Posts Tagged ‘green lantern’

Green Lantern The Movie

June 17, 2011

Rating: C for the movie itself, F for failure to credit the creators (see my other post, Green Lantern: The Credits You Didn’t See)

Brandon at Austin Books did an extremely nice thing for me the other day.  He connected me with a private screening of Green Lantern being held by Harry Knowles of Ain’t It Cool News.  The attendees were 112 of his friends, family and select fans such as myself.

Advantage: Harry

One of the advantages to seeing a movie with Harry Knowles is weird stuff like the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar theater we were in had been calibrated earlier that morning for another screening he was doing and it was, as he pointed out, probably the best conditions you’d get in seeing a 3D movie.

And he was correct.  Watching Thor 3D at the Galaxy Highland was like watching the movie through a glass bottom boat.  This was a  bright, clear-as-day 3D experience.

As For The Movie Itself

You know how back when you were in high school and the teacher would give an open book exam and there’d be kids that still got answers wrong?

Well.  In this case, there were 5 guys who got a lot of answers wrong; Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg and Martin Campbell.

Scripting By The Numbers

It only takes one guy to write the Green Lantern comic book.  And that comic book is excellent.  Read the Sinestro Corps War, it’ll make your head explode.

So, how is it that five guys can’t seem to get out of their own way in making a train wreck of uneven pieces that was Green Lantern?

Well, for starters, the script follows all of the beats that you’d expect a “hero’s journey”/Joseph Campbell story to take.  Blah blah blah.

And I guess that’s the problem.  It’s kind of like the movie Salt and how the way that the film was written you’d think you were watching something released in 1986.

Also, the budget for this movie was about $200 Million and it’s clear that maybe $5 of that was spent on actually reading the script.

The Open Book Exam

Green Lantern has been in steady publication since 1959.  There have been so many stories written with Hal Jordan that it should be easy enough to cherry pick the good stuff and leave out the bad stuff.

Of course, I had the same reaction when I saw Wolverine: Origin (my review) and as evidenced by both movies, Hollywood seems to have a problem with understanding what good things look like.

Just like Wolverine traded in ninjas for a cabin in Canada (yes, really!).  Green Lantern traded some of it’s most awesome villains for Hector Hammond.

So.  Yeah.  They could have featured the Manhunters; the original “space cops,” robots built by the Guardians who eventually went rogue and made the Guardians realized they needed people behind the power rings.  (Robot army vs. Green Lanterns)

Or the Tattooed Man, whose tattoos come alive as they rip off his body.   And of course, the most obvious choice would have been the Black Hand, whose got a device that absorbs Green Lantern’s energy and can then be used by this villain in the same way.  (Constructs of energy vs. constructs of energy)

Those sound great, right?  Any of those would have been awesome.

Instead, we got a smoke monster named Parallax and Hector Hammond.  A guy with a big head.

Scripting By The Numbers: Part 2

As bad as it was to pick Hector Hammond as one of the villains, they also did this thing that I have complained about since Batman (1989).

  1. That every first comic book film needs to spend at least 2/3 of the film on the origin story (best origin story in a comic book movie was Blade: done in like 3 minutes).
  2. That everything needs to be A-to-B.  So, in Batman, Jack Napier needs to be the guy who kills Bruce Wayne’s parents so that when Batman is fighting the Joker he’s actually fighting the guy who killed his parents.

It’s stupid.  It’s lazy.  It’s forced.  But that’s Hollywood for ya’.

Scripting By The Numbers: Part 3

They also made excessive use of callbacks, to the point that they were not so much rewarding as they were condescending.  It’s almost as funny as the scene in Wayne’s World 2 where they stop to point out the chicken crates and plate of glass in the middle of the road (“Yeah, you’ve got to wonder if this is gonna pay off later on.“).

It’s stupid.  It’s lazy.  It’s forced.  And we’re back in a screenplay from 1988.

How To Train Your Green Lantern 

I was one of the many people who got excited when I read that  Kilowag, the trainer of the Green Lanterns, was going to be in the film.

The possibilities for what they could do were limitless.  That is until I saw the film.

For Green Lantern and the $200 Million they had, I don’t know what they were spending it, but it was clearly not for the five minutes Hal Jordan spent learning how to use his ring.

