Armchair Screenwriter: You Heard Me, A Hawkman Trilogy.
It has to be the most epic action-romance ever.
Here’s what I’m thinking:
It’s the 1930’s, Midway City (set designers could go apeshit crafting a kind of Fantasy 30’s Manhattan this way). Carter Hall is a young archeologist – dashing, handsome and adventurous. But also lonely. Everyone calls him an old soul, and wonders why he never met the right girl. It’s something he’s always wondered himself.
Then he finds himself in a competition to claim an archeological dig, said to be the lost crypt of an Egyptian prince Carter’s always been fascinated by for reasons he’s never quite understood. Suddenly he’s in a race against two other archeologists: a conniving grave robber named Carl Sands, and the astonishingly beautiful – yet quite tom-boy-ish – Shiera Saunders.
Carter and Shiera are immediately drawn to each other. Can’t-keep-their-hands-off-each-other drawn. Their competition becomes a partnership to beat Sands, and that’s how they find the burial site first.
The site’s not what they expected – despite the age, everything looks remarkably well-preserved, and more than a little alien. Then Carter touches a weird machine (this is the Absorbiscon) and begins to remember Everything.
So then the movie’s just a matter of him donning the wings and helmet, realizing he’s Khufu reincarnated and figuring out who Shiera is – while also battling Sands, who’s also come upon the crypt and found a harness that turns him into a living shadow. It’s a battle between a flying man with millennia of fighting experience, against an opponent he can’t touch. Not bad so far.
It takes Shiera longer to embrace the truth – but she’s the one who figures out The Curse first, which means she knows Carl Sands isn’t just a Shadow-Thief. He’s the reincarnation of Hath-Set, and he’s destined to murder them. At the end of Act IV, She straps on her own wings and goes out to join the fight.
Already, by making the movie a superhero Indiana Jones/The Mummy/Titanic mash-up, it’s become distinctive enough from the expected superhero fare. But in the last act, we can make things a little more interesting.
Let’s say Sands/Hath-Set comes up with some world-threatening ploy the Hawks have to stop. And let’s say they stop it, and Sands is defeated. Hooray! Big passionate kissing, the end, right? NO. In his dying act, Sands manages to kill Carter and Shiera. They lay dying in each other’s arms. “Not enough time…I just found you again,” Shiera croaks. Carter smiles. “My love. We’ll find each other again…” Dead.
DEAD! The heroes are dead at the end of their own movie! Whaaaa? (This is the ideal audience reaction.) FADE TO BLACK. (Oh, wait, what? Is the movie over? WHAT THE HELL?)
FADE UP: A bizarre, beautiful alien world, spires stretching high into an orange sky. A man wakes up, confused. It’s Carter, but…not. His lover stirs beside him. It’s Shiera, but…not.
“Something wrong?” she asks.
“No, nothing. I just had this strange dream.”
“It’s silly. I was…I dreamt I was some kind of warrior-prince, on a faraway world.”
“Well…you’re my warrior-prince.”
This is Katar and Shiera Hol. Our hero lovers, reincarnated somewhere far, far away. Thanagar – “Hawkworld.” They smile at each other, kiss, and then gear up into uniforms with helmets and wings. And fly out to right wrongs, as they always do – it’s just the place that’s changed.
Here’s what I like about this plan: it both plants solid sequel seeds, while also accounting for the possibility that the movie will bomb, and there will be no follow-up.
At the very least, it’s told a complete story that gets to the emotional core of the characters. But it also reiterates the reincarnation angle, gives Hawk-fans a nice nod to the Katar Hol era, and while ending the way it should – death and rebirth, the whole central theme of the Hawk-story, it also (in case the movie DOESN’T bomb) sets up…
HAWKMAN 2: HAWKWORLD
This one would basically just adapt Truman’s Hawkworld story, rejiggering the time frame of how Katar and Shiera met, and adding in Katar’s feeling that he’s done all this before. But while the last movie played with 30’s pulp serials, this one would be a space-opera-noir, with Katar – basically the same hero the audience knew from the first film – now in a framed-cop story in an exotic setting.
Going with a whole new setting allays the “Sequels are just like the first movie only more of it” issue by making a wholly different film, albeit one with familiar themes and motivations.
For the serious fans, it would also answer questions about where the Hawks’ wings came from in the first movie – they came from Thanagar (with enough implications about that that audiences would want a third movie to address). The magical wings of the first movie become technological constructs this time around. The links would be clear to the audience, but not the heroes, which would be fun without feeling like prequel fan-service.
