Friday, June 17, 2011

Willpower and Fear

And we all ... shine ... on ...
Here at last is opening day for the Green Lantern movie! And I am trying not to be prematurely despondent, but I cannot help but notice that pretty much across the board, the reviews are Not Very Good.

What’s dragging down the critical reception, it seems to me, are elements which fall into three broad categories. At the very least, I can come up with mental counter-arguments for each of them, so that’s something.

The first one is simple superhero movie fatigue. Thor came out in May and was surprisingly well-liked. X-Men: First Class just opened a couple weeks ago and did all right, too. Now it’s Green Lantern’s turn, but it is inherently harder to be third in line and still impress. (Not to mention this all might be exacerbated by the entire past decade of Spider-Mans and Iron Mans and Fantastic Fours and Batmans and Hellboys and Transformers et cetera.) I’m not unsympathetic toward professional movie reviewers who trudged into Green Lantern thinking “gah, another comic book flick” but for me, Green Lantern isn’t just another comic, it’s my all-time favorite. So I don’t anticipate a similar familiarity-bred contempt in myself.

The second critical objection is what I’ll call SF BS OD, or sci-fi backstory overdose. (You may have thought I was going somewhere else with that “BS” part, which was not entirely unintentional.) Apparently the movie crams in a ton of exposition and universe-building and I get how that can be very off-putting if not downright confusing. But, again, going in as a GL fan means I already know the convoluted evolution of the Green Lantern Corps – which, not for nothing, was something that was definitely not laid out wholesale in the first issue of the comics. Originally GL got a ring from an alien and started doing superhero stuff. Slowly, literally over years of publication, they elaborated the situation of where the ring came from and introduced Hal Jordan to other Green Lanterns from other galaxies, as well as his enigmatic bosses the Guardians who lived at the center of the universe. And just like any other comic book superhero, Hal acquired villains at a rate of about one per issue. From what I’ve pieced together via the trailers, there are FOUR canonical GL villains in the movie (Krona, Sinestro, Hector Hammond and Parallax) as well as the entire Corps and the Guardians and so on. You could generously call the scope of the movie “ambitious” or you could put it down as “a big, loud, botched mess.” It’s possible I’ll be disappointed by the fact that none of these cool elements from the GL comics get the attention or depth I’d like to see because they’re all competing for screentime, but I definitely won’t be so lost and confused that I throw my hands up in disgust.

Thirdly, there’s Ryan Reynolds, whose cocky smarm can apparently ruin a movie for some people. But I like the guy, so once more, I think I’m safe there.

(Incidentally there was a fourth criticism I ran across where someone scoffed at the Hal Jordan in the movie as a total rip-off of Tom Cruise’s character Maverick from Top Gun, which thus diminished the film to a remake of a 25-year-old not-so-classic, plus about a billion CGI aliens. It’s true both Hal and Mav are pilots, and both are cocky lotharios who nevertheless fall in love with female boss/superior, and lots of other similarities but … man, that’s who Hal Jordan was in the comics from the get-go in the 60’s! The question is not “Did the GL film clone Top Gun?” but rather “How did I never notice before that Top Gun totally jacked the main character from Green Lantern?” Weird.)

Whether the movie is bound for box office glory or doomed to crash and burn, I’m going to see it tomorrow night with some of my buddies. So as I said, I’m trying to keep the dread and despair to a minimum and just take what the flick offers. My consolation thought is that if the movie bombs, then even on the new budget necessitated by two kids in daycare I should be able to acquire a whole pile of licensed GL swag when it goes on super-unpopular clearance.

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