Monday, June 20, 2011

Post-Weekend Review

I am sure you have all been dying with anticipation to hear what I thought of the Green Lantern movie. It was … fine? Actually it was pretty good by me, but your mileage may vary. The good news is that my predictions were largely correct, in terms of my personal fandom and general attitude towards the whole escapade were more than enough to overcome the critical objections I had become inescapably aware of. The bad news is that I really needed that fandom and attitude to counter the objectionable stuff, because yeah, the critics weren’t just being cranky, it was to one extent or another all right there.

Spoiler Alert, of course!

Infodump-Alien-Dee and Infodump-Alien-Dum
The more I think about it, the best analogy I can come up with for the GL flick is the movie Highlander, which is a sci-fi film from the early 80’s which is much-beloved by many a geek (myself included) despite the fact that it suffers from a host of problems, from slightly off-kilter acting to plot holes you could drive a truck through. But it also has Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery and a crazy-fun villain and a bunch of bitchin’ swordfights and a soundtrack by Queen. So, too, with Green Lantern: the acting hovers around passable and the story convolutions are pretty easy to nit-pick, but there’s a hilarious-creepy bad guy and the power ring stuff is rad. Maybe all GL was missing was Freddie Mercury, alas.

(Incidentally, before I get any further I want to back up to a point I made on Friday about the movie not doing itself any favors by having four villains. It actually, really, only has two, and it’s a minion/boss relationship, which makes a lot more sense for a tight narrative. Hector Hammond is the more grounded bad guy, and is the aforementioned hilarious-creepy one, while Parallax gets to be the abstract-cosmic-threat-to-life-as-we-know-it which gives the climax a bit more epic grandeur. Krona isn’t mentioned by name but, in the Green Lantern movie version of things, he actually becomes Parallax, so … yeah don’t even worry about parsing that, just trust me. And Sinestro is in the movie and is awesome, but whereas the trailers led me to believe he would go from ally to enemy within the movie – a transformation which comes right out of the comics – they are apparently saving his fall from grace for the sequel. On which more below.)

So yeah, Green lantern has some pretty serious flaws. It has gaps of internal logic which a decent steeping in comicbook lore could help bridge over, but would probably leave a novice scratching their heads. On the other hand it has some other inconsistencies which might not even occur to the average moviegoer but might stick in the craw of a longtime fan of the comics. So something for everyone!

It’s got to be just about the wonkiest superhero movie I have ever seen. Green Lantern, in the comics, is like a fifty-car pile-up of crazy sci-fi ideas which accreted over the course of five decades, with later writers trying to sort out and make sense of (or make less embarrassingly cheesy) the tenets put forth by early writers who were just cranking out sci-fi gibberish for kiddies and thought that a shark-man with an “invisible yellow aura” was plausible enough to at least serve as a good antagonist for one month’s issue. In translating the world that evolved out of all those comics to the screen, the script overseers took great pains to explain all of the systems-within-systems that allow Green Lantern’s universe to operate. They probably over-explained.

They may have also over-themed. There’s a lot of “fathers and sons” at play in the GL movie, which of course is a subject near and dear to my heart. There’s also “willpower and fear” which of course is the primary metaphor in the comics, too (not for nothing did I make that my blog post title on Friday) and a bit of “power and responsibility” not to mention “legacies and mentors” – all good stuff, all totally appropriate to the character, but maybe a lot of ballast for one movie.

In a lot of ways it all comes down to the climax. In order to save Earth from Parallax – a gigantic space-wraith who eats souls, or something like that (it’s a bit more complicated in the comics and the movie explanation is a bit lacking) - Hal Jordan lures the entity into space, specifically near enough to the sun that the sun’s gravity is all but completely inescapable. Jordan stays just outside the inescapable point but pushed Parallax past it by projecting a giant hand from his power ring and knocking Parallax backwards with a good right cross. When the credits were rolling, and my buddies and I were waiting for the post-credits easter eggs, I informed my friends that the movie really delivered everything I could have possibly wanted in a Green Lantern movie because “Hal Jordan PUNCHED the bad guy INTO THE SUN with a GIANT GREEN FIST.” And as those words were coming out of my mouth, I thought to myself, “That sounds incredibly stupid!” And also awesome. But Green Lantern is known for punching things with giant green fists, and if we’re going to do blockbuster dumb fun sci-fi stuff let’s just go ahead and turn it up past 11. So the movie gave me a Green Lantern I very much recognized and had him punching alien fear-monsters INTO THE SUN. I was a satisfied customer.

The movie was unnecessarily complicated and bizarre in many ways, but I realized that Green Lantern comics could be described in much the same way. I’m fine with the latter, and thus I’m fine with the former. But I’m sure it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and Green Lantern isn’t going to be the next Iron Man or The Dark Knight. I just hope it does middlingly well enough to get that sequel made, because man, they REALLY worked hard to lay the groundwork. The sequel at least would have way fewer exposition info-dumps because it would simply build off all the info-dumps in the first movie. And as I mentioned above, it would be about Sinestro’s fall from grace and that would have some heft to it because of Sinestro’s strong performance in the initial chapter. Ah well, time will tell.

My buddies, none of whom are fans of GL to the same extent as I am, all enjoyed the movie to various extents, or at least acknowledged the charms alongside the flaws. (Incidentally they all would probably say they like Highlander, too.) And after we spent a few minutes discussing the flick and comics in general, we agreed that we would meet up again in a month or so to see the Captain America movie. So no 3D superhero movie fatigue for us! I’m lucky to have a circle of friends who not only are into the same kinds of geeky things as I am, but also know how to let themselves just enjoy things and derive simple pleasures from them rather than tearing everything down for not being good enough. I tend to think that’s a win-win.

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