Green Lantern

Yup, back in familiar territory now with an unfamiliar superhero. Can’t think of anything else to write here. Do me a favour and skip your eyes below to the large film title, would you? Lovely.

Green Lantern (2011)

I knew it. I fucking knew this would happen. Green Lantern gets universally panned by the World, his wife, their dog and its fleas and I actually end up enjoying it. So now I look like either a) a person who wouldn’t know a good film if it kneed them in the throat or b) a mental case who might as well be screaming about how all Post Office employees are actually sinister half dragon/half cyborg amalgamations* for all the respect and attention I’m going to get for not tearing Green Lantern a new one. Still, I’m not afraid of my own opinion, so here we go.

“The ring turns thought into reality. The only limits are what you can imagine.”

Cocky test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is given a power ring by a dying alien who crash-lands on Earth. The ring grants Jordan superpowers and he is recruited into the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic peacekeepers who fight evil wherever it rears its ugly head. When a threat known as Parallax threatens Earth and Oa, the Lantern homeworld, Jordan must come to terms with his new responsibilities and save the day. Also Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong and Blake “I’m naked on the Internet” Lively are in it. The plot is pretty hackneyed, although I believe calling Green Lantern a “superhero film” is a bit of a misnomer. It’s more of hokey space-opera than anything else. Ryan Reynolds has been attracting a lot of negative attention for his Hal Jordan portrayal, but I think that’s more down to the writing than anything else. Reynolds has proven himself a decent actor in films like Buried and as such I can only blame the shallow-as-fuck characterisation for all the hate. Peter Sarsgaard is actually decent as Hector Hammond and is a credible villain, despite looking like the Elephant Man. Mark Strong is Mark Strong with a funny head (and that is a good thing, although he only seems to exist to give speeches) and Blake Lively your standard female love interest. Nothing new here, move along.

It’s a shame that in this cynical age comic book adaptations feel the need to be dark and gritty in order to be taken seriously. Not every superhero film has to appeal to adults or the ludicrous late teen market and this film doesn’t try to. Green Lantern is at best, ridiculous. The very notion that a ring bestows the power to create anything out of green energy it will have disillusioned teens snarking all the way home to update their Facebook statuses, decrying the film for being too childish and not having a scene where a big-titted assassin casually rips out a man’s spinal column, her already skimpy outfit made see-through by the ensuing torrent of blood.* I would have fucking loved Green Lantern as a kid. Plus, I think the fact that the powers are based on will and imagination are a better lesson to teach the young’uns than “get bitten by a radioactive spider” or “expose yourself to space-radiation” or even “get massively rich and then take it upon yourself to stop crime”.

One of the big problems is that the film can’t decide on a tone. At times is appears straight-faced and others self-deprecating and vaguely parodic. A good example of this weird mix is a helicopter crash sequence. In it, Jordan saves the day and the girl by constructing a Hot Wheels type racetrack to bring the ‘copter to a safe stop. After a bit of nerdy friend interaction, he flies to said girl’s balcony to check that she’s okay and try out the whole superhero persona. She recognises Hal almost immediately, saying that she’s seen him naked: did he really think a mask covering his cheekbones would disguise him? It’s a nice moment, but pretty out of place with the rest of the film.

“I pledge allegiance to a lantern, given to me by a dying purple alien.”

Despite all these glaring flaws, I enjoyed Green Lantern. I thought some of the effects were genuinely impressive, some of the constructs clever and the found the suit to be pretty badass. I think audiences are suffering from superhero fatigue and Green Lantern doesn’t do itself any favours by being completely unremarkable. The concept was always going to be a tough sell, hence why this film feels especially committee shaped and why they cast wisecrackin’ Ryan Reynolds. It’s really not as bad as the critics and fanboys have been saying. It’s below average, but fun enough for what it is. I’ve not read the comics, but I’m sure there are much better stories to tell and now we’ve got the origin story out of the way maybe the Green Lantern universe can be opened up and explored in more depth. The film is an enjoyable mess and I’m hoping for a sequel to capitalise on some of the unique ideas on display here. There are some damn fine superhero sequels out there, let’s hope Green Lantern gets one.

