In a more serious vein considering superhero movies (as opposed to previously), some random thoughts about where the origin story is appropriate for a superhero movie, and where it just isn’t.
GREEN LANTERN: This is probably the last of the really good “movie is the origin story” superhero movies, because Green Lantern’s origin, when told right, is really fucking awesome. To wit:
1.) Hal Jordan in exciting test pilot plane sequence
2.) Abin Sur “interrupts”, gives ring
3.) Fun stuff with Hal using ring, maybe fighting criminals who have, say, golden battle armor for some reason (so to explain ring’s weaknesses).
4.) Sinestro-as-a-Green-Lantern shows up, starts training Hal on Earth then in outer space. Tentative student/apprentice friendship emerges!
This is the obvious first act. Then you go into the balls-out SECOND act:
5.) Trip to Korugar. OH SHIT it turns out Sinestro is INSANE, because Sinestro thinks the need to keep “order” means you need a fascist interstellar government. Plus, Hal has no way of knowing that Sinestro doesn’t represent the Green Lantern ethos, so now it’s him against ALL the Green Lanterns, he figures.
6.) So Sinestro has an interstellar battle fleet and he’s going to restore order to the universe sector-by-sector, planet-by-planet. STARTING WITH EARTH because he wasn’t impressed with it and because Hal, who is Hal, resists him.
7.) Sinestro reveals that it was HE who killed Abin Sur, because Abin Sur found out what he was doing and was trying to stop him.
8.) Sinestro uses his awesome will to strip Hal of his ring and dumps him OUT OF A FUCKING AIRLOCK into SPACE.
And finally you get the awesomer than awesome THIRD act:
9.) In the seconds before Hal dies of space death type thing, he gets picked up by a stealth shuttle piloted by Katma Tui and Tigorr. (YES FUCK YOU IT IS MY GREEN LANTERN MOVIE AND I SAY TIGORR IS IN IT.)
10.) Whoops, Sinestro finds them on Korugar and Hal Jordan uses WILLPOWER to get his ring back and they have a ring-fight which is AWESOME and Hal knocks Sinestro for a loop long enough…
11.) …for Hal to go into space and really GO TO FUCKING TOWN on the interstellar space fleet with his power ring. I am talking ten-mile-long buzzsaws, swarms of a billion boxing gloves, enormous star-devouring Bea Arthurs, you name it.
12.) But Sinestro shows up for ROUND TWO and they ring-fight EVEN MORE and at this point everybody watching the movie should have an enormous erection because it will be JUST THAT GODDAMNED COOL.
13.) And then the Guardians show up and you play the “wait, what if the Guardians are on SINESTRO’s side?” to the hilt until Tomar Re and Kilowog show up and say “fuck YOU Sinestro” and Sinestro gets exiled to the Anti-Matter Universe and Katma Tui gets the power ring and replaces him and then the movie makes eleventy billion dollars.
I’m of course being exceptionally facile here, but the point stands that the Green Lantern origin story just works in a way that a lot of superhero origin stories don’t because it – much like Iron Man – is fundamentally a movie about the superhero origin story as self-discovery, about the realization of greatness (Tony Stark and Hal Jordan share one thing in common, traditionally – they’re both, as people, way above average on the “ability” scale) and the responsibility borne with it. Origin stories work as movies when the origin makes you want to root for the hero.
FLASH: Now, this is fundamentally the opposite of a Green Lantern movie right here, because Flash’s origin story is shitburgers from a movie storytelling standpoint.
1.) Meet Barry (or Wally)! He’s a decent guy! He’s a cop!
2.) He gets zapped with chemicals and lightning!
3.) So he becomes a superhero!
4.) And fights, I dunno, Gorilla Grodd or Captain Cold or whoever.
Compelling, frankly, this is not. You can layer on stuff about “it’s tough to be a decent upstanding guy in the world” but Christ, that’s a shitty movie right there because every day your audience has their own shit to go through and you don’t want to paint Barry (or Wally) as a whiner when he can run at the speed of something really fucking fast.
Does this mean a Flash movie is unworkable? Of course not, but it means you have to take a different approach. I gave Speed Racer a well-deserved heaping of shit because it was really just a bad movie, but one thing it did right is that it didn’t bother explaining why Speed Racer lived in this crazy-ass world with these crazy-ass cars driving on crazy-ass racetracks, and also why they had a monkey. The point is that if you start your movie with the premise “this is how things are,” audiences will, more often than not, be fine with that so long as you suspend their disbelief and never question your own narrative.
Applying this to a Flash movie allows us to use the strongest element of the Flash concepts, namely the heroic legacy model. In short, a Flash movie has Barry and Wally and Jay in it – Barry as the star, Wally as the sidekick, Jay as the elder statesman. You want Professor Zoom as the main villain, although you can of course throw in any number of Rogues for color. And most importantly, you establish that Barry has been the Flash for years and everybody knows him and is used to him and Jay as the elder Flash and Wally as Kid Flash.
And the movie is about Barry’s last adventure as the Flash, ultimately joining the Speed Force and becoming the lightning bolt that gives Wally his powers. (You probably want to retcon Jay’s origin just to make it closer to Barry and Wally’s for the purposes of the flick.) Wally and Jay can help defeat the Big Bad, and somewhere in there Zoom dies, but the important thing is Barry sacrifices himself to save the world. Then, at the end of the movie, Wally puts on the Flash outfit for the first time, says “The Flash lives again!” and that’s your triumphant ending right there – a hero has died, but the legacy continues.
People will eat that shit up with a fork. It’s the superhero story as Greatest Generation-style narrative of shared sacrifice and shared victory.
(And you’ll note, incidentally, that this sets up the sequel for an almost-straight retelling of Mark Waid’s “The Return of Barry Allen” story, which continues the theme of heroic legacy while being an awesome story that translates incredibly well to a filmed narrative.)
ALSO: If and when they ever make a movie for The Flash, they must set a sequence to Madonna and Justin Timberlake’s “4 Minutes,” because that would be awesome.