As a father who waves the geek flag proudly, I am always looking to inject anything comic book, sci-fi, or fantasy related into my daughter’s routine. And after having a really hard time finding a proper goodnight book that didn’t annoy me (aside from goodnight moon, which is excellent), I decided to just write one myself. If I could actually draw, I’d even illustrate it.
I call it: “Goodnight Justice League”. She seems to like it. I’m sharing it here, just in case other geek parents find it applicable.
Goodnight Justice League.
In a shining moonbase called the Watchtower,
Sits a green Martian with shapechanging power.
He watches the monitor, vigilant and wise,
But soon falls asleep and closes his eyes.
And soon he is relieved, monitor duty done,
For Green Arrow is here, to have all the fun.
In a world of Luthors and Jokers and Sinestros and Cheetahs,
We can all sleep soundly, for the Justice League watch over us.
Goodnight J’onn, Manhunter from Mars,
Goodnight Batman, and all your bat-cars.
Goodnight Superman and your wife Lois Lane,
Goodnight Wonder Woman, and your invisible plane.
Goodnight Batgirl, in your billowing black cape,
Goodnight Flash, saving the city from a big bad Ape.
Goodnight Aquaman, noble King of the Sea,
Goodnight Green Lantern, with your power battery.
Goodnight Oracle, smart, sassy and geeky,
Goodnight Supergirl and your pet cat Streaky.
Goodnight Robin, Red Robin, and Nightwing as well,
Goodnight Zatanna, casting a backwards spell.
See you in the new day.
For when Evil attacks,
They fall to the JLA.
You’d have to be living a completely un-connected life to missed all the scathing reviews of the new Green Lantern film. With a 40% rating on metacritic, the film has quickly garnered a reputation of being, shall we say, significantly below expectations. As a huge fan of the comics, this worried me, and I went into my screening last night with trepidation.
Is it as bad as some reviewers say? Is it a joyless, soulless, execrable piece of celluloid turd that never should have been made?
Well, that’s a simple question with a not so simple answer.
I personally think that the film is not as bad as people try to make it out to be.
Is it a superhero film on the level of The Dark Knight or Superman, films that transcend the medium and bring respectability to the genre? Heck no. Not even close. It it, then, this season’s Batman and Robin or Elektra, pieces of cinematic hackmanship that do nothing but denigrate the source material? Again, hell no.
Instead, I’d lump Green Lantern with films like Thor and Spider-Man 2. These are movies that capture much of what makes the source material so wonderful and enduring, all the while showcasing some serious problems that give critics major handholds to latch onto.
In Brightest Day…
So what does it do right?
1. The Setup – The first act is actually extremely well done, and does everything a first act is supposed to do right. Beginning with an exposition heavy prologue, necessary, I feel, due to Green Lantern’s complex mythology and world-building, the film then proceeds to introduce us to Hal Jordan, played by Ryan Reynolds. And the Jordan we meet, while perhaps more of a Kyle Rayner-Guy Gardner-Hal Jordan amalgam than a straight up Hal Jordan, is perfectly established right from the get go. We see his cockiness, his irresponsibility, his childishness, and, yes, his fear. In other words, all the flaws he will have to overcome to become a hero. The other story and character beats also fall into place pretty well, and made me eager to see where the filmmakers would take things.
2. Hal Jordan – I’m not the biggest fan of Hal as he exists in the comics. But I like what they did with him in the film. On the page, he’s essentially a supercop crossed with a Mercury 7 astronaut: cocky, but skilled enough to deserve his cockiness, and one of the greatest GL’s to ever sling the ring. He really had no weaknesses, except a slight inability to relate with some of his comrades, and a major inability to hold a long-term relationship. That’s a fun character for a mentor or side-kick, but not as the main focus of the story.
This is why I’ve always liked Kyle Rayner more. His vulnerabilities are real and deep seated, his stakes more personal, his journey more heroic. He has flaws in abundance, flaws just like you and me.
