Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Green Lantern: Blackest Night

[So today, I'm starting in on the Green Lantern. While doing my normal commute-brainstorming, I realized I have more questions than answers about Lantern and the Corps. So while I get my thoughts together, here's a Golden Oldie from my old blog. This was a movie brief I wrote in 2008 as my own version of the then-announced Green Lantern movie.

Judging by the trailers, I think I might have come out ahead here.]

One nice thing about Green Lantern is that (like the other major DC character of the Silver Age, the Flash) the hero’s job has been performed by many different characters over the years. This provides a great opportunity to have a new-to-all-of-this point of view character the audience can identify with without the need for an origin story and training-wheels villain.

That said, we do need to start with some action. So we open on Space, circa 1969. One of the Apollo Saturn Vs blasts out of the atmosphere into the void, jettisoning its final rocket stage. There it drifts over the big, blue marble. Point of view shifts to inside the capsule as several crew-cut crewmen (Their nametags read Morgan, Haley, and Ryan) work their way through various checklists to make sure everything’s go. “Looks like there’s some ice debris from Gibbet’s Comet ahead. Let’s run through the punchlist quick so we can steer around it.” Check check check check hey-waitaminute! Something is wrong! The trajectory is all off! If we don’t fix it, we’ll get sucked back into the atmosphere and burn up!

The astronauts fiddle with controls but something isn’t working. One of the thrusters is blocked and can’t move. The capsule starts to spin. “Look out the window and tell me if you can see anything!” shouts Morgan. Ryan looks out the window back at a thruster and he sees something all right – a metallic creature that appears to be a cross between a frog and a scorpion!

“There’s something out there! Something out th-!”

A green flash of light fills the window.

A man surrounded by a nimbus of green energy charges straight into the scorpofrogbot. He makes pretty quick work of the thing, although it does swipe at him with its red laser tail sting. The sting does seem to cut through the green energy a bit, but not so much as to actually wound. It would take a whole swarm of them to be an actual threat.

You know, like the swarm that’s lurking in that ice field the astronauts are drifting towards. Whoops.
So we get our opening battle. It’s Hal Jordan vs Scorpofrogbots. He has to fight them as they spring from ice chunk to ice chunk using wolf pack tactics. At one point, Hal gets tossed at the drifting capsule and ends up bumping in to it, face pressing against a porthole. Morgan recognizes him. “Hal?” The Green Lantern winks and goes back to the fight.

He wins, of course, and goes back to the capsule to make sure the astronauts are okay. He seals the entry hatch with green energy and actually pokes his head inside. He and Morgan obviously know each other and Morgan is shocked to see him. Apparently, Hal Jordan has been MIA for some time. Hal says he’s got a new job that’s been keeping him pretty busy and if Morgan could do him a solid and make sure not to mention any of this to the government, he’d appreciate it. Morgan agrees and the astronauts head off back on course, saying that the difficulty was just from steering around an ice chunk.

Hal Jordan floats in space and watches them drift off.

Roll Credits

So we come back to the modern day with Kyle Rayner out on a date. He’s dressed to his best, but is obviously out of place in a fancy restaurant. He’s nervous, but his date is very attractive, so that’s understandable. We also learn that he’s been ducking his girlfriend for the past several weeks and is paying for all this to try to make up for it. “You can finally afford a place like this?” Girlfriend asks, “Well, I guess there are some benefits to your new job.”

Kyle laughs nervously. “Yeah, well, with all the travel I have to do, everything’s covered, so I don’t have to spend anything. And seeing how I’m too busy to shop for me..”

“..and me..”

“..and you.. I’ve got some extra money on hand. Maybe I’ll start a 401k.”

“Look at you, Kyle Rayner, International Consultant. All grown up. I’m so glad that you stopped drawing those cartoons. There wasn’t any money there, and the people you worked with were all weirdoes.”

“Yeah, well…”

The waiter arrives and they order. She goes down the list, obviously looking for the most expensive stuff on the menu. Kyle doesn’t want her to order an expensive bottle of wine, saying that he’s on call and shouldn’t drink, but she goes and orders anyways. The dinner progresses slowly. She’s gabbing on and on about stuff that Kyle’s not really interested in (What her friends are doing, what clothes he should buy, etc.). He’s bored and staring out the window, looking down over the city.

