Thursday, February 28, 2008

Finally Found the New Frontier

Picking up the kids yesterday and made a detour to the mall to check for The New Frontier, again. I managed to strike gold at Wal-Mart this time, apparently missing the two-disc edition when I was there two days ago. Maybe I was in a bit of a rush and missed it since I scooted over there on my coffee brake from work, but the important thing is I now have it, I have watched it, am listening to the audio commentary as I write this and I have the day off so I'm going to explore the discs and maybe watch one of the movies my friend Dale lent me that I have yet to get to.

But I digress.

The film itself was pretty good. It sticks incredibly close to the graphic novel by Darwyn Cooke with very few points where they left the source material totally behind. Design-wise, the art direction is incredible with the period of the 1950s in the United States being represented beautifully, both in background sets and clothing. The script, as I mentioned before, stayed as close to the book as possible and had Darwyn's stamp of approval with some bits actually written by the man himself.

In particular, there's a scene with Lois and Superman shortly after Superman has his discussion with Diana in Indo-China, and they're sitting on the Daily Planet globe talking about the state of America and McCarthyism. It was added to throw some exposition in that would help round out the period, helped justify expanding Lois' role in the film and, like I said, was added by the original creator himself so it carries a litlle added extra weight.

The voice cast was incredible with David Boreanaz doing a wonderful turn as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, Lucy Lawless is just the painfully obvious choice for Wonder Woman, Brooke Shields and Kyra Sedgewick do a surprisingly good Carol Ferris and Lois Lane, respectively, and Neil Patrick Harris is a surprising but inspired choice as Barry Allen/The Flash. And that's not the whole cast, by a long shot. I suppose Miguel Ferrer should get some props for his Martian Manhunter and while Darwyn loves Jeremy Sisto as Batman, I'm still wrapping my head around it, so I'm just going to leave it at that.

One of the things that really stood out for me on the picture was the animation used on The Flash and how he was written. I've never been happy with how the character is portrayed while running in TV or animation prior to this, but the guys who put this movie together got it absolutely right. The guy is the fastest man alive, he can circle the world 7 times in the space of a blink, you shouldn't see his arms and legs moving while he runs, not unless he's running a little slower, anyway. He should just be a blur and be able to do things you can't even see on-screen, and that's how he was here. When Captain Cold asks why his cold gun doesn't work and Barry says, "I rewired it on the way down," I was thrilled that someone finally got it right.

I'm not sure why Warners holds these movies to a 75 minute running time because New Frontier would have been so much better with another 5, 10 or 15 minutes of story added in. Seeing young Hal Jordan, The Losers on Dinosaur Island and, while I understand how the John Wilson story does little to advance the plot, it would have been nice to see it play out as more than a news bite in the middle of the film. Or even leaving some of that stuff out and just fleshing out some of the details at the end. The climactic ending, to me, did feel a bit rushed and was not as satisfying as the finale in the book. There are a lot of dialogue-less moments in the movie, and probably just as many slow cuts as quick ones, but I'm the kind of guy who likes to linger on characters and events to let them soak in a bit.

Still, these are minor nitpicks since a person could always go back to the source material if they really wanted to get some of that extra texture, and as a living, moving representation of the graphic novel goes, The New Frontier hits so many of the right notes that it is hard to complain about too much of it. My wish is that, because of the book it was based on, they would have done this movie a la Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and gave it a longer running time and a theatrical release, but you gotta take what you can get, where you can get it, right? And, really, I'm still viewing it as money well spent and that's before I've had a chance to scour through the special features and documentaries, so that should speak volumes to anyone who knows me.

All this Darwyn chatter is making me want to resurrect an old interview that I conducted with the man but never saw print in its full form. A segment of it was published as an article in my University newspaper which I've since posted on my website, if you care to check it out.

I remember calling Darwyn afterwards and wanting to do another interview that I would blend with the old one since it never saw print and I always felt bad about that. After making the request, though, he said, "What do you mean, I read the article already?" Somehow, he managed to get a copy of The Sheaf (through a friend, I think) checked out the piece and liked it, so I felt a little better about that, but I still always wished that I got the whole interview in print.

I'm going to see if I can dig it up, find out how much of it was transcribed and how much work it might be to post it on the blog.

Anyway, the second commentary track is almost done so I'm going to sign off here for the time being, grab some breakfast, take it easy.

Oh, and if you haven't been inspired to go out and check out The New Frontier yet, go do it. I urge you to do so.



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