A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 593 – Green Lantern

Green Lantern – October 14th, 2011

This movie makes me sigh. I want to like it. I want it to be good. But I also want to live in a magic flying houseboat. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. And I admit, I don’t hate this. It’s just that I don’t hate it even though it’s a total mess. There is so much wrong with it that it’s hard to even begin. When it came out I learned that my mother – my mother who seemed to pooh-pooh comic books all through my childhood – loved Green Lantern as a child. We mentioned the movie and she was all “Oh! Hal Jordan!” and she recited the oath and everything. Who knew, right? Even her own brother – the rightful owner of all of the Green Lantern comics she read – had no idea. We told him the other day and he was shocked. And amused. And yet we could not recommend this movie to my mother. At all. It’s not that she has a problem with action, and clearly she liked the comic book character, it’s that I couldn’t bear to see her watch something so bad based on something she apparently loved so much. It’s bad enough for me, and I know absolutely nothing about the source material beyond the most basic of basics.

I’ve seen a lot of superhero movies by now and you know, some handle backstory better than others. Iron Man? Fantastic. X-Men and X-Men: First Class? Yeah, they did a decent job, especially given that they were dealing with ensembles. Batman Begins says right in the title that it’s an origin story and it should go without saying that a crapload of time is going to be spent on backstory. That’s the thrust of the movie. Comparatively speaking, I’d say Iron Man and Batman Begins are doing roughly the same basic job, introducing a person, showing their personal crises, then showing how they become masked heroes and deal with their first real challenges. And this movie? Wants to be one of those. It wants to introduce a person – Hal Jordan – and take him through the process of becoming a hero and facing a crisis and dealing with a bad guy. Except it’s so damn muddled.

Part of the movie’s problem is that it does a heck of a lot of telling and not nearly enough showing. Movies are visual media. They should be showing. I’ll point back to my review of Macross Plus, which has two different versions. In one, the character of Isamu (a hotshot fighter pilot – sort of like Hal Jordan here) is introduced through a lot of dialogue about how he’s lazy and takes risks and whatnot. In the other? He’s introduced by a dialogue-less scene where he stands outside and plans his flight path with his hand before getting in his experimental jet and painting a picture with his exhaust trails. This movie? Picked the dialogue. It should have painted a picture. That right there is indicative of a movie that feels like it needs to spell everything out for the audience. And that’s a pity, because there are some really strong visuals here. They’re just not being used to their highest potential because every time something could be said visually, it instead gets a whole lot of expository dialogue vomited all over it.

The other major issue I have with this movie is that it’s just plain messy. And I don’t mean visually. Obviously it’s a superhero action movie, so there’s a lot of action going on and that’s fine. Sure, sometimes it feels like everything is green and therefore it’s hard to focus on the important green things and not the green background and green unimportant things, but the movie is about a dude who makes green things out of pure will. I expected the greenness. No, when I say it’s messy I mean it’s all over the place. We’re in the past and we’re watching Hal do a jet fighter test and we’re meeting his proto-adversary and we’re in space seeing a bunch of guys we don’t know get their souls sucked out by the big bad guy and we’re watching Hal train and then he’s back on Earth for some romance and then he’s back in space again and then he’s on Earth and oh right! Adversary grows a giant brain! Then the big bad is there and there’s romance too but we can’t linger on that too much because Hal has to make good on Chekhov’s Gravitational Pull! There is so damn much plot in this movie it’s leaking out the edges, which is probably why none of it quite works. I think my favorite bit of pointlessness is when Hal goes back to the planet he trained on (for like, a day) and begs the other Lanterns to help him save Earth because even though he said he wasn’t going to be a Green Lantern he knows now that he has to be one and he needs their help! And they say no so he says “Okay, that’s cool, we can do it on our own!” It’s absolutely ridiculous and they could have shaved a chunk of time off the movie by cutting it out and it’s yet another bit indicative of how poorly put together the movie is.

Honestly, I don’t want to bother going over the plot. The core idea – that a super powerful entity that feeds on fear is coming to Earth and Earth’s only Green Lantern must find a way to save his planet – is well enough for a comic book movie. I can even run with the training stuff, because it’s an origin story and it adds drama to have the hero be unprepared and scared (especially given that the villain feeds on fear, as I mentioned). And of course he has to be somewhat isolated because bringing the full power of the entire Green Lantern Corps against the villain would lessen the dramatic tension. But then they add in the minor adversary and try to make this whole jealousy thing happen when it comes to the romantic interest and there’s tension between the romantic interest and the hero and that’s not even touching on the fighter pilot stuff. If it wasn’t an origin story maybe the rest would work better, but having the origin in with everything else, oh, just, no. So overloaded.

Now, like I said, I did enjoy this. I didn’t love it and it’s far from the top of my comic book movies list. But it’s also not at rock bottom. I prefer it to say, The Spirit and it’s certainly miles ahead of the 1990 Captain America, so it’s got that going for it. But if I’m going to be honest about that, I should also be honest about thinking that a sequel has the potential to be so much better than this. They’ve got the worldbuilding out of the way! They don’t have to explain the Green Lanterns or Hal or anything like that. It’s all been done in this mess so they could leave the mess behind and focus on the story. And that would be such a relief and really, they’ve gone to all that trouble to set everything up so it would be a shame not to take advantage of that. Unfortunately, after this much of a mess I don’t think a sequel is very likely at all.

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October 14, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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