A green streak flashes out over the city skyline. Kyle’s attention is locked on and he’s paying even less attention to his date. She’s not happy about this, of course. She demands his attention and gets it. Mostly. As she scolds him, the green streak comes closer. Closer. Eventually there’s a guy in green floating outside the window, just beyond her field of vision. He gives the universal Guy Signs for “ditch her, let’s go.” Kyle pauses a moment, trying to decide. Eventually he decides Space Bros before Needy Hos and stands up, saying that he has to go. He’s been, uh, paged. She doesn’t believe any of it (Your phone didn’t even ring!) but he’s already on his way out. She follows him, making a scene, squawking about almost everything he does (Why are you taking the stairs? Why are you going up? Why are you going to the roof?).

Eventually, Kyle can’t take it anymore. “Listen,” he says, starting to glow green himself, “I think we should see other people.”

Girlfriend’s brain is stuck between the fact that Kyle’s clothes are changing into some sort of green uniform and that she’s being dumped. “What?”

“It’s not you, it’s me. I just can’t give you the time you need.”

“So you’re dumping me?”

“Hoo-yeah,” Kyle sighs in relief. “Now, I have to go, so…”

She gets hysterical as he flies off, shouting how that he’ll never be anything and that she’s been sleeping with Ted Kord for the past two months anyways.

The other Green Lantern flies up next to Kyle. “Took you long enough.”

The two Lanterns have a discussion about what it means to Lantern and how it impacts their lives. Not having lasting relationships is fine with Guy Gardner, but Kyle really hopes to meet someone who can like him for who he is and understand what it is he does. Guy says that when Kyle’s been at this as long as he has, he’ll change his tune. Kyle points out that Guy’s only been at this a few years longer than Kyle. Guy reminds Kyle that when the Old Man retires in a few months, he’ll be the head Lantern of this sector, so those years do count. So we learn that the Lanterns are set up like patrol cops – one sarge and one rookie – who patrol certain beats.

Anyways, the reason that soon-to-be-top-cop Guy came to get Kyle is that the Old Man, picked up some disturbing news from HQ. A big bad that he faced years ago is coming back to Earth and this time, it seems to mean business.

‘So what are you waiting for? Race you there,” says Kyle as he blasts ahead. Guy whoops and follows. We get an action scene of the two chasing and dodging each other, sometimes using their rings to make road blocks and the like. They eventually are whizzing down a highway, going so fast that the Groom Lake/Area 51 Trespassers-Will-Be-Shot sign gets blown off its post.

We meet the Old Man, who is, of course, Hal Jordan. He’s aged well since we last saw him before the credits rolled. He’s looking at some old picture of himself with a black guy in Green Lantern outfits when the boys come in – showing that he’s kind of wistful for the old days.

Hal lays out the problem. An old interstellar threat from the Old Days has returned. This was a problem that he and his old partner faced back in 69/70, but it looks like it’ll be worse this time. Hal goes into a bit of this history of the Lanterns, explaining that they were actually the second attempt at an intergalactic peace force. The first was the Manhunters, a group of robots built to enforce law and order. Problem was, the robots eventually concluded that the best way to make sure everyone was safe and secure was to become tyrants and try to take over the universe and put it under lockdown. Whoops. The Lantern Corps was put together to put them down and after years and years of conflict, they did so, thus assuming the role of guardians of the galaxy.

However, the Manhunters (probably should change the name to one less goofy. Let’s call them the M’kar, which means Manhunter in Oan) were down, but they were not out. They retreated to the galactic rim and rebuilt their strength. From there, they began a series of raids and incursions, testing and probing the Lanterns over the years. That’s what he faced in 69 – a scouting party.

Those scouts were quickly followed by some actual M’kar, big angry humanoid robots. Our flashback changes to Hal fighting them off with the help of his partner, who for the moment we only see as a green, glowing flash in the distance.

“We won,” Hal says, “But the cost was high. Every few months we’d have to do it all over again when the next raiding party came out by the Western Spiral Arm. Eventually, it became too much. My partner headed off to the Rim to face them on their home turf. The raids stopped, but he never came back. I wish I had-“
Alarms go off. Enough talking, time for action!

A M’kar vessel has just dropped out of hyperspace near Mars. This one is pretty big, more than just a raiding vessel. It looks like it will take all three Lanterns to stop it!

