Tuesday, August 13, 2019

My Legion movie trilogy

I first posted this on September 25, 2015, and have tweaked it a bit since then. If I were in charge of a Legion movie trilogy, what would I do?

If they asked me to come up with a movie treatment for a Legion movie (or a trilogy, depending on how the first one does), this is what I'd start with. A movie series has to have someone in it that the audience can relate to and identify with. Really, the only Legionnaire who is like that is Karate Kid, the only one without super powers (you could theoretically train and develop his martial arts skills, but you can't train to shoot lightning from your fingers or train to read people's minds). In the "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie, that person was Star-Lord, a guy from Earth who has some cool gadgets and meets some cool people, but he's not inherently strong/raccoon-like/tree-like. In "Star Wars", it's Luke. In "Alien", it's Ripley. Karate Kid is Batman, not Superman. And sadly, while you can call the team "Legion of Super-Heroes" in the movie itself, as a movie title it really is too old-fashioned, so I'll just call it "The Legion".

My trilogy largely but loosely adapts three great Legion stories, but there's enough room to expand the list of characters, concepts, and places based on all iterations of the Legion over the last 60+ years (Silver/Bronze/post-Crisis, Five Years Later, Reboot, Threeboot, Retroboot, cartoon, Bendis's new version, "Supergirl" and "Smallville" TV shows, etc.).


My first movie adapts Jim Shooter's first Legion story from Adventure Comics #346-347, where Karate Kid joins the Legion with Princess Projectra, Nemesis Kid, and Ferro Lad.

Act 1: introduction of the Legion; tryouts; new members join

This allows you to have KK as your point-of-view character, his first view of the Legion is ours as well. Follow him as he and the others show up, meet other recruits or hopefuls American Idol style, then go through tryouts. In the arena (think of the tryouts circa Legionnaires #34) we also learn via hologram the history of the Legion and the United Planets, so no need for an origin movie, but explain to the movie and tryouts audience that the Legion was founded in honor of the 21st century heroes like Superman and the Justice League. The Legion is well-established in the 31st century, and explain that so many worlds have super-powers due to genetic manipulation. You can put in some joke characters like Arm-Fall-Off Boy and some villains who will be seen in the next movie (in particular, the Legion rejects Emerald Empress for using an external device and Tharok for not having good character, and Lightning Lord for duplication of powers), as the movie starts out light and turns dark with the impending invasion of Earth by the Khunds.

Act 2: Khunds are one step ahead of Earthgov and the Legion during the invasion

Somehow the Khunds are anticipating the UP's and the Legion's every move and either have countermeasures or alternate plans. Is there a traitor in the Legion's midst? The story has a built-in hook - who's the traitor, is it our POV character? - and a twist (no, it's Nemesis Kid, one of the new recruits!), along with Big Stakes (turning back the Khund invasion). Maybe there's a piece in a museum where the Khunds are looking for some object like Wonder Woman's lasso, Aquaman's trident, or a Mother Box, similar to how Darkseid went looking for things in the Great Darkness Saga. A hero turning villain/traitor is a comic book cliche, but not a movie cliche.

Act 3: Khunds continue the invasion; Legion traitor revealed; invasion thwarted

With those four new members, you can add whoever else you want as the supporting Legion characters in the movie (ranging from powerhouse Ultra Boy to Espionage Squad members Shrinking Violet and Chameleon Boy or Girl) and you can have minor or cameo appearances by others, because after all, it's a LEGION of super-heroes. However, you'll need to ensure that you have introduced some of the Legionnaires that will appear in the two future movies, even if it's a relatively small role here. Aside from the four newbies, in the original story there's no specific reason for any particular Legionnaire to be there, so you pick whoever has a good costume or visually good powers from whatever continuity - Dawnstar, Blok, XS, Gazelle, Gear, Kono, etc. - or who fits the plot. The good guys win in the end, of course, but you still have the threat of the Khunds (even though the Legion stopped the invasion, for now) and the treachery of Nemesis Kid still lurking out there. This is a standalone movie with hooks for a sequel.


So what do you follow this up with? You want to keep your POV character front and center while at the same time featuring the main characters from the first movie (Karate Kid, Projectra, and Ferro Lad), and there's only one choice - you do the Sun-Eater story, because it's very rare that comic book good guys die in their movies.