That’s correct.  When you get a power ring and are recruited to be a space cop.  And you’re about to go up against the most powerful force in the universe.  You are given a whole five minutes of drill instruction and then apparently you’re set.

Seriously.  Waiters at TGI Friday’s have more training on their first day than what Hal Jordan was given.

But I should point out that those five minutes were not entirely wasted because one of the few things Kilowog did teach him…wouldn’t you know it, it was the thing that helped him save the day later on.

If I might quote Homer Simpson, “I’ve heard how this ends, it turns out the secret code was the same nursery rhyme he told his daughter!

More Helicopters, More Problems

There is a huge set piece that involves a helicopter that is going to crash, and of course (spoiler alert) Green Lantern saves the day.

Just like Superman saved a helicopter from crashing.

Apparently the hazing ritual for the “new guy” is to have them have to save people from a helicopter crash.

Fine Acting On An Uneven Script

Ryan Reynolds was fine.  He’s not the Hal Jordan from the comic book, but I’m more than OK with how he augmented his performance to match the screen in a similar way that Robert Downey Jr. changed Tony Stark in Iron man.

Blake Lively was fine.  Mark Strong was fine.  The performances were all solid.

But the scripting and the pacing to this film were just uneven.

This was not a great film.

Fifty-plus years of Green Lantern comics suggested that they could have turned in a great film (like Dark Knight, Iron Man, etc.).

Instead, we got a number of awkward selections for plot points and what I can only guess were random choices for characters (really, Hector Hammond?)

The script had what could have been some nice character moments, but in execution felt like I was watching an episode of Brothers & Sisters with a quick cut to wide shots of magnificent Oa. Back to watching an episode of Everwood.  Cut to what is trying to be something out of Harry Potter castle sequences 101.

Also, I should point out that the character choices being made with Sinestro were horrible.  Sinestro’s first reaction to Hal Jordan is downright stupid.  He thinks that Jordan is not worthy to be the successor to his friend’s legacy.

It’s a missed opportunity that makes me wonder if anyone at all working on this movie was thinking of this as a franchise.  Think Anakin and Obe Wan in Star Wars.

But like I said, they only spent $5 on someone reading the script…

The Ring Can Construct Anything You Can Imagine: So Try To Imagine Better Stuff Guys

The coolest thing about having a $200 Million Green Lantern movie should be the constructs.

Every single penny of that $200 Million should feel like it was spent on making the most insane and elaborate constructs you would never dream of.  They should wow you.

In my review of Doomsday, I pointed out how that director (Neil Marshall) put every single penny of his $30M on screen.

As opposed to this movie that felt like they were always running out of money.

The quote of the day on this topic is from Mark Millar.  He nailed it when he said:

“I hereby declare Green Lantern the worst superhero movie ever made. And yes I count The Phantom and The Shadow as superhero movies. Green Lantern was the cheapest-looking 300 million dollar movie I’ve ever seen. Why didn’t they give that money (to) Africa? It had a couple of good moments, all coming from Mark Strong. But oh man. It was just such an ODD movie. Like it travelled here from a parallel universe where they made a Green Lantern movie in 1995. But it was only eight quid and thus worth it. And I know I’ll go and see it again  ”

In the Roger Corman Fantastic Four (1994), I recall reading that they could only show the Human Torch on fire like 2 times in the entire film.  Well, it’s what I thought of when two Green Lanterns who can construct anything they can imagine.  They decide to fight each other.  With swords.  Just plain ol’ swords.  Yawn.

I should also point out that there’ a very annoying special effect where the actor’s eyes change color when they’re using their power. Guys: I’m watching the movie.  You don’t need to turn Hal’s eyes green to let me know he’s using the ring.

C’mon Guys, Earn It

Nordling of Ain’t-It-Cool accurately points out that Hal Jordan is the reluctant hero…until he has to be the hero and then he steps up because the plot demands it and the script is running out of time.

It’s lazy.  It’s cliche’. It’s typical Hollywood.  It’s 1986 again.

It’s Not Raining, That’s A Dog Going To Town On My Leg

Comic book fans such as myself have so been beat down by a string of utterly miserable turkeys and high expectations that never seem to get met that when anything even remotely decent comes along, it gets propped up as being great.

Well, I’m here to tell you that Green Lantern is good.  Not great.  C at best.  

