thehefner: (Green Lantern: Bling Bling!)
[personal profile] thehefner
While I steadfastly avoided the reviews for Green Lantern which popped up today on the sites I usually go to (and the fact that they're not releasing reviews until the day before release is a bad sign of WB/DC's own confidence in their overly-promoted would-be blockbuster), just seeing the dire headlines was enough to confirm the worst: this film was going to be the disaster we always thought it would be. Or worse, it would be a tedious slog with horrible CGI, an inglorious mess which isn't even fun as a train wreck.

The reality is, it wasn't that bad. Oh, it wasn't great either, but it's far from a terrible movie. It's just an incredibly flawed movie with great stuff that are threatened to be overshadowed by stupid and boring stuff. It has FOUR story credits, and it sure feels like four half-baked films with great premises, great moments, great potential, all of which go nowhere.

For instance, take Hector Hammond, the giant-headed sub-villain of the film. He's given decidedly more humanity, tragedy, and backstory than the character in comics ever had, but so much of that comes through the actor's performance and scant hints from the screenplay which, at times, seem to come out of nowhere, and subseqquently go nowhere. Hector's subplot, which had a lot of great elements, ultimately didn't serve the movie one bit, and just added to the bloat.

This is going to sound worse than I mean it, but in terms of that bloat, I was comparing Green Lantern to the third Pirates movie, while Henchgirl compared it to X-Men 3. Now, I liked GL waayyyyyy more than either of those films, especially fucking Pirates 3, but GL similarly suffers from filmmakers wanting to cram way too much into one little film, introducing one great element only to abandon it for another, and so on.

For example: Tomar-Re was WONDERFUL. Geoffery Rush and the CGI team combined to make a delightful character and break ol' fish-beak to life. He showed up, had great lines, delivered exposition, then vanished. What was the point of having him there in the first place? Then Sinestro shows up to beat up Hal, which serves as both a prelude for their friendship in the short term and their OTP of Hatred in the long term. But before any of that can be established, he too is gone. Mark Strong's Sinestro was great and nuanced, but he too was given far too little to do, and he shared far too little screentime with Hal to make it matter. Henchgirl says that Sinestro could have had Tomar-Re's whole role, and she's absolutely right. Just one of many examples of this film trying to spread itself too thin with the mythos.

I don't know what this film should have been. Maybe it should have been grounded entirely on Earth, with Hal Jordan's life being intruded upon by sci-fi elements with a few hints of the grander cosmic opera into which he's found himself intertwined. Maybe they should have thrust Hal directly to Oa and the Corps, dropping the cocky human right into the Space Opera amidst all the aliens ala Farscape. Maybe they should have ditched Green Lantern: Secret Origin (the lackluster Geoff Johns take on Hal's origin which DC is pushing as the be-all end-all BIBLE of Hal Jordan) and instead gone for Green Lantern: Emerald Dawn, the greatest GL origin which has been forgotten because people still hate that Hal was a drunk driver in that story. I defy people to look down on that now, since the Hal Jordan of the film is a complete and utter ASSHOLE. Not even a redeemable asshole like Tony Stark, just an asshole. As a longtime Hal Jordan fan, it pisses me off that many people will see that as a faithful take on the character.

The film wasn't terrible. I mean, it was a mess, and it was often boring, but it was also often delightful, fun, funny, thrilling, and soaring (Hal's first flight was a genuine bit of movie magic). We saw this in 2D, but we now want to watch it in 3D. I actually want to pay money to see this film in 3D. That should count for something. God knows how much watching it on the small screen will hurt the effects and bring out the flaws.

In terms of enjoyment quality, I put this film on the level of the first X-Men and Spider-Man films. Which is to say, they're flawed messes with cheese, stupidity, and tedium duking it out with the great stuff, which itself sets the stage for a potentially GREAT sequel. Here's hoping that happens, assuming that this doesn't flop. Granted, Transformers was a ridiculously stupid and critically-panned movie that was still a hit, but I fear that GL might be slightly too smart even in its stupidity to appeal to your average stupid movie-viewer. And if it flops, god knows what that'll mean for DC, who seems to have everything riding on this one damn movie.

There's a lot more I could say, but for now, this is the only review I've yet read which pretty much nails my thoughts (but it comes with a SPOILER tag, so be warned). For those who've seen it, let's discuss it in the comments.

I've been waiting for a Green Lantern movie with Hal Jordan and the Corps since I was thirteen years old. I feel like I'm still waiting.

That's kind of what I expected...

Date: 2011-06-17 05:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've actually been waiting for your take on this film. :)

I haven't seen it yet, but it sounds like it's more or less what I was afraid (and expected) it would be.

I haven't seen it yet, myself.

Just a little while ago, I was telling another friend of mine that I'm way out of the GL loop. The last bunch of stuff I read regularly that featured Hal was my father's Silver Age stuff... before there was a Green Lantern Corps and bunches of other colors of rings to be had.