Act 1: setting the stage

This one has a smaller hero cast, starring just five Legionnaires - you pick newbies Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Ferro Lad from the first movie, plus founder Lightning Lad (to help set up movie #3 as we'll see later) and another senior member (a female, maybe Dawnstar or Kid Quantum for powers and visual diversity). Because the rest of the Legion is off fighting the Khunds and can't get back to Earth in time, leaving just the newbies and a couple of vets minding the HQ - and set up a "side quest" in the movie to show what's going on and why they can't help the main cast - they're forced to recruit the individual members of the soon-to-be Fatal Five, some of whom tried out and were rejected in the first movie.

Act 2: recruiting the Fatal Five

You can largely adapt the two-part story from Adventure Comics #352-353, each hero finds one or more recruits (some of whom are killed off, Suicide Squad style), and the survivors join together as the Fatal Five, battling a Khundish weapon called a Sun-Eater alongside the Legionnaires.

Act 3: fighting the Sun-Eater; death of Ferro Lad

At the end of the movie, Ferro Lad sacrifices himself and the Fatal Five escape and realize that they're better off together as a group than they are as individuals. Remember the ending to Empire Strikes Back, how things look bleak for our heroes - similarly, the Legion has lost a member, and they are responsible for the creation of the Fatal Five. Now the Legion has blood on their hands from what the Fatal Five have done and do as a group collectively. We have a largely self-contained movie but which does have continuity from the first movie, a new story arc with new challenges, and we leave the audience with a post-credits tease for the next movie (the final one in the trilogy): Nemesis Kid and Lightning Lord recruit the Fatal Five to join their Legion of Super-Villains (though you'd have to come up with a better name for the group).


Act 1: Recruiting the LSV

In the third movie, after we casually reveal that Jeckie and Val are an official couple (but not engaged or secretly married, because that would telegraph the ending) Nemesis Kid and the Fatal Five are brought together by Mekt Ranzz, who is the brother of one of our heroes and has a grudge for movie reasons (so you can have the family fight within the larger good guy/bad guy fight), along with a few others (maybe tryout rejects or former members) to form the LSV. You can pick and choose your villains based on personal history with a Legionnaire and/or bring back some that the Legion has fought in the comics (visually, I like Cosmic King, Sun Emperor, Zymyr, Chameleon Chief [change to Queen], Esper Lass, and Spider Girl) and refer to past Legion missions that we haven't seen. All have reasons for wanting to eradicate the Legion.

Act 2: Divide and conquer the Legionnaires

This is a divide-and-conquer plan that ends up capturing several less-powerful Legionnaires (Karate Kid and Princess Projectra among them) to be used as bait to capture the more powerful ones (whichever ones are used here we'll have to make sure we've seen them in the first two movies). Pick and choose elements from any or all of the Legion/villain team battles - maybe Emerald Empress backstabs Tharok because he's creepy and she wants to be the leader, and someone uses what's left of Tharok's robot brain to control Validus, for example.

Act 3: villains defeated; death of Karate Kid

Some of the uncaptured Legionnaires break the others out, and we see how the team fights as a team, not just a collection of individuals (like the Super-Rejects from Superboy 212). At the climax of the third act, Karate Kid dies at the hands of Nemesis Kid. Princess Projectra declares it's her royal privilege to kill Nemesis Kid in the heat of battle to avenge the death of Karate Kid, but after the Legion triumphs (teamwork over treachery) she's expelled by the group because Legionnaires don't kill except in self-defense, which this clearly was not. A battered Legion vows to regroup after the loss of another two Legionnaires - and now, all four of the newly-inducted Legionnaires from the first movie are no longer in the Legion. Time for another round of tryouts at the end of this one, which bookends with the beginning of the first movie; the Khunds are still out there, as is a shadowy group called the Dark Circle, and rumors of the resurrection of a mighty wizard who was thought to have disappeared a thousand years ago....


So that's my Legion trilogy. You have continuity in the movies, a core cast plus some other Legionnaires to fill out roster spots (with nearly 100 Legionnaires to choose from), point-of-view characters, character arcs, story arcs, and some major character deaths (including the series hero). Each movie has an arc itself, plus there's an overall trilogy arc. You've got story elements from the comics but hopefully not so much that it doesn't feel like a comic book.

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