So we get a big fight scene. Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, and Kyle Rayner versus a M’kar Dominator ship. This ship is a big one and it’s releasing a slew of drones and robots and scorpofrogbots into the area around Mars. The three Lanterns have to work together to defeat the ship and prevent the drones from drilling into the Martian surface. Hal quickly explains that if those drones get in and tap a vein of ore, they’ll be able to produce new robots only a stone’s throw away from Earth!

It should be noted how different the three Lanterns’ fighting styles are. Hal’s ring use is pretty sophisticated and the things he creates have a certain 60s chromed flair to them. Think about the lines on a classic Mustang or Thunderbird. He tends to fight at range with the ring, sending out Nike-swoosh-like blasts to slice through robots. Guy is almost the polar opposite. He’s all hand to hand and power. He wades into clumps of robots and pummels them to bits. His aura should be the brightest, but also the roughest. No actual recognizable shapes for Guy. If he needs to blast something at range, it’s just a comet of green energy, not a big green fist or anything. Kyle is fast an precise. He’s darting an and amongst the robots, using scalpel like blasts to depower them. He does create objects, complicated ones, and uses them to engage at range. No big floating swords or anything, but we can see green glowing copies of the scorpofrogbots getting behind enemy lines and causing havoc.

Of course, just when it looks like the boys are winning, everything goes wrong. An upgraded version of the standard Manhunter appears and it seems to have ring-like powers of its own coming from some sort of power staff! It gets the drop on Hal and, enveloping him in yellow energy, takes off with him. Guy and Kyle try to follow, but those drones are starting to land on the surface and they have to turn back to clean things up.

That done, the boys return to base distraught. They are understandably upset at leaving a man behind. Both want to go after Hal to rescue him, but of course, the Oan they have to report in to (small blue Grey Alien more than small blue Dungeon Master from the D&D cartoon) via a vid screen won’t let them. They can leave their post, it says. Abandoning his sector is what made Hal’s first partner disappear and they can’t risk losing another Lantern to the M’Kar. Besides, Earth would be defenseless.

“If one Lantern shut down the M’Kar for 30 years, imagine what three could do,” says a passionate Kyle to the little alien, “We head out, rescue Hal, and put an end to this menace once and for all. You can send some back-up to watch Earth until we get back.”

“No. You must understand. It is forbidden.”

“No, you must understand. We lost a friend out there. We can’t just abandon him. We’re not robots blindly following directives. We make choices to do what’s right, and right now we’re making the choice to go save our friend.”

The Oan considers and acquiesces. “Very well. We send in some Lantern Reserves to watch Earth. But know, Kyle Rayner, if you fail, your entire world may suffer for it.”

“Then I guess we won’t fail.” Fade out.

Cut to Hal who is being tortured by M’Kar. He’s strapped to a table with scorpofrogbots clasping his limbs and head. Several M’kar, including the one with the power staff, are standing over him. Bolts of yellow energy are being blasted into him. He grits his teeth with every blast. “Whatever you want from me, you won’t get it!” he calls out.

The lead M’kar replies, its voice a dread modulation of tones, “We only want you to suffer, Lantern. We have that.” More bolts of energy. His ring is removed.

Eventually, Hal is dumped into a holding tank. He’s burned and scarred and in a lot of pain, but still conscious. He lies on his back, fading in and out of consciousness. A voice can be heard, murmuring, ranting? “In brightest day, in blackest night, No evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, Beware my power…Green Lantern’s light!” as he passes out.

“So you have finally come to rescue me,” rasps the voice from the shadowy corner of the tank. “It only took you 30 years. I thought I trained you to be more… efficient.” A figure in tattered rags emerges from the shadows. It is human-looking, but its skin is a pinkish-purple and its forehead is pretty big. Stringy black hair hangs down around a bald pate.

Sinestro, you’re alive!” exclaims Hal.

“No thanks to you! Where have you been all these years, Jordan? Why did you abandon me?”

“I couldn’t leave my post, I-“


“I had orders.”

“Orders? You had orders to leave me here to rot in this mechanical hell for thirty of your years?”

“I couldn’t, I had responsibilities, a duty to the Corps.”

“You had a duty to your partner too!” roars Sinestro, striking Hal across the face.

