Sunday, January 6, 2013

What WB Pictures Can Learn from WB Animation

Trent pits the "In Brightest Day" episode of Superman: The Animated Series (1999) against the epic flop of Green Lantern (2011).

DC's Kyle Rayner, circa 1994
As a child of the 90s, Kyle Rayner has always been my Green Lantern. Out of the comic genius of Ron Marz, Kyle Rayner was pretty much the sole Green Lantern for all of my youth. Sure, most everyone see Hal Jordan as THE Green Lantern, but I like what Rayner brought to the Corps. as opposed to the rest of the Earth GLs. And on top of that, Rayner has always had the coolest costume. 

in 2011 when I found out Ryan Reynolds would play Hal Jordan in Warner Bros.' Green Lantern, I thought... huh... Reynolds as Deadpool, Booster Gold, or hell, even Rocket Raccoon would make more sense. Reynolds is a smart ass. I mean, he was Van Wilder for crying out loud!

Ryan Reynolds in 2011's Green Lantern
Alas, we got a whining, emo Hal Jordan played by a restrained Ryan Reynolds. On top of the casting snafu, audiences were spoon fed a story that was spread thin. The film didn't trust audiences to enjoy a film about a superhero with a brief introductory / origin. The film ended up being an hour of emo, "why me" origin, and 30 minutes of mashed-together action.

Not only did the film not trust audiences to connect with a protagonist without an overly thorough character explication, it didn't trust audiences with an antagonist whose background wasn't overly told as well. Did we even need to see Sinestro's fall from the Green Lantern's Corps' grace? I think about the Marvel film, Captain America as a better model for introducing a villain. We learned enough about the Red Skull to know he was a super villain and we don't like him. We didn't need to see him moving up through the ranks of the Nazi SS or even how he began as Hitler's apprentice (depending on what canonical stories you choose).

At any rate, the film was a huge let down to both Green Lantern fans and the general audience (it has a 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes).  

This evening, while brushing my dog, I was catching up an accumulation of Superman: The Animate Series episodes on my DVR, and I came upon an episode titled "In Brightest Day." I assumed that it would be an episode where an already established Hal Jordan Green Lantern stumbles into Metropolis while fighting a villain that entered sector 2814, much like the episodes of the same series that has Batman team ups. I read the "show notes" for the episode and saw that the episode was about MY Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner, and I decided to give it a watch.

"In Brightest Day" Superman: The Animated Series, Season 3 Episode 7
Written by the late Hilary Bader, the episode pulls from a few different Lantern origins to tell the story of Kyle Rayner, Jimmie Olsen's friend, rejected comic book artist, and graphic artist for the Daily Planet. I won't go any farther into the plot, because I really do encourage everyone to see this episode.

Bader was able to tell a more compelling story about the origin of a Green Lantern, by way of a guest character in a 23 minute animated TV episode than was done in the entire Green Lantern feature. I decided to look more into Bader's background after watching this great episode. Before writing for the DC Animated Universe, Bader wrote some of the most compelling episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, Silk Stalkings, and Louis and Clark. She masterfully understood the value of content. In a television episode, content is precious. Everything that Bader put into a story built the narrative.

Hilary Bader passed away in 2002 after a
battle with breast cancer. She is credited
with writing episodes of Star Trek: The
Next Generation, Deep Space 
Voyager, Xena: Warrior Princess, Silk 
Stalkings. Superman, Batman Beyond,
and various other DC Animated television
episodes. Bader continued contributing to
the DCAU until her death.  
I then learned that Bader studied at State University of New York at Stony Brook as a mathematics major. This got me really thinking. Perhaps Bader mastered the use of essential content to drive a narrative because she treated it like a math equation. In math, there isn't extra baggage. You can't use fluff to pad your answer in a math equation like you could do in a story. She gave us the exact variables we needed for a great stories.

Maybe, if Warner Bros. Pictures focused more on essential content in features and didn't bog down movies with extra fluff (i,e, not trusting the audience to "get it," scenes just to cell more action figures, etc), then, maybe, just maybe, the next DC superhero flick won't suffer from a 26% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

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