuming, regardless of whether Disney was involved or not. It really would be a lot of nudity. There isn't really a point to be made here. I think some part of me just wanted to bring up the naked martians of my youth.

It is also worth mentioning that most of E.R. Burroughs' works are now in the public domain, a great many of which are available from Project Gutenberg, and many of them are also available free from the iTunes Store.

That is all.

Friday 2 March 2012

All the slow chapters...

I've reached a point with the Book where all of the chapters are there. The story is complete,...

(there it is)

my first instinct was to rewrite chapters, specifically early chapters with lots of dialogue. In rereading some of this dialogue I'm glad that this is an instinct that comes to me without provocation, but the next thing that I started doing I now want to stop doing. I think it is a similar instinct to that of chronic renovators. That little moment when the imp on your shoulder starts a sentence with "While you're down there you might as well...".

I've started rewriting whole chapters, expanding settings, and last night I wrote out a character. A character that appears in four more chapters, which now need to be rewritten to accommodate his absence.

I do this to my self. I really do.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Cultural Invader J

I am a student again. This was an ongoing state for me for some eighteen years.

I am training to become a linguistic missionary so that I can take part in what remains of the great English tradition of imperialism.

"You there, boy! Speak as I speak. Don't worry though, we will take some of your words like thieves in the night. We will sprinkle them throughout our own dictionaries as exotic linguistic gap filler. In decades to come most people will only guess that they were once yours by the awkward spelling. We will however have smoothed out your nasty little tripthongs by then. Run now! Tell all that you see!"

An unrelated note:

I am continually frustrated when clever premises for films trade off the original ending for something more salable. Minority Report is a film that often springs to mind when this topic comes up. In this Spielberg creation the premise simply acts as the set up for a series of chase sequences. The ending could be on the end of another film, and you probably wouldn't notice. I am bothered by this, because the source material has a fantastic ending that ties directly into the premise and the themes, and leaves you thinking "Well...shit!" (in a good way).

I bring this up because Total Recall is being remade and it is another film that is guilty of this story telling faux pas, though to a lesser extent. The ending in the original "We can remember it for your wholesale!", like in "The Minority Report", is a much neater fit with the premise (and themes). That said, Total Recall is one of my favourite films, despite its many flaws.

I will make time in my schedule for the remake.

For other examples of this see:
Repo Men (which suddenly becomes Abre los ojos/Vanilla Sky)
The Island (which makes a half hearted fourth quarter return)