Click here to review part 2.
Last time, I posted my choices for the characters who combine to make the hero Firestorm. Casting the protagonist comes down to one question: black or white.
|No undertones were harmed in this picture.
I've cast Reid Ewing as Ronnie Raymond for the classic Firestorm, or Donald Glover as Jason Rusch for the newer Firestorm. Whichever direction we go, the hero for the first movie will be treated like the stud athlete Ronnie.
|What other superhero has the awesome power
of Hula Hoops?
The Origin Movie
The first movie is called Firestorm: The Nuclear Man, and it would follow a pretty standard superhero origin structure as near-perfected by Marvel Studios with their movies. Obviously, it would also borrow heavily from Firestorm's first comic appearances (pictured: right), which deftly introduced all the principal characters who would appear in this first movie.
Firestorm's origin was conceived as an homage to Spider-Man, so much of the character and thematic beats of the movie would mirror Spider-Man's. But in order to give the movie a little distance from the Wall-Crawler's origin, which has been told twice in the last decade, I would make a few minor adjustments.
First, I would age the protagonist (Ronnie or Jason: I'll call him Ronnie) a couple years. Instead of captaining his high school football team, Ronnie is a college football star at Hudson University. That way, we have a more natural explanation for how Ronnie meets Professor Stein (David Strathairn) and gets caught in a nuclear blast. We want to avoid repeating the Peter Parker destiny of getting irradiated during the worst supervised school field trip ever.
So in the beginning of the story, Ronnie is a cocky football star, maybe a Heisman Trophy candidate. He's big man on campus, and he's got a terrific girlfriend.
Doreen Day (Dianna Agron)
Dianna Agron has the look, the age, and she can act the part. I didn't think long about this one; I didn't have to. Doreen isn't a big or complicated part, but she can be a source of conflict for Ronnie. Unlike her depiction in the comics, which was kind of a nag, Doreen in this movie is supportive to a point. Maybe she's Ronnie's physics tutor, too, so he can stay eligible for the team.
Did I say physics tutor? Oh, that's right, because Ronnie is enrolled in the course taught by Professor Martin Stein, who is teaching for a year while he works with the university to create a fancy sci-fi fusion/fission reactor thingamajig.
At some point early on, Ronnie gets in trouble and faces disciplinary action by the university. Ronnie gets lured into a fight with Cliff Carmichael, a young genius and pompous teacher's pet.
Cliff Carmichael (Charlie McDermott)
Again, this casting decision was based on age and appearance more than anything. I haven't seen any of Charlie McDermott's movies because I don't see a lot of movies anymore, especially those with younger casts. But hey, I'm sure he could do it, and the point of Carmichael at all is to lay seeds for his future as a villain far down the line.
Anyway, we see that Cliff Carmichael clearly instigates the fight, calling Ronnie a dumb jock and such, maybe even antagonizing Doreen. Ronnie is simply defending himself and his girlfriend, but with the media scrutiny on him, any trouble is big trouble. Ronnie's stern father, Edward Raymond, meets with the University to resolve the issue without getting his son kicked out of school or off the football team.
Edward Raymond (Tony Goldwyn)
Really, where's Tony Goldwyn been for a decade? This guy was all over the place in the '80s and '90s, and he always played kind of a douche. I guess he ran out of those roles because he's been directing TV for a while now. I think he could easily play an unforgiving father who is thoroughly unimpressed by his son's superstar status, but goes to bat for him with the university to protect his own image more than anything.
Though his Heisman Trophy contention takes a hit, Ronnie's college career is saved with the condition that he performs some kind of work study or community service activity, and that puts him in Professor Stein's lab. (It would make sense that Carmichael was working/interning for Stein; maybe Ronnie has to replace Carmichael.)
Now Ronnie has a working relationship with Stein and we witness a bond being formed despite their contradictory natures. Or… they could hate each other. More conflict makes for better story, so either way works. Through Ronnie or Stein, we meet the professor's lab assistant, the unscrupulous Danton Black.
Multiplex/Danton Black (Simon Woods)
I really enjoyed Simon Woods' time on HBO's Rome. He played a conniving, sleazy little bastard very well, and I think he could inject that same kind of energy into the film's villain, Danton Black.
Fast-forwarding a bit, eventually we discover Danton Black's treachery. He's been stealing the secrets of Professor Stein's reactor to sell them. Stein discovers this one fateful night and the two men fight in the lab and the reactor is damaged. It goes critical. Ronnie happens to be there, maybe working, or maybe coming back to apologize to Stein for doing something stupid. There could be other people around, people who need to be evacuated, but Ronnie does the one selfless thing and rushes back to get Stein (or Black) out of the blast zone.
