Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Justice League Movie


Tally Up! DC is lagging on the scene.  I'm very enamoured of the idea of DC and the Justice League. But right now Marvel is taking the Cake. Well, to be honest, the only film I loved was the Avengers. But they really put their heroes on the map. Captain America, Iron Man I and II, Spider Man's had four films! X-Men have 5! I will write later about why the Wolverine film was awesome, and why people are just shmucks for thinking it wasn't.

However, DC has... Batman Begins, Dark Knight, Dark Knight Rises. Three great Batman Movies. Okay. IF a person's a halfway decent human being, Batman has a lot of existing mythology to build on, hard to destroy.  Green Lantern?  visually phenomenal. Flow of the film was good. But had an old boy old world white supremacist underpinning I just could not abide.. The great Green Lantern was not Hal Jordan but John Stewart. More on this in my next post. The DC Animated Universe had a fantastic series five years running, called Justice League Unlimited. The films are unlikely to go that rockingly hardcore.

To me, DC comics regular ongoing continuity is rarely truly great. Where we find amazing work is in  phenomenal readings by authors who have their complete take on the pantheon, usually found in alternative storylines. Limited "elseworlds" and related features like Red Son, Kingdom Come, Dark Knight Returns, Batman RIP and many more.

The DC characters are so great because they are so big. These are truly archetypical figures, whose disagreement with other Justice League members is powerful because its substantial.  In the Marvel Universe, at least as presented in film, the bickering is pointless, just personalities clashing.  But in the potential DC take, there is a real visionary difference on what saving the world means.

A friend and I recently had this chat.

I was enamoured of the Frank Miller version, both from Dark Knight Returns and its sequel, as well as his work on The All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder. The stories were about The Batman, but they really featured his take on the Justice League. As I learned more about Miller and his right wing politics and above board racism, I began to listen to my friend speak well about the more recent version.

Still, Miller may have simply cracked at a certain point and lost touch with some basic ethics. In his The Dark Knight Returns, an aging, tired, and retired Batman puts on the cape and cowl again. Christopher Nolan borrowed that plot point for this summer's The Dark Knight Rises.  

If you have not yet read The Dark Knight Returns, you must go read it now. If you read further you will read the plot of the book and I won't be having any of that.

Miller explores the dynamic of a version of the Justice League that went to hell somehow.  Apparantly, Ronald Regan had Superman tightly under the control of the American powers of imperialist industry. Somehow along the line he helped the Governments and Intelligence bodies hunt down the other heroes, who somehow wouldn't 'step in line.' At the first dozen or so readings of his series I thought really well of this. I liked that Superman was a blunt instrument of American power, not really known anymore as a real person, just as a myth, or someone that may have once existed in myth, like the other heroes.  But in reality he's a fascist. Superman the Fascist made sense.

Batman on the other hand very much pursued a more seditious agenda. His activities were forbidden. It was forbidden for him to process crimes.  He may end up arresting powerful criminals eventually, and this is quite problematic to those who use the front of law and order to manifest their high brow crimes, bankers and policy people and heads of state and underground bodies. 

Still, he used the jails and political system that exists to store his captured criminals. In the end when this is no longer a legitimate option he forms an army and stages a revolution.

He knows Superman will be unleashed so he sets a trap for him, together with the Green Arrow, who he images as a radical leftist. Superman tore his right arm off when he hunted down the heroes. The rest of the Justice League doesn't really feature in, not until the second book.  The second book, hotly contested as a true source of Miller genius, further explores his approach to the Justice League by bringing in other heroes in a big be all and end all battle against oligarchy. There are some brilliant concepts in some of Miller's vision, such as Superman getting together with Wonder Woman, and birthing a daughter, who becomes the perfection of power and basically saves/takes over the world. The precipice between saving and taking over the world doesn't exist by this version. Its basically the same thing. To save, you must kill and remodel.

At the time I saw Miller as a rebel, I also eventually realized he was a right wing rebel, who saw the limits of laws designed to protect people as a curse upon the heroes. IN his version of the ultimate expression of the Justice League, they take over the planet and establish their own order and keep people from killing each other by killing all the villans in one big swoop.  This seemed to me at the time to be rather joyous and obvious. But on the other hand, the whole 'lead by example thing' was thrown totally out of the window as we look upon a police state that is almost entirely without reproach.  Reading more about Miller, and speaking with my friend Yoseph, it seems that to him, crimes and terrorism are the problem, and the police/heroes need to kill all criminals or terrorists and then the world will be happy. So I definitely see this as rather flawed a viewpoint.

But this post is not about Miller. The more recent version of the League has a big imprint of the vision of Grant Morrison. It is known that Morrison is an egomaniac, however it is also known that he prays to the embodied spirit of Superman, Batman, and other heroes in the comic book pantheon   to facilitate his prophetic scribal accuracy. A channeled tablature of their archetypal legend literally.  I must admit to really digging this method. I think its fucking awesome, totally legit, and it must be working, because he tends to hold court in groundbreaking material in the DCUniverse.

The recent League has Superman as the most human element in the league, the traditional boy scout, who fights more corrupt official and outlaw banker/gun runner than super villain. In this he follows the traditional Superman story from the early early days. His gentle and corny approach is reviled by the rest of the league, but they have to take him seriously because, well, he's Superman. He's really, really powerful.  He's the only one not wearing a mask, and this bugs batman who sees him as a snoop.  The Green Arrow leftist revolutionary commie rebel storyline doesn't play in. Here he's a playboy. The same thing as Bruce Wayne pretends to be. I'm not as sure of the rest because I haven't really gotten deep into it yet.

However you cut it, whether Wonder Woman is a savage killer, whether Superman a fascist, Batman an anarchist, green arrow a communist, or Green Lantern a being of pure energy in a far off dimension, according to that reading... 

Or if Superman is a gentle giant, a goodie two shoes who really does humanize the league which otherwise would go way too far and lead things into serious problematic places...

Either way, there are severe differences between the methods of the members of the Justice League.  In any Justice League film that could emerge, I highly doubt those would be explored, their relevance as pop heroes fighting true demons that we all face would be stuffed under a bed of 'supervillans' and that shit is just proof that we truly do live under the fascist boot, dearly hoping superman is still a goody two shoes and may yet just save us.



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