As I sit down to write this review, Green Lantern has a 24% rating on RottenTomatoes. When I see a number like that, I expect something around Transformers 2 level shoddiness. Having just got back from seeing the film, I can say that it’s leagues better than that. Thank Christ. I’ll level with you. I enjoyed it more than I did Iron Man 2. Sure there are some script issues, and it doesn’t have the dedicated focus that the more recent Marvel Studios releases seem to have down to a science, but it’s nowhere near the abomination that its ratings seem to indicate. It’s not Ghost Rider, Elektra, Catwoman, etc. level bad. It’s actually a decent film. It may alienate some of the more hardcore fans of the Green Lantern comics with the liberties it takes toward continuity and Hal Jordan as a character, but the truth of the matter is that as a film it works just fine. Does it have flaws? Yes. So did Batman Begins, to be perfectly frank. And most of the problems are actually the same. It comes down to pacing and structure. Although I’ll be honest, there is some really sub-par CGI work which hinders the film just as much as the script ever does. But if you think about the sort of money that it would take to really get a Green Lantern film on the screen and have it look flawless, it’d equal the national deficit following our middle-eastern war campaigns.
Green Lantern has a lot working against it when you walk into the theatre. Ryan Reynolds was a controversial choice to play Hal Jordan for numerous reasons. First and foremost, he doesn’t embody the comics version of the character very much at all. He’s more prone to playing the cocky wise-cracking prankster than anything else. Can he do serious? Yes. But does he here? Not really. The film version of the character seems molded around Reynolds rather than the other way around. He only tangentially resembles the Hal Jordan most fans of the comic are familiar with. The caveat is that the Hal Jordan of the comics is somewhat of a dull figure. He’s a straight arrow who is generally most interesting when placed against his foils. That’s why the “hard traveling heroes” years where he crossed the country with Green Arrow were so great, it was the interplay off the opposing characters. Here, Hal is front and center and the story revolves around his journey. In order to play to the masses, they had to mold Hal into a hero that’s more in line with the modern sensibility of what a comic-film hero should be. They’ve turned him into a sort of pseudo-Tony Stark who is massively flawed and yet puts on a brave face propped up by their own sarcasm and wit. It’s not the classic interpretation of the character but the backstory revolving around Hal’s father’s death and his battle to overcome fear are familiar enough that it doesn’t feel like a complete destruction of his character that results in such horrible films as the aforementioned Ghost Rider or Elektra. The film’s Hal Jordan retains enough of his central character that most people will not be offended by the changes and the mainstream audience viewing the film won’t even take notice.
The biggest changes come in the form of Parallax’s origin and, well, his entire existence. I would argue that it might have been a bad idea to throw Parallax into the mix so early, but realistically speaking it’s the easiest way to explain the concept of the color yellow as the embodiment of fear and sets up the eventual Sinestro heel turn (which we KNOW will happen if a sequel ever gets off the ground) as well as any plot device could. It also gives an easy explaination for the introduction of Hector Hammond as a villain. Hammond serves well as the earth-bound villain element of the piece, and Skarsgard plays him with an old-school studio-style monster edge that, while not exactly subtle, is more than enough to match the tone that the film is setting up.
There are only a few major misfires in the whole of the film, the first of which being Hal’s unnecessary friend/comedic relief played by Taika Waititi who looked remarkedly similar enough to Richard Ayoade that I really just wish that they would have had Hal befriend Moss from The IT Crowd. It would have been much more entertaining.
I know it sounds like I’m tearing the film apart a little bit but really it’s quite enjoyable. It may not be the Green Lantern that die-hard fans have been clammoring for but it’s a great first attempt and I think that subsequent sequels without the burden of the origin story to weigh them down will find their footing a little better than this debut entry. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you in any way want the studios to take risks with DC characters on screen because if it flops I guarantee they’re going to go with the safest bets possible and that’s no good for anyone, least of all the fans.
Go read the reviews for this film elsewhere. All you will read is negativity. And I mean, HARSH negativity. One reviewer in particular equated the watching of this film to eating a biscuit filled with maggots. Last week Priest came out and there was nowhere near this level of vitriol. I really can’t understand it. I’m pretty serious when it comes to film analysis, I used to have aspirations of going through film school and all that jazz. But never in my life will you ever hear me devolve that far into hyperbole unless I am doing so ironically. I feel that when you get to that level of hatred over something so petty as a movie you lose all credibility as a reviewer. Especially considering that by the time you’ve written your little analogy the whole of your piece is more about your own prejudices and life experiences and any actual commentary about the merits of the movie are overshadowed by the reviewer’s baggage.
I’m not going to go so overboard in regards to reviewing this film. Because unlike what most reviewers have been claiming, this movie is really, really simple. What’s funny is that this time around they’ve returned to the quest-based narrative of the original film and people have supposedly been clamoring for that quite a lot during the last two movies where the story got so bloated and ridiculous. Streamlining the story and returning to the core elements that provided the structure for the success of the first film. Where the film falters however, is what the producers built on that foundation. There isn’t as much bombastic wonderment in On Stranger Tides as there was in Curse of the Black Pearl. I think the easiest way to compare and contrast is that in the original the fantasy elements were front and center in a way that drove the story forward whereas in this newest installment the narrative is played mostly straight with some fantasy elements thrown in that don’t ever seem to really matter all that much. Zombies, mermaids, possessed ship rigging, even the fountain of youth; all of them are woven into the plot fairly organically but they don’t have the sort of resonance that Barbossa’s curse did in the first film. They’re just there.
The other criticism I’ve heard thrown at the film is that everyone is just phoning in their performance. I don’t think that’s fair. By the time the fourth film rolls around everything that the main cast attempts is going to seem familiar. It’s just one of the pitfalls that happens when you have a successful franchise that hangs around this long. It’s not that anything is wrong with the performances it’s just that we’re trained to want something new but there’s not a whole lot that you can do with old characters at this point in the game. Even Blackbeard’s performance seems derivative of Ian McShane’s work on Deadwood. The thing that sinks this little ship is familiarity.
That isn’t to say the film isn’t good. It’s quite enjoyable. The 3D element doesn’t add much, admittedly, but it isn’t distracting like in lesser films like Clash of the Titans. I would say that overall the film doesn’t live up to the first film but it stand a little above the last two, just by virtue of the base elements working better than the bloated core of the past two sequels.
The main argument I’m trying to make is that you shouldn’t really care what most of the reviewers are saying, it’s the sort of hyperbole that can be expected from those sort of people. I’m more honest. I think it was okay. There’s no crime in it being just okay. It’s a disappointment, sure, but not on the grand scale that the critical community is making it out to be. And that in itself is a bit a disappointment.
Well. Cap’n Jack’s back.
I can say that just from the trailer this installment looks infinitely better than the last outing. I’m not just saying that because I effing love Ian McShane. In fact, the movie has a lot working against it as Penelope Cruz tends to give me migraines. But it seems like this one has a clear focus on what it wants to accomplish and doesn’t seem to have the baggage of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley’s romantic arc to deal with.
I guess we’ll see come summertime.