Friday, July 22, 2011

Year of the Superhero - Green Lantern

During university, a couple friends and I often found ourselves doing a late night study-and-chat session in the dorm lounge, with bad sci-fi films in the background. One night, I called every single plot point in the movie within a minute of it happening. "The mom's going to disappear." "The dad's possessed." "That teacher isn't going to believe those kids." "It's going to rain in 5, 4, 3…." "He's going to drop that flashlight."

Green Lantern was kind of like that. The film felt predictable, like the writers had listed every important action/superhero trope and written the script to fit them all, but their hearts weren't in it. They were basically following a formula. Hal doubts himself; Hal is presented with opportunity to stop doubting himself. Hal gets snapped at by love interest; Hal saves love interest; love interest falls for Hal. So on, so forth. Jami Gold has done a great deconstruction of the flaws of the film, with bonus! writing! instruction!, here and here. Go read her posts 'cause otherwise I'd be repeating everything here.

Since Green Lantern wasn't a good movie, it would be easy to write off Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern Corps, and all the space-cop hijinks that surely appear in the comics. After all, if the movie sucks, the 'verse must suck, right? But that would be too easy, and doing the character, etc., a disservice. The Green Lantern has a fanbase, so the comic has to be good. Unfortunately, I only have the movie to go on at the moment, so I'm sure I'll be missing out on complexities and nuances. If you're a Green Lantern fan and reading this, feel free to chip in in the comments.

Hal Jordan: Has the potential to be an interesting character. Depending on the writing, he'll either be a Tony Stark-like playboy without the mad science, or an American son doing good in the world, along the lines of Superman. I'm not sure I'd be sold on either interpretation—if I want a kooky playboy, I'll probably pick Tony—but they could both be cool and complex enough to carry a series and capture fans.

The ring and lantern: An interesting idea, though the 'power of will' stuff feels like the product of a late-night brainstorming session with alcohol. I like that the ring chooses its wearer. I like that the ring isn't limitless and occasionally needs to be recharged. I like that the ring functions as a communication and warning device (I'd wondered how Hal was going to know about extraterrestrial crime). And I really, really like that you can basically do anything, create anything, if your will is strong enough. They could've had more fun with that in the film.

The Green Lantern Corps: Again, interesting. Lots of potential. As I understand it, the comics don't always follow Hal (or the other human Lanterns), so we can meet an infinite number of characters, with infinite body shapes, infinite personalities, who'll solve problems in ways that Hal wouldn't think of. And the team dynamics! And of course, because there are so many alien races, from so many sectors, and they fight crime, that means all kinds of crimes, on all kinds of worlds! (I'm probably over-thinking this and the comics won't be nearly as cool as my imagination. C'est la vie.)

Sinestro: Again, potential. He's arguably the most complex character in the film. He's got a stern, warrior spirit. He's a good leader. He wants to be the best he can be, and to fight as well as he can, and if that means wearing the yellow ring instead of his green one, so be it. Which means he's weak and doubts himself, if only a little. I often favour villains over heroes, and Sinestro's another example of that. I want to know more about him, because his backstory and POV are bound to be really cool.

Hector Hammond: The other candidate for most complex character in the film, though a poor one because he's largely shown as "wimpy scientist". However, he does have daddy issues and a crush, and could redeem himself if he really wanted. It's a shame that he was so flat and had so little screen time in the movie, because he could've been a pretty great villain in his own right, instead of a mild threat leading up to the big showdown. I found it interesting that he'd known Hal for a long time, as kind of friends with him. In most canons, that personal connection would set up a major enemy, not a minor one.

Parallax: He has an interesting origin story, but as an ex-immortal alien I'd expect him to be more powerful and harder to defeat. All he seems capable of is sucking yellow skeletons out of people, roaring, and the occasional bout of mind control. I think Green Lantern might've been better as a trilogy, with the Parallax line spread out. Film 1: Hal defeats Hector. Film 2: Hal defeats a bunch of fear-controlled people, aware of Parallax as puppet master. Film 3: Hal defeats Parallax. Or perhaps that would be the three acts of the film, and we could skip the origin story? Anyway, yeah, Parallax is cool. I could certainly see more of him.

The other elements of the film—the love interest, the military—are too flat and basic for me to get much out of them. I like that the love interest was skilled in a couple areas, all typically male, but at the same time, that struck me as both "Eh, really? You're trying too hard, writers and "Does doing man things make her hotter, guys?" She seemed smart and sensible, at least, so that's points in her favour.

Even though I've said most of the main elements are interesting and have potential, I'm not sure I'll go further  into the 'verse. If I come across something, yeah, I might pick it up and take a look, but I won't seek it out. There's something about superpowered space cops that doesn't "fit" for me. I have a suspicion that the comics will be pretty flat, pretty black-and-white, and fairly formulaic. And anything with "cops" has connotations of Law and Order and CSI, for me—very serious, not a lot of humor. Part of the appeal of superheroes for me is the camp, the quips, and so on.

All that aside, I am glad I watched the film and got introduced to the characters and their powers. More to think about. Maybe I am writing the 'verse off too soon, maybe I'm not. Like I said, if I see something, I'll take a look. Maybe that'll change my mind.


Jami Gold said...

Thanks for the links! :)

Good for you to find potential in the movie and ideas. You did a much better job at that than I could have. :)

Anonymous said...

Another problem I had with the love-interest: the actress. Did anyone believe that she could be Hal's peer, much less his boss? She looked like she was still in college. Why, why, why can't Hollywood give a role to a woman of the appropriate age? And don't say fan-boys; there were lots of women like me (ahem - over 40) going to see this movie. Ryan Reynolds is 34, Blake Lively is 23. That's just stupid.

Anassa said...

Jami - No problem! Thanks for the posts that I linked to! ;) I tried to see past the flaws of the film and get to what would be in the comics, because I'm trying to get a sense of the heroes and their worlds with this project. It was a little tough at times to see past the movie, though…

Mfantalis - Yeah, it's wonderful when Hollywood does stuff like that, isn't it? Maybe no actress of the right age was willing to star? But more likely, they were aiming for young and pretty, and they did get that. It just didn't fit the film. *sigh* It's all a plot to make any woman older than 30 feel ancient, I'm sure of it.