Based on what you've said and what I've seen in clips and things, I think it would've been best to start off with just Hal on earth, learning how to use the ring and its powers, and then, at the end of the film, finding out he's not in all of this alone.

That sort of simplicity to the plot would give plenty of time for story and action--without one getting in the way of the other. And it would leave the future wide open for solid sequels that could build on the first.

I'm a big fan of the idea of a three film story arc. It lets each build upon the other, giving the iconic bits time to sink in (or be firmly remembered if it's not a new franchise) and spread. It lets people become more invested with the characters. And, perhaps most importantly, it keeps the movies from getting too cluttered with extra stuff that doesn't pay off.

Eventually, I'll catch Green Lantern... just not sure I can justify spending the cash on it just yet. :)

(I look forward to hearing how it looks in 3D.)

Re: That's kind of what I expected...

Date: 2011-06-17 06:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've actually been waiting for your take on this film. :)

Heh, I imagine you're not the only one. There was a time when I pretty much defined myself by the GL logo, drawing it everywhere, seeing it in architecture, wanting it on everything. In high school and college, I think it virtually became my own symbol, because who the hell else knew who or what the Green Lantern was? Problem is, the GL of this movie is the GL of Geoff Johns' run of the past six years, which is the ONLY run as far as DC's concerned, and it doesn't match the fandom I used to love. So I went into this film with especially complicated and bittersweet feelings. From what you say, it sounds like I'm not the only one going into a GL film based around a take on the mythos that isn't the one we remember.

Re: That's kind of what I expected...

Date: 2011-06-17 06:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Most of my exposure to DC characters is from my father's Silver Age comics... so, pretty much anything DC puts on the screen is quite divergent from what I grew up with. (Other influences being the old cartoons like Super Friends.)

Thankfully, I'm well aware of how divergent my take on the various character backgrounds are from what's current... heck, they were even outdated when I was first reading them! (Doesn't mean I don't kind of miss the clear good guy/bad guy line, sometimes, of course. But I've truly loved both the Batman reboots that have happened, so I'm willing to give any movie the benefit of the doubt.)

Now, when it comes to Marvel--which I invested a good bunch of years and many hundreds (perhaps thousands) of dollars in during my teen years--I'm in a bit rougher of a spot.

Films like the X-Men and Spiderman series have to do a lot to convince me they're even close to making the right choices. (Both of those series ended up failing in doing that by the time they got to the third films in the series... I still don't agree with a lot of what was done in the first X-Men movie.)

Thankfully, Marvel's been doing a really fantastic job with the newest batch of Avengers-related films. So they're building up a lot of good-will with me that I hope won't get dashed by the time Avengers comes and goes.

Bottom line is, it sounds like I will enjoy some stuff in the GL movie... but I know I'll come away with many of the same sticking points that you mentioned. And a lot of that is due to having a different vision of who the character should be. (The rest of it is just plain story telling sense and franchise planning... business stuff that you'd think they'd want to work into a long-term money maker or something...) ;)

Date: 2011-06-17 11:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For your consideration:

The money-shot quote:
And I guess that's the biggest problem with Green Lantern. It's the story of two men, one a sweet, endearing nerd who's curious about life on other worlds, geeks out about getting superpowers, and who feels bad when privilege gets him a perk he doesn't feel he deserves. The other is a toolish, irresponsible, self-serving jock who spends all his time whining and either blowing off his gifts or treating them like an asinine hassle. And the jock is the hero. But then, Hector Hammond is ugly, so he can't be a good guy. (Making the equation even more unfair, Hector spends a lot of time speaking for the audience, asking how come he's the villain when the only thing he's done wrong is have an overbearing father, and pointing out how shallow the leads are.)
I doubt I will be seeing this film.

Date: 2011-06-18 12:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Can't say he's wrong about any of it, especially that point. It's all the more reason that the Hector Hammond subplot is problematic. It's not developed enough to make any of it satisfying or meaningful to himself or the film at large, and he's just tossed aside.

Although I may have to disagree about "sweet, endearing." Maybe it was the perv-stache, but Hector Hammond struck me as a bit creepy even before he sniffed Carol's hair in a moment that, I admit, did kinda feel like forced creepiness out of nowhere by the filmmakers to show us, "See? See? What a creepy loser!" Maybe if I didn't know he was Hector going in, and thus SUPPOSED to be a bit creepy, I wouldn't have imposed the initial creepy reading on him. I'll be keeping an eye out for everything Hector the second time around.

As for Hal, this is the same problem I've had with Geoff Johns' Hal, but far worse: he's the Hal that everybody who hates Hal thinks Hal is supposed to be.

Again, there was a lot to like about this film. But so far, the bad stuff has been overpowering the memories of the good, and that ain't a good sign.