Ah-so. So that’s what happened to Hal’s partner. More of the truth starts to come out. Sinestro almost took down the M’Kar once and for all, but he couldn’t do it alone. If Hal had come out with him, against Oa’s wishes, they could have won. Instead, Sinestro was captured and has been tortured for the past 30 years. He alludes to ‘doing what it took to survive’ and does not know what became of his ring. Eventually, Hal is taken away again for more torture, only this time, there are two M’Kar with power staves. He makes the connection that those staves are made from Lantern rings (the ring is at the tip of the staff), but that’s impossible, unless…

Oh, right. 30 years of torture.

So Guy and Kyle make it to the Rim just in time to interrupt another fun session of Torture Hal Jordan. A big fight begins, this time just Guy and Kyle versus the entire M’kar homebase, plus two power staff-wielding Manhunters. It is a big fight, full of yellow-versus-green punching and blasting. There’s no color weakness to the rings in my universe.

Meanwhile, while the Manhunters are distracted, Hal takes advantage and tries to do what he should have done years ago – rescue Sinestro. He makes it back down to the holding cell and manages to get past a few scorpofrogbots – it’s a lot harder without his ring! Sinestro has to guide Hal through the mess of corridors, in theory to get to some sort of escape pod.

Of course, Sinestro doesn’t take Hal that way, but instead takes him into the heart of the base. There, they find the power source for the two staves. Hal notices that it looks a lot like the rings’ power source on Oa. There’s also something glowing in the center of the yellow concentration of pulsing power. Another ring? Who knows. Hal starts to ask about it, but gets clunked on the head from behind by Sinestro, who’s babbling now. He talks about how he traded information on how the rings work in exchange for an end to the pain. And how those robotic fools were so intent on taking back the power rings of Oa that they felt were theirs, stolen from them by the Lanterns, that they never even noticed what he was building right beneath their sensors this entire time. A new ring, a more powerful ring with a more powerful power source.

Of course, nobody needs to know about this new ring until Sinestro is ready to strike. Luckily, there’s a convenient hero here to give his life for the Corps, destroying the base and any evidence of Sinestro’s existence. He starts dialing and punching buttons and doing Science Stuff.

Meanwhile, in space, the Lanterns are losing. The two M’kar with power staves, plus the entire armada, are just too much for them. The fight continues, but it’s just getting worse and worse. Eventually, one of the staved M’kar gets the drop on Guy, who’s pretty winded and weak. It lowers its staff to do him in execution-style, but Kyle streaks across, doing the whole ‘NNNnnooooooo!!!’ thing. Kyle, whose shields have more power at the moment then Guy’s takes the hit, saving his friend. But now he’s in just as bad shape and the other M’kar is approaching. The two robots gloat about how they will lead a might revolution against the fools of Oa and will remake the universe in their image, yadda yadda yadda. Foolish humans, there’s no way you can win!

But then the base blows up. The staves power down.

“Hal!” gasps Guy. He starts to rush off to see if he can rescue his mentor.

“Score one for us foolish humans,” says Kyle as he brings the remaining power of his ring to bear, destroying the two robots.

Of course, it’s a Pyrrhic victory. Guy returns with Hal, who is dead.

“He died saving the galaxy.” Fade out.

We come back up on a funeral for Hal. Kyle and Guy are there, of course, as are some various other normal people, like an older version of Morgan from the opening. Two other guests of note are a black guy with a military bearing (from the picture Hal was looking at earlier) and a, uh, green chick. They were the reserves sent in to help cover Earth while Hal, Guy, and Kyle were off saving the universe. Jon gives Guy his promotion to this sector’s Green Lantern, while Jade gives Kyle the eye. “Don’t hesitate to call us if you need anything. We’ll come running,” says Jon. “Yes,” agrees Jade, winking at Kyle, “We’ll come.”

And on that bit of sad innuendo we end. Kyle takes off into space and flies around a bit before the credits roll.

Of course, if you stick around after the credits, you get treated to another flying man. Instead of the green glowing flying man lifting up off the ground like we just saw, this is a yellow glowing flying man landing on the ground. Sinestro has come to some alien planet, his yellow ring blazing. “My name is Sinestro,” he says as curious aliens gather around, “And you may begin to worship me now.” There is a huge flash of yellow light and the movie ends.

[So there you go. Re-reading this,  I think my views on the Lanterns have not changed much, but with all the multi-colored ring shenanigans that have occurred since 2008, who knows.]

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