It’s nice to see the characters on screen, but this entire movie was mismanaged worse that a graphic novels section in a B Dalton’s in 1986! (see how I made that 1986 reference pay off!)

It used to be that the most that we as comic book fans could ever hope for was that Hollywood didn’t screw things up too badly.

But that was then.  Films like Iron Man.  Spider-Man 2.  Dark Knight.  They’ve proven that you can make great comic book movies.

For $200 Million, we should be treated to something more like the X-Men: First Class and less like Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher (1989).

Don’t be apologetic for wanting to have great movies made from comic books.  It can be done.

And don’t accept garbage and try to pretend that it’s anything but.

If I had to give this film any credit, it’s that they opted to not go the Jack Black route (yes, that almost happened, see this article from 2004).

Green Lantern: The Credits You Didn’t See

June 17, 2011

My review for Green Lantern will be the next thing I post, but I want to be very clear that this movie is receiving an F as my official rating because it failed to credit any of the writers, artists and editors whose work the film was based on.

Why do I feel so strongly about this?

As a primer, creator’s rights is a topic that is very familiar to comic book readers.  Back in the day, the industry had most writers and artists locked into contracts that were…well, the only word to use in retrospect is “shameful.”

In addition to the stories you know about, like Siegel & Shuster signing away Superman, there are also stories that are even more horrific:

  • Bob Kane signed a “sweetheart” deal with Batman that ensured his continued credit for creating the character and cut out his co-creator entirely, a gentleman by the name of Bill Finger.
  • The legal battle between Jack Kirby and Marvel and possibly the most egregious business practice which was where Marvel would stamp the back of their pay checks with contracts that forced creators who needed to endorse them (read: get paid) to have to sign away their labor as “work for hire.”  So sign the contract, or starve.

While some of these individuals entered these contracts willingly, I think that we can all agree that nobody could anticipate how things would turn out years down the road.

Things could have easily imploded, like vaudeville or old time radio, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

But they didn’t.  Instead, companies like DC Comics and Marvel make billions of dollars off of the work of these individuals often without a credit to their names on the work.

Contracts have gotten better over the past 20 years or so, but the legacy stuff where the bulk of the money is made, are still pretty dicey and it’s times like this where legal obligation and doing the right thing meet at a crossroads and it defines a company.

At the end of the Thor movie, Marvel (see above) surprised many fans with a “Thanks” credit given to a handful of writers and artists whose work clearly influenced the film.  It wasn’t something they needed to do.  They did it because it’s the right thing to do.

When Batman Begins came out, a number of writers and artists whose work was featured in the film received small payments from DC Comics.

Which is why when the credits rolled on Green Lantern, people such as myself were in disbelief when the credit simply read: based on the character appearing in DC Comics magazines (or some such boilerplate copy).

Considering this was similar wording used in the Superman television series from the 1950’s (when DC was dodging Siegel & Shuster), it would have been laughable if it were not a sad, shameful and pathetic.

Warner Brothers and DC Comics should be ashamed of themselves for not stepping up and recognizing the backs on which they are to make millions of dollars.  

The same company that continues to try to screw the Siegel And Shuster estates at every turn is the same company that did this utterly low-class move.

So, before I go into a complete frenzy, let me share with you the credits that should have been on the screen:

  • Bill Finger.  Yes, the same guy who Bob Kane screwed over.  He and an artist by the name of Martin Nodell created the original Green Lantern.  An interesting piece of trivia about Nodell is that he worked at the Leo Burnett Agency where he helped create the Pillsbury Doughboy.
  • That character ended publication in 1951 and it wasn’t until the late 1950’s when an editor named Julie Schwartz got the idea to take the names of old DC comic book characters and revive them with “modern” science-fiction backgrounds, something he did successfully with The Flash.
  • Schwartz hired writer John Broome and artist Gil Kane to remake Green Lantern for the modern world.  Their version, Hal Jordan, is what the film is based on.
  • In fact, they not only created Hal Jordan, but Hector Hammond.  Oa.  Guardians.  Tomar-Re.  Carol Ferris and Sinestro.
  • Even the basic logo/look of the ring (the two horizontal lines with the circle in the middle) came work done by Kane and Nodell.

Which is why the way that Warner Brothers and DC Comics chose to credit the creation of this character can be summarized in one word: shameful.