But now we need to deal with how to head into…
Hawkman 3: Hawks Forever (or something less corny, maybe, but the ultimate goal here is: “This is Where The Hawks Beat The Curse”)
There’s two ways we can go with this:
1) At the end of Hawkworld, the Hawks, starting to understand their reincarnation deal, follow the shape-shifting Byth to Earth. They now know that he’s the new reincarnation of Hath-Set, and decide to get proactive and take down their killer, breaking the cycle, OR
2) At the end of Hawkworld, the Hawks again take down Byth/Hath-Set, and the end of Hawkman 1 plays out again: Byth kills the Hawks, and we dissolve into a new scene, back on Earth, where the new Carter and Shiera have one last chance to save their immortal lives.
Now, if we go with the first option, Katar and Shiera take on the roles of Carter and Shiera Hall, curators of the Midtown Museum, with the goal of tracking a shape-shifter in a modern urban landscape. Even knowing the details of how you’re going to die, it’s tough to escape when you don’t know the territory and the prey can look like anyone. That’s a great setup for a fast-paced action film.
But if we go with the second option, literally anything can happen. A weirdly nice byproduct of the Hawkman continuity confusion that’s plagued the character over the last 30 years is that there aren’t any “classic” Hawkman stories to draw on. No “Daredevil: Born Again,” no “Batman: Knightfall.” Nothing, really. (Seriously, if you’re a hardcore Hawkman reader, please point me to something here.)
So we could write a conclusion to the never-ending death-rebirth of the Hawks that’s not dependent on the comics for inspiration. Nothing crazy, just minor tweaks, like:
- Maybe they’re a lot younger this time – maybe college students (and hey, depending on the production timeframe, casting younger actors is something Hollywood’s always excited about)
- Maybe this time it’s not an Egyptian dig – maybe it’s an alien (Thanagarian) crash-site recovery, where we find the bones of dead Katar and Shiera?
- Shiera, not Carter, is the one who learns about their past lives first this time, and/or
- They know they’re going to be killed by Hath-Set before knowing who Hath-Set is, so they have to hunt for their killer with nothing to go on (this proactive stance would actually fit better with younger incarnations, actually).
I might not have all the specifics worked out, but I think we can agree, this is a way of using the bombastic nature of a trilogy to its fullest advantage – and not by having the setpieces get bigger every movie, but by having the emotional core of the story (I’ll say it again: forever doomed warrior-lovers fighting their own fates) become more sweeping and epic.
And having the threat of death mean more for our heroes, because we’ve actually seen that play out.
A few more notes:
- In his Thor post, Braak rightly admitted that you did kind of want to see Thor and Jane Foster DO IT. That’s not just because Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman are incredibly attractive people – it’s because they did a really good job of selling the idea that these were two people who were insanely attracted to each other.
Unrequited Sex should absolutely be the subtext of the Hawkman films. These are two characters who BURN for each other. The audience should WANT them to grab each other sweatily at every turn. Honestly, they should groan when another action sequence creeps up instead of a sex scene. That is how much the two leads should want each other. This is an Epic Romance with maces and wings (and why the first film should totally have a buff, hairy-chested hero).
- It’s really a shame we only got Jon Hamm when he was a little too old to start doing superhero movies, because he’s exactly who I picture as Carter Hall (and, with longer hair and beard-scruff, as Katar Hol). Can anyone spot a youngish equivalent to Jon Hamm? Like, a guy who looks like (as Liz Lemon put it) a cartoon pilot, but is also a really good actor and in his early-to-mid 20’s?
- The 30’s-set first film could have plenty of Justice Society cameos and Easter Eggs, considering Shiera’s cousin is Wesley (Sandman) Dodds, and the Egyptian stuff ties into Dr. Fate. Similarly, you could mention that Thanagar’s neighboring planet Rann has a swashbuckling Earthman on it to seed a future Adam Strange movie. But mostly I like the prospect of suggesting a 30’s-set Sandman film (though, good luck finding an actor willing to wear a heavy gas mask over his face for half a movie).
- Ha! If there’s mention that the same foundation that’s funding Carter’s archeological dig is also paying for Ted Knight’s cosmic rod studies (maybe headed by a shadowy fop in a top hat?), and it’s just a short jump to a Jack Knight Starman movie (that I would write for ONE DOLLAR).
As for special effects: the wings have to be CGI. They HAVE to. I know a big-budget action movie can do better than Smallville, but X-Men: The Last Stand had a good budget and Angel’s wings looked silly there, too.
Maaaaybe some really good, Stan Winston-level prosthetics that simple CGI can doll up for the standing-around scenes (like Tony’s armor in the Iron Man movies), but once the action kicks in, it has to be fast-moving and visceral. The audience cannot, for one second, start to think about the physics of how wings can carry a grown man around.
This may well be the only time I suggest watching the otherwise-forgettable Legion. For all its many faults, they really did seem to think about how to make a winged fighter look kind of bad-ass.