Thursday, July 14, 2011

Secret Origins 2 of 2: Green Lantern

(Continued from this post on X-Men:First Class)

While X-Men: First Class feels like it was created, Green Lantern feels like it was manufactured.  

It’s the third movie in as many months to contain a creation-of-the-universe segment (after Thor and Tree of Life), and it’s the least mystical of them all. Plotwise, we're told right from the top that a bunch of immortal blue aliens created a super police corps to enforce law in the universe with rings that channel and project will-based green energy. We’re introduced to the villain, who channels fear-based yellow energy and escapes from his prison and plots vengeance. We meet a couple of aliens called Abin Sur and Sinestro. Wounded and dying after the villain attacks him, Abin Sur crash lands on Planet Earth, and when he commands his ring to find a worthy successor, the ring, which is never wrong in its choices, picks hotshot test pilot Hal Jordan, who’s been introduced to us as a rule-breaking haunted-by-tragedy womanizer. 

I count three problems in that set-up.

1--Instead of learning about the Green Lantern Corps when Hal Jordan does, we're told about it. 

2--Introducing a character with a villain name like Sinestro, and then not making him the villain, is more than a little confusing if you don't know who he is. 

3--If the ring never makes a mistake, then why, when Jordan shows up for training, does Sinestro think he's unworthy of replacing Abin Sur? 

Sadly, the answer to problem number 3 points to the problem with the movie as a whole.  The premise of the ring’s infallibility is ignored because if it wasn’t, then the hero wouldn’t have to Prove Himself By Overcoming An Obstacle.  This is fake drama at its best, where you get connect-the-character-beats instead of a story.  Hal Jordan can’t just BE heroic--he has to overcome the doubts of his peers, the doubts of his girlfriend, and his own doubts, which stem from the fact that Hal's test-pilot father died in a plane crash when Hal was a kid--which is why he’s a test pilot in the first place.  (I don’t know about you, but if my test pilot dad died in a plane crash, I would become a bus driver.)  He also has to overcome two villains (shades of Spider-Man) and in his first public appearance, he prevents a helicopter crash (shades of Superman)--all of which, when you throw in the shades-of-Batman death-of-the-father, makes Green Lantern feel like its body parts were stitched together in an echo chamber for continuity-porn addicts.  

Continuty-porn example: Sinestro.  Like Magneto, Sinestro has a comic book backstory that established him as a good guy before he became a bad guy--but he goes by his bad guy name in the movie, which is all kinds of dumb.  Couldn't they have named him Nestro Natu or something?  It's like naming your kid Jack The Ripper; what the hell do you think he's going to grow up to be--a gardener?  (Which is a bad Green Lantern continuity-porn pun.)

Other thoughts: Mark Strong’s Sinestro will make a great villain if there’s ever a sequel, Ryan Reynolds does a better job as Hal than he does as GL (they should have made him wear a real costume instead of applying it digitally--it’s the Halloween Law, wearing a costume ALWAYS makes you embody it) and Blake Lively tries her best, but her part is as confusing as Rachel McAdams’ Irene Adler in Sherlock Holmes. Is she an equal, an appendage, or just there to be rescued? (All three, actually.) The talk-to-action ratio feels like it's 7 to 3, which shows you how uninteresting the talk is. The score sounds like it was lifted from some low-budget 1980's Erik Estrada action flick. And for a movie about interstellar cops, we spend far too much time on planet Earth, which is like creating a fabulous city and then setting everything in a studio apartment.

So if you haven't seen Green Lantern, and you haven't seen X-Men: First Class, go see the X-Men movie, because in a way you already HAVE seen Green Lantern. The people who made it have forgotten the same thing that the people running DC Comics have forgotten--superheroes don't have character beats; superheroes have adventures.

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