Date: 2011-06-18 12:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
As for Hal, this is the same problem I've had with Geoff Johns' Hal, but far worse: he's the Hal that everybody who hates Hal thinks Hal is supposed to be.

Which, weirdly, puts him in exactly the same territory as the portrayals of Peter Parker post-OMD by Quesada's Marvel — they're intentionally amplifying all the worst traits of the characters, and yet, they honestly believe that this will make us like those characters MORE, precisely because THEY like those characters more when they're acting like inexcusable assholes. That's where it crosses the line from certain writers being bad storytellers into them being bad people.

Date: 2011-06-18 12:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Damn, you're right. Oh good, so you understand, then. Fuck.

There are days when I struggle to remember why I love these characters. Those are the days I find a comic shop to scour through back issues and dollar bins for older stuff I've passed by or never read before, which inevitably ends up reminding me of my passions more than most comics coming out today.

Date: 2011-06-18 01:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Part of the problem with modern superhero comics is that, at their heart, superheroes should have values that they stand for, and I don't even necessarily mind if they're values that I don't agree with (see also: Rorschach in Watchmen), as long as the authors writing those superheroes have values that I can get along with. And the problem with so many superheroes right now is not even as much that I'm saying, "Wow, these characters are so wrong," but rather, that I'm saying, "Wow, the intended messages of the authors who are writing these characters are so wrong."

Date: 2011-06-18 01:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Pretty much The Wolverine Effect, really.

Wolverine's early years were marked by being a guy who had done questionable things, and stood an equally questionable chance of putting those things right and evolving into a better person, but when the narrative treated him with respect, it was because he was TRYING to be a better person, and even his berserker rage freakouts, while impressive, were meant to be impressive not just because of their power, but because of the implicitly greater power of the self-control required to rein them in, lest he simply become Sabretooth.

A long time ago, Wolverine stopped being that guy, and instead was merely treated by fans and writers alike as badass for his pure savagery alone.

I still can't believe that DEADPOOL was actually able to pull Wolverine's moral punk card in a recent issue of X-Force.

Date: 2011-06-18 12:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wish I could say I was surprised, but I've had my misgivings since the first shots of the costume started coming out. What a shame. I am glad to read a reasoned and fair review from an actual Green Lantern (and Hal) fan, it takes the edge off my crankiness for some reason, so thanks for that. I haven't seen the film yet (I'm heading out later today to do so), but when I do I think my expectations are about where they should be.

The more I think of it, the more I feel they should have made the Green Lantern film about John Stewart. That wouldn't have magically erased all the problems with the movie and forced it to live up to its potential, but at least it could have added something to it. I may really like Hal Jordan (I was so pleased when I found a Hal plushie at my LCS, he's sitting on my desk as I type this), but it sounds like the way he's characterized is hardly unique for this kind of film and, as you said, he comes across as a kind of caricature of what people expect of Hal Jordan despite past characterization to the contrary. Maybe John Stewart would be less likely to make people (writers included) think 'entitled jock,' and that 'smug douchebag' is sufficient characterization for your lead, but I'm probably dreaming.

Bah, I'm tired and feeling a major case of the 'blahs', I probably should have just written 'John Stewart is awesome, give him a movie' rather than that second paragraph.

Date: 2011-06-18 04:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, I just watched the film, and I enjoyed it. You're right about the sheer amount of bloat in the movie, but I don't really see Hal as being as much of an asshole here as people say he is; he's definitely much less so than in the Johns-written comics I've seen.


Date: 2011-06-18 04:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Furthermore, does Iron Man really have the monopoly on the "flippant hero" personality? I personally don't see that much of a ripoff there.

Date: 2011-06-19 07:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Happy Fathers Day! Now you're the one. BABYBABYBABY. You're getting a tie.

Date: 2011-06-19 09:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Picked up Emerald Dawn today which basically confirms that you and neo_prodigy have become my go-to-guys for worthwhile comics.

I also picked up a trade of Waid's FF run (not the Doom stuff, the living-equation and Johnny-gets-a-job stuff). I don't even read the FF that often, but it's refreshing to see Reed being portrayed as a guy who loves what he does and has an actual sense of humour. Him cracking up over a shrink-rayed-Ben's helium voice is ten times better than "guy who locks himself in his lab all the time".

Date: 2011-06-19 09:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Let me know what you think of it! Hopefully someday you'll also be able to track down the out-of-print Emerald Dawn II.

Waid's FF was great, aside from the Doom stuff, and the take on Reed you mention is a good example of why.

Date: 2011-06-19 09:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I can't say I'm a much bigger Hal Jordan fan for reading it (I don't have strong feelings on Hal one way or the other), but it wasn't bad.

He gets called out when he acts like an asshole, has an actual arc from self-absorbed-jackass to superhero-in-the-making, and Legion attacking his friends to get him gives him an actual reason to angst.

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