What isn’t a dark and gritty reboot these days? The examples are seemingly endless: The Power Rangers, who are essentially ninja teens in brightly colored leotards; Superman, DC’s red underwear-clad boy scout; and even the Looney Tunes got a darker reboot as the Loonatics Unleashed! What’s next? Is nothing sacred anymore?
In short, the answer is, “No.”
Recently, Oscar-winning actor (FINALLY!) Leonardo DiCaprio has signed on with Paramount to produce a dark and gritty Captain Planet film. Yes, if you haven’t already heard, you read that correctly. Believe it or not, DiCaprio is ready to take his environmentalism to the next level. Despite already giving a speech on climate change at the United Nations, DiCaprio is ready for the man with the green mullet to give a similar speech to audiences around the world.
In response, The Source has decided to fire up our old VHS player, watch some episodes of 1990’s greatest environmental hero, and try to imagine what a dark and gritty Captain Planet film could look like.
What Is Captain Planet?
Captain Planet and the Planeteers was an animated TV show created by Ted Turner and Barbra Pyle in 1990. It was aimed at young children in an attempt to make them environmentally conscious. The show originally ran for two years on TBS but reappeared on various networks with the help of Hanna-Barbera through a sequel series, titled The New Adventures of Captain Planet.
In both versions of the series, the plot and purpose were the same. Gaia, the spirit of the Earth, awakes from her sleep due to extensive drilling and pollution. To combat the forces of greed and destruction, Gaia sends five magic rings around the world to predetermined users. Each ring, with the exception of “heart,” possess a power over an element of nature. The diverse users — Kwame from Africa, Gi from Asia, Ma-Ti from Brazil, Wheeler from North America, and Linka from the Soviet Union (later changed to Eastern Europe) — team together with these rings to fight the forces threatening Gaia.
However, in certain situations these Planeteers could not solve themselves, they combined their powers to summon Captain Planet, an invulnerable superhero with all the typical abilities: flight, super-strength, and shape-shifting (into elements of nature). Yet, for all his considerable strength, Captain Planet has his kryptonite like the Man of Steel; he is considerably weakened by pollution.
The show itself was pretty campy, especially when considering the power of “Heart” in the fifth ring. Each episode had Captain Planet remind viewers that, “The power is yours,” informing us that if we all came together, we could save the planet. But as cheesy as the show seems, even through the eyes of a child the cartoon was never dark or gritty; it stayed silly and positive to give the viewers hope for a better tomorrow.
What Is Proposed for the Film?
When the Captain Planet film was trending online about a week ago, DiCaprio mentioned specifically that he wanted the film to be “dark and gritty.” The folks over at the Hollywood Reporter used their own resources to learn more; according to them, “The project was previously in development at Sony but the rights lapsed. One thing intriguing to Paramount and Appian Way was the subversive take by Matt and Powell [the screenwriters] on the material: Sources say the story takes place years after the adventures of the show, with the Captain now a washed-up has-been who needs the kids more than they need him.” Appian Way is DiCaprio’s own production company which will be his avenue for producing the film.
Let’s Run with That:
According to The Hollywood Reporter’s sources, this film will take place years after the show, which seems odd. One can only assume the show ended because the Planeteers were able to stop all of the threats to the Earth, at least for a while. The team always seemed happy to fight the evils of environmental destruction together, but what if that didn’t last? What if they grew tired of fighting battles the Captain seemed able to fight all on his own, so they gave up the rings? It’s a little too obvious but entirely possible.
No matter what happens, according to these sources, the Captain will be “washed up.” Once again, we have to wonder how this could happen. Did he defeat all the evildoers trying to harm Gaia, and now he has no purpose? While that would make him a washed-up hero, it doesn’t necessarily make for a dark and gritty film. If the so-called darkness only comes from his lack of purpose, who would really care? I mean, yes, we care about Captain Planet, but doesn’t his forces “retirement” mean there are no environmental threats? Perhaps his inactivity is reflective of Gaia’s good health! if this is the case, why make the film?
The most likely explanation is that the Captain and his Planeteers simply lost their way against insurmountable evil. The team realized they couldn’t end the environmental destruction, so they split up and left the rings behind. For years they fought, but there was always a new enemy. Soon enough, as noble as their lives were, they grew tired and quit. Captain Planet was crushed by their lack of devotion and fell into a depression. While this would make for a defeated hero, which is clearly not the same as a washed-up hero, it could still work this way.
The Ultimate Problem:
And yes, this film would obviously have some flaws. While it could be phenomenally written and beautifully filmed, the main issue lies in the idea itself: Captain Planet is NOT meant to be dark and gritty, even if it is intended to ground certain themes in reality. The show was full of campy vibes, cheesy lines, bright colors, and education! Even though Batman has clearly evolved beyond the days where Adam West wore the cape and cowl, Captain Planet simply cannot do the same. You cannot fight environmental destruction through fear.
Captain Planet’s whole shtick was HOPE and EMPOWERMENT, letting every viewer know that they could do what he does — fight for the future of our planet. For any film to truly embody what Captain Planet stands for, they must base the film in these values, not just the visceral cravings of moviegoers.
If you don’t believe me, just check out Funny or Die’s Captain Planet video, featuring Don Cheadle, aka War Machine, as a hero ruling through fear: (WARNING: NSFW)
See? While it’s humorous, it just isn’t Captain Planet! Let us know what you think in the comments below! Would you like to see a dark and gritty Captain Planet film? Would you like to see a Captain Planet film at all?