* I am currently looking for funding for both of these film ideas. If interested, contact me via the comments box.

Watchmen

All the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Review Watchmen!”… and I’ll look down and whisper “No.”


Oh, alright then.

Watchmen (2009)

You’ve got to hand it to director Zack Snyder. Dude got some balls. Both in a testicular sense and the fact that he decided to take on a supposedly “unfilmable” comic held in ridiculously high regard and make a big Hollywood production out of it. Whether this was a good idea or not is up for debate.

“Rorschach’s Journal: October 12th 1985. Tonight, a comedian died in New York.”

Set in an alternate 1985, a retired superhero called The Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is thrown out of a high-rise apartment window to his death. Fearing some kind of secret plot to bump off other costumed heroes, a vigilante known as Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) starts to investigate. Okay, the plot summary sounds about as hackneyed as you can get, but that’s my fault rather than the film’s. The plot is multi-threaded and dense, just like the comic. Honestly, the plot is amazing. I liked the casting choices too, so no disappointments on that front.

The film sticks amazingly close to the comic. Nearly every single panel is recreated and every line of dialogue is present here. It’s very clear that Snyder loves the source material, which is admirable. However, I think he gets a little too overexcited at prospect of directing something which means so much to him. “Watchmen” has always been a reflection of popular culture and the film is no different. However, where the comic was subtle, the film is smack-in-the-face obvious- which is a shame. Snyder’s use of music too, irked me a little. Most of the songs seem very out of place due to the fact that they’re so recognisable. I understand that Snyder wants to give us an aural sense of popular culture too, but he could have been less heavy-handed with the whole thing, without seemingly crowbarring them into the start of nearly every scene.

The slow-motion thing annoyed me too. It is a stylish tool when used sparingly, but Snyder uses it all the damn time. It like when you’re playing “Mortal Kombat”,”Street Fighter” and the like with your mate and he keeps using the same fucking move that wipes you out over and over again. At first, you’re slightly taken aback and almost congratulatory, but by the fifth time you want to reach across and punch him in his stupid face. Whilst I’m not threatening physical violence against Mr. Snyder, I do wish that he could have kept his finger off the slo-mo button for a least a while. In terms of specifics, the Rorschach apartment scene was odd. Mainly because it’s pretty much a carbon copy of Marv’s apartment escape scene in “Sin City”. Fan favourite character gets framed for murder, keeps cops at bay with bad-assery and eventually jumps out of a window. I swear even some of the shots are the same. I’m not sure whether “Sin City” was referencing the “Watchmen” graphic novel with Marv’s scene or what, but the similarities are pretty clear.

However, all the above are minor niggles when compared to the following point. I don’t think “Watchmen” works as a film. As a comic book, it acts as part parody, part political story filled with layers upon layers of meaning and satire. However, as a film, the very act of not reading it takes you away from the way it’s meant to be experienced. It’s like if a parody film like “Airplane!” or “The Naked Gun” were faithfully turned into graphic novels with every frame and every line of dialogue present. They’d still be funny, but you’re missing an important part of the parody itself. In simple terms, for a parody comic to fully work as a parody, you need to be able to turn the pages and read it as one. When translated to film, this is obviously lost.

“You people don’t understand. I’m not locked in here with you, you’re locked in here with ME!”

I’ve been really indecisive over what to give “Watchmen”. I enjoyed it but I get the feeling I would have been lost if I hadn’t read the comic first. My advice is to read the brilliant source material before going to see the film. At least that way the film acts as a companion piece to the comic, rather than the other way round. I’m going to give it four stars, but definitely knock off a star or two if you haven’t read the comic.

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