Of course, he fails, or this would be a very different kind of movie.
The fusion effect bonds Ronnie and Professor Stein, merging their bodies into one nuclear powered being, driven by Ronnie with Stein riding shotgun. The powers of Firestorm include the ability to transmute matter to different states and forms. Getting diamonds out of coal is as simple as recalling the chemical compositions of the desired element. An iron cage can become jello with the snap of his fingers. This power is limited, however, to inorganic matter. He cannot point to a bank robber, for instance, and instantly change the man into solid stone. Nor can he turn his fists into titanium when punching a bad guy.
His other powers include flight, a somewhat enhanced degree of strength and invulnerability, and the power to unleash bolts of fiery energy. Plus: fire hair!
The merging of of Ronnie and Professor Stein is not permanent. With great mental effort, they separate so as to return to their individual lives. But when some kind of danger arises, Ronnie or Stein can reignite the Firestorm matrix by will, telepathically siphoning the other into their combined form. (The rules for this back-and-forth transformation will have to be clearly defined for the audience. Questions about their proximity to each other and who controls what are bound to arise. Some changes from the original source material will probably have to be changed here.)
The second act of the movie is the Learning Curve. We watch Ronnie and Stein learn to grapple with this thing they inadvertently created. Playing with their powers. Getting creative. Lots of opportunity for humor, and naturally some kind of montage set to popular music. Along the way, we'll raise and answer questions about our characters. How does Ronnie feel about being part of Firestorm? Would he enjoy the power? Would he want to be a high-flying superhero that protects people? Or would he feel shackled by the responsibility? Would he chafe under Professor Stein's constant judgement? How would this affect his romance with Doreen and how would it affect his status on the football team?
How does Martin Stein feel about this? Guilty? Proud? Terrified? Would he feel compelled to use this power for the benefit of all mankind when it actually involves risk to his own life? Can he trust Ronnie to follow his advice and do what's right? Or is this power too dangerous to ever be used by even a learned man such as himself, let alone an irresponsible college kid?
Meanwhile, as our hero(es) take their appropriate steps forward and back, we witness the rise of Firestorm's first true villain. Danton Black was also caught in the nuclear blast. While Ronnie and the professor were fused together, Danton was stricken by the machine's fission effect. His body was split into a bazillion identical atoms, with his consciousness spread out among them all. He pulls himself back together, rebuilding his physical structure, but as he does so, he discovers that he now has the ability to replicate himself and control each cloned body. He was already backstabbing intellectual property thief, but the effect of splitting his mind over so many different bodies is enough to drive him crazy. Thus, he becomes the villain known as Multiplex.
Naturally, in the third act of the film Ronnie and Professor Stein must set aside any problems they have with either each other or the weight of being Firestorm so they can save the day. Multiplex becomes a serious threat. Maybe he's trying to reproduce the nuclear accident from Stein's notes, either to undo the effect or to replicate it on everyone in the city. Whatever his mad scheme actually is, it puts Doreen Day in danger, if not the entire Hudson University campus.
Firestorm can't just blast Multiplex because his powers don't work on people, so he needs to get creative. Maybe Professor Stein's voice is blocked, or he's somehow incapacitated, necessitating that Ronnie remember something he learned in school and applying it in a real life situation.
Whatever. It doesn't really matter how it goes down, but Firestorm thwarts the evil scheme of Multiplex. Danton Black is killed or captured or maybe duplicated into so many different clone bodies that he loses mass and becomes small, or his consciousness diminishes and each duplicate is nothing but a mindless, drooling vegetable. (I also have this image in my mind of Ronnie or Firestorm coaxing his entire football team to rumble with a horde of Multiplex duplicates. Seems silly, but I still kind of want to see something like that. Go figure.)
By the end of the movie, all is relatively well. Ronnie and Stein understand each other, respect each other, and appreciate each other. Ronnie loses his Heisman, and maybe he loses his girl. But he knows what is really important to him. He'll keep playing football and keep going to school, but when the time arises, he will gladly become Firestorm, and step up to protect humankind from whatever evil threatens to destroy it.
Is this an original story? No, but that's the point. It doesn't have to be. Beyond pilfering specific plot points and scenes from the first two issues of the Firestorm comic, it's a paint by numbers plot line for superhero origins. It doesn't have to be revolutionary, it just has to be. And it can be. This movie can work, because it already has.
Warner Bros. and DC: go make Firestorm: The Nuclear Man a movie like I just did!
In the next installment, I'll breakdown the sequel and provide the cast for Firestorm's rogues gallery.