Who in blue blazes is the Golden Blaze?!?!
Last summer I posted the soul-shocking "Crisis in Electric Ladyland" editorial here on the YKFS blog. That particular piece – many of you may recall – was a playful criticism of the double-digit number of African-American super-powered characters whose names and/or powers are redundantly related to electricity. (Those of you who missed out on that electrifying read can find it here.)
Well, despite my encyclopedic knowledge and my additional research into the subject, I was recently hit with the jaw-jolting realization that there is yet another name that could have been included on that already too-long list of ten. Our shocking eleventh addition to the list comes to us from of the 2005 animated film The Golden Blaze.
While doing some last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve, I chanced upon a copy of The Golden Blaze at the local Big Lots store. Prior to that unexpected encounter, I had never heard a single whisper about the film's existence. And despite the $3 bargain price, I could NOT bring myself to add it to the handful of cheap DVDs that I was already carrying. Not even in the endless pursuit of editorial purpose.
Suffice it to say that I was probably more annoyed than curious about the until-then-unheard-of super guy garbed in the regurgitated color scheme of navy blue and gold (à la Black Lightning, Black Vulcan, Static), with an obligatory lightning bolt insignia on his chest. How in the God of Thunder's name could there be another friggin' character like this?, I wondered as I eyed the cover in a mild state of shock and awe.
Quickly adding to my dismay was an iconic movie studio logo that I spotted on the back of the DVD, revealing that Warner Brothers – of all movie studios – was the film's distributor. Hadn't the WB already cornered the friggin' market on electro-powered minorities? Could having characters such as Static Shock, Soul Power, Sparky and Juice in its big corporate toy box somehow not have been enough? I mean...really?
With my eyes rolling towards the white stucco ceiling, I put the movie back in the DVD bin and made way for the checkout counter. I was determined to learn the Golden Blaze's story not by watching the movie, but by reading about it on the interwebs later that night–or sometime after the holiday. Three nights later, I went ahead did my due diligence. What I learned online that evening sent me back to Big Lots the next day.
The Golden Blaze is a kid-friendly feature that boasts the voice acting talents of Blair Underwood (Gattaca, Deep Impact), Michael Clarke Duncan (Daredevil, Sin City), Sanaa Latham (Blade, Alien vs. Predator), and Neil Patrick Harris (Starship Troopers, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along). This G-rated flick is so friggin' kid friendly that it was awarded the Children’s Jury Award for Best Animated Feature at the 2005 Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.
And so, an hour after my aforementioned shopping excursion, I clicked off the lights, plopped down on the couch, and gave The Golden Blaze 90-minutes of my undivided attention. And – in full spite of that well-worded complaint against with the redundancy of the electricity theme and black super-powered characters – I was quickly disarmed by the film's faithful and amusing approach to caped crusader mythos and comic book culture.
Like many schoolboys his age, Jason Fletcher (voiced by Khleo Thomas) gets bullied by a kid five times his size and daydreams about having the power of his hero, Golden Blaze. In a kooky twist of fate, Jason's dad, the bumbling scientist Mr. Fletcher (Underwood), gets caught up in a scientific demonstration gone-awry and gains the abilities of the Golden Blaze. But the accident also has a similar effect on his megalomaniacal ex-boss (Duncan), transmogrifying him into Golden Blaze's arch-nemesis, Quake.
With the exception of M. Knight Shyamalan's Unbreakable, which The Golden Blaze brings to mind for me in subtle ways, I really can't think of another motion picture that so earnestly manages to pay homage to comic book concepts–and does so from both sides of the multi-paneled page; from the sloppy comic book shop owner with less-than-zero customer service skills to the Green Lantern-like mantra "Let the light of truth show the wayyyy!," this animated feature doesn't miss a beat.
Now, this isn't to say that The Golden Blaze is a flawless production, because it's not. Directed by Bryon E. Carson (by way of Flash computer animation), it's somewhat apparent that the filmmaker was ballin' on a budget. Nevertheless, a cast of recognizable actors (including Harris as the sloppy shop owner), super clean character design, and some diabolically clever story-telling make up ground for any of the visual deficits.
It's probably also worth noting that this movie was not made with the nit-picky comic-con demographic with two or more decades of fandom under their utility belts–like me! To (badly) paraphrase the ODB, Golden Blaze is for the children. As such, it's something that I would whole-heartedly recommend to the parents of the comic-con attendees of tomorrow.
St. Paco's Verdict: The Golden Blaze's kung fu does not suck.
P.S. I'm still gonna pray to the Mighty Thor and the gods of Billy Batson (Shazam!) that there isn't yet another lightning bolt bearing character out there waiting to be added to the "Crisis in Electric Ladyland" list.