Friday, November 02, 2012

Happy Halloween

Had a good Halloween. Dressed up as Batman (cheap plastic batman mask, vampire cape, black long sleeve tee and pants) to hand out candy and it was popular with the kids. Not as many as last year, so have to get creative with getting rid of the rest of the candy.

Saw quite a few Marvel superheroes this year: an Iron Man, a couple of Spider-Men and Captain Americas. One even had a proportionately small shield. No sexy Black Widows. No women in binders or sexy Big Birds either. What struck me though was that the Spider Man and Captain America costumes were all fairly accurate to the classic comics. Not the movies. Not as Captain America has been depicted the last several years in the comics and especially not as in the upcoming relaunch comics. Iron Man was the only one that looked like the movie version and he's had so many radically different looks over the years...

Several weeks ago at a used book store I bought a used dvd of Jet Li's Black Mask. Think I avoided it in the past after catching a few Jet Li movies on cable and found that the graphic depiction of violence of his martial arts movies to make the action-adventure aspects painful to watch. But, for five bucks, I was willing to take a chance.

It's actually an enjoyable original mash-up of superhero and martial arts movie. There's the conflict between vigilante-ism and the Law, redemption and second-chances and even the conflict of a man who wants to live a life of peace thrust into the role of violence and action because "with great power comes great responsibility". The set-up is that the government was experimenting with creating super-soldiers: men and women with enhanced strength, agility, and unable to feel pain. However, they tend to be violent and unstable and the government shuts the program down. A group escapes. However, with the powers also comes a price, a lifespan of little over a year.

Jet Li is one of those who escaped and is trying to live a peaceful life as a librarian. His best friend is a cop who he plays chess with. When drug king pins start getting killed in dramatic ways with military precision, Li suspects it's the other escapees and realizes the police will not be able to stop them. To take the fight to them, he puts on a disguise to mask his identity: black leather hat, duster and ridged domino mask, making him look a bit like Kato. In an interesting twist, his friend is suspected by the other cops to be the Black Mask and to his chagrin receives quite a bit of support and kidding about it.

Being a martial arts movie, there's lots of fighting, action and daring escapes. But, it's what makes it a good superhero movie as well. It doesn't lose sight of that at it's core, it is an action-adventure movie and should move at a fast pace. The fights should be built up and dramatic and quicken the pace. It's where almost every superhero movie of the last several years has failed.

There was a sequel without Li but with Tracie Lords and wrestler Tyler Mane... sounds like a recipe for disaster.
This got me thinking about the new Arrow show and realizing, this is how a modern day Green Hornet show should work. It even works better as a Green Hornet treatment, other than the killer-vigilante angle. The whole urban vigilante fighting organized crime, hunted by the police and considered as big if not the biggest menace of the city. Mission given to him from his father. Green clad identity. A capable bodyguard who discovers his secret. In many ways, in producing a half-way decent show about Green Arrow, they stumbled across the perfect treatment for updating the Green Hornet.

The first couple of episodes, you have Kato as simply a bodyguard for Britt Reid. You get away from the Bruce Lee Kato by building him up as a character that's not a cliche Asian character. Thoroughly Asian-American, he's a veteran and good fighting, weapon, and security skills. A Kato who doesn't talk with an accent and not some kick-butt martial artist. Instead, the first few episodes build up the Green Hornet as the super-skilled hero with specialized training and drive for justice, to cleanse his city. You restore the status quo and focus of the characters, but not by simply lessening Kato, but by upping the Hornet and focusing more on making Kato an interesting and compelling supporting character beyond simply a cliche. He's capable in his own way, but he's not the superhero of the show. And, leave the distinctive car at home except when needed. You still have the origin of Reid/Queen stranded on an island or a plane crash in a remote jungle where he receives his training and inspiration for secret identity. Upon his return, he shows no interest in his father's big business ventures and instead focuses on reviving the money-losing property of the newspaper. And, even then, he seems to often keep a hands-off approach, as if he's just playing at it in order to cover his real mission. Freed from expectations, characters like Merlyn, Dinah Laurel Lance, Deadshot and Deathstroke become all new characters - solely Green Hornet characters as opposed to Batman and Teen Titans cast-offs. Not shoe-horned into any real expected mandatory romance or story directions. Sort of like the dichotomy of Smallville. On one hand, it had all these great arche-types and rich history to delve into, but on the other, it was also weakened in that they could only go so far off-script. We know what is going to become of Lex, Lana, Clark and Lois to some degrees. In the end, there really was only so much they could do with the characters because their roles are pre-defined by the comics and their constant presence in popular culture. We knew the destination so they could only make the journey as interesting as possible within some pre-conceived restraints.

Problem is, now that I've seen it, I won't be able to unsee it. As much as I've been enjoying Arrow, I'm going to be thinking how much better it would be as the Green Hornet,

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