Thursday, February 28, 2008

Justice League: the New Frontier DVD

If you consider yourself a fan of comic books, then more than likely you have heard about New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke. If you're a fan and never got around to it, but you recognize the name, please pick it up. It's the way the superhero genre was intended to be told. It's something your parents could watch because the way the story is told, all the heroes are brought to life as if they stepped out of our collective memory. "Frontier" is set in the early 1950's. Communism and the space race are hot topics in the film. There is a sense of panic from the general public about these mystery men and women in masks. Batman is seen as a demonic figure, even from a child that he is trying to rescue from an cult. Even Flash's mostly-red costume is subject to ridicule, because of red being associated with Communism. The actual book has a different opening, but is hinted during the prologue about the McCarthy hearings and how he set out to disband superhero teams, such as the Justice Society of America.

Though the movie does not really revolve around the DC Triad (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman), it focuses more on Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern. As mentioned, the space race is a very hot topic in the film. Hal is a pilot in the air force, but struck down by enemy fire after a ceasefire was called. After he lands on enemy grounds, he had to kill to survive. Not because he was told to by a superior, but for his own life, which in turn makes him seem like a pacifist during wartime. Something not favorable especially post-WWII era.

The main villain of the story isn't one from comic lore. It is an original creation by Cooke himself, an entity known as The Centre. Unlike science-fiction stories of the 1950's in which an alien spacecraft lands on Earth and wants total domination and what have you, there is a role-reversal here. The only aliens that land on Earth are benevolent. One being the Martian Manhunter, a longtime hero in the DC Universe, the other being Abin Sur, the Green Lantern of sector 2814 (Earth) who passes his powers to Jordan. Though The Centre is different, it's been on Earth since creation and evolved to an advanced life form. That to me, meant our only real danger comes from within. Panic and terror will tear any nation apart, no matter how strong the foundation.

The title comes from President Kennedy in his acceptance speech in 1960 to the Democratic National Convention at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the Democratic nominee. Originally, just a slogan to inspire America to get behind him, the phrase developed into a label for his administration's domestic and foreign programs:

"We stand at the edge of a New Frontier—the frontier of unfulfilled hopes and dreams. It will deal with unsolved problems of peace and war,unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus."

In the beginning of the film, we see these metabeings being persecuted. By the end of it, they are trusted and honored by President Kennedy himself. We see how they evolved as they did in real time. Batman in "New Frontier" started out as he looked in the 30's, with the elongated ears and smaller gloves. Later, as time progressed he took in a ward, Robin. Longer gloves and smaller ears on his costume to make him seem more human. When asked about the sudden change, by Superman, he replied "I'm out to scare criminals, not children." Which at first may seem strange coming from such a dark figure in literature, but it once again showcases the positive attitude towards a new era dawning.

I want to say I loved this movie, but it left me wanting more, as films usually do with only a seventy-five minute length. The Losers, the Blackhawks, and Challengers of the Unknown are just left as cameo roles, instead of somewhat-important plot points as they are seen in the graphic novel. I can say, however, I recommend this movie to anyone who hasn't picked up a comic in years, or maybe not a fan of the superhero genre. It makes us believe again why these characters were created, not just for entertainment, but to inspire us.

To give us hope.
To help us believe that we were meant for something greater than what was handed to us at creation.
To make us believe, that behind all our insecurities and doubt, there is a hero in us.