In crafting the Hal Jordan character for the screen, the writers took what made Kyle great, his humanity, and put them into Hal, making him a guy I could root for. Reynolds did a bang up job as well, knowing when to play it straight and when to crack wise.
3. Sense of Wonder – An aspect of film as a medium that has been missing for a long while is that “childish” sense of wonder that used to accompany Spielberg’s movies and science fiction in general. Green Lantern is a space opera about the ultimate tool of wish fulfillment, a concept begging for the return of a sense of wonder.
Had the filmmakers given in to modern cynicism and withheld that sense of wonder, then the film would have fallen flat on its face. As it is, OA is given the appropriate sense of grandeur, Hal revels in his constructs and his ability to fly, and everything feels heavy with wonder. In fact, it practically drips off the screen in that moment when Tomar-Re (Geoffry Rush) shows Hal a complex construct of a writhing mass responding to his will. Hal’s face, filled with wonder, seals the deal.
4. The Constructs – Reviewers have slammed the constructs as childish and immature. Well, guess what: Hal Jordan, as written, is childish and immature. It fits. And besides, the film is about the power of imagination… if the idea of a grown man occasionally indulging his inner child is offensive to you, then I suggest popping out your DVD of Requiem for a Dream and watching The Goonies or Superman. Have some fun.
5. Sinestro – Although he didn’t have too much to do in the film, Mark Strong as Sinestro was definitely a highlight. The man owned every scene he was in.
6. The Humour – the film is funny in all the right places. It just works. See: Carol Ferris discovering Green Lantern’s secret identity.
In Blackest Night…
It wasn’t all brightest days for Green Lantern, though, as some of the criticism was absolutely justified. So… what went wrong?
1. Pacing – I’m not going to go scene by scene here, but the pacing of the film after the first act was definitely off. Some parts dragged, the first fight scene between Hector Hammond and Hal Jordan was terribly paced within itself, and the third act was atrociously quick. Parallax’s approach and subsequent attack on Earth felt way too rushed. The final battle felt like it was only 5 seconds long, and the wrap-up felt like they just ran out of time and wanted to end things quick. Nothing was given its proper weight in the end, and that’s a shame. In that sense, it was reminiscent of the ending for Golden Compass, which is not a good thing.
2. Carol Ferris – As I said earlier, Blake Lively was competent in her role, having to do nothing more than stand around and look sexy. But that’s the problem… she had nothing else to do but stand around and look sexy. Yes, I know she becomes a major villain (Star Sapphire) later on, but it feels like her character is locked in a holding pattern until such event occurs. A problem, arguably, shared by Sinestro.
3. The Dialogue – I’m sorry, most of the film’s dialogue is just clunky and messy, on the nose and expository to an extreme. There’s some good stuff in there, but I’d rather forget any of the characters outside of Hal and Sinestro opened their mouths at all.
4. The Villains – Hector Hammond, while played admirably by Peter Sarsgaard, was really nothing but a distraction and a waste of space. All his screen time could have been spent developing Parallax more, or perhaps showing more training on OA. Speaking of Parallax…
No. No I will not speak of Parallax any further. Instead, I will just direct you to pick up a copy of Green Lantern: Rebirth from your nearest comic store.
5. No Fear – Yes, I get it. The film is about overcoming fear. You didn’t have to tell me that every 10 minutes. Seriously, I get it.
Beware My power…
So, yes, there you go. The film has a multitude of flaws, and certainly could have been better.
But it could have been worse, too, and when it did work, Green Lantern was a soaring space epic with a strong likeable main character who definitely deserves a chance to anchor another film or two. As the opening film of a potential new franchise, it may not be on the level of Batman Begins, but I’d say it did at least as good of a job as, say, X-Men.
And with the requisite origin story out of the way, I can see the next film being a better, tighter piece, able to focus on the plot, presumably the beginnings of the war of light. And if the end-credits teaser is any indication, Sinestro is about to become a huge factor.
And, let’s face it, I can’t wait to see how Blake Lively fills out this uniform: