How Green Was My Super 8 Lantern? June 21, 2011 – Posted in: A Picture's Worth, Blog, Featured Columns

Going in to see GREEN LANTERN, I was singing this (to the tune of the GREEN ACRES TV show theme):

Green Lantern is the film to see

Ryan Reynolds is the hero for me

It’s been selling out far and wide

Keep your Marvels, just show me that DC pride!

Instead, when I left the theater, I found myself repeating that decades-old oath:

In brightest day, in blackest night

No DC character shall be filmed right

Unless its name is The Dark Knight

Beware the power–of execs who think they’re bright!

Don’t get me wrong: I liked it. The film was good. Just not as great as I thought it would or could be.

An iconic cover made even better? Top: Neal Adams’ masterpiece that kicked off a classic run. Above: Adams’ protegé Michael Netzer’s revamp of the original rejected version that actually makes more sense (and looks cool). For more info on it, check out: http://tinyurl.com/6adwbst (Then come back here and finish the rest of the review. I don’t mind.)

For context, I hadn’t read a GL comic pretty much since the ancient (and brilliant) Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams run in back issues. In the meantime I had read plenty of articles on the character, the book and its continuity. But over the years it became just like every other superhero franchise: so convoluted, so complex, so ridiculously ret-conned by corporate-marketing desperation “events” and crossovers (aka fan wallet-vacuums), it not only defied rational explanation but thwarted any attempt at catching up. Think I’m exaggerating? Just read any of the “serious” articles on the continuity of any decades-old corporate superhero brand (Spider-Man, X-Men, Hulk, Superman, Batman, Thor, Justice League, Wonder Woman, Flash, Captain America, you name it), or better yet, ask any adult fan who knows it to explain it to you and I defy you to keep a straight face or keep your eyes from rolling…IF you don’t pass out from confusion-induced ennui first.

So I figured the movie would be more focused on entertaining rather than exposition. Turns out, not so much. It opened with a fairly long narrative which to me is often a sign of “uh-oh.” (Granted, THOR did too, but thankfully it was briefer and recovered.) Visually, it was spectacular. The production design was just a step below THOR but easily more impressive than X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, which was necessarily understated. I’m a sucker for cool outer-space effects, so GL did a nice job on that.

Unlike many fans, I dug the costume too. Other than a bit of weirdness with the browline of the mask, I thought Reynolds looked great as the character. I even thought the green and white contact lenses worked well and helped conceal his identity. He acted well and so did Peter Saarsgard as Hector Hammond (with whom I was completely unfamiliar and didn’t care for).

The main villain/monster, Parallax, was also well done and looked impressive, formidable and sometimes scary. (Though my understanding is that in the comic, Hal Jordan became Parallax, went on a killing spree, died, came back as The Spectre, and then came back as Green Lantern. Did your eyes just roll?)

But something just wasn’t there…I didn’t care as much about the characters. Sinestro didn’t make a lot of sense, especially at the end. And the story didn’t strike me as that impressive, especially considering three guys came up with it and four guys wrote the script. (Same with THOR but again, I think they did a better job.)

To me, the SPIDER-MAN and DARK KNIGHT approaches work better, with more of a singlar vision. Let the creators just create, not by committee.

Most interesting to me about GREEN LANTERN is that plot-wise, there weren’t any real major holes or issues with suspension of disbelief, like their were with SUPER 8, which I saw last weekend.

Yet the latter was a much better film! More memorable and enjoyable overall.

For the record, there were three things in SUPER 8 that were so essential to the plot but so goofed up, they were incredibly insulting to anyone with an IQ over 50 who has had any contact with cars or trains. (No spoiler alert as it happens in the first 15-20 minutes and has been shown in the trailers.)

1. If you’ve ever been stuck at a railroad crossing waiting for one of those half-mile or longer cargo trains to roll by, you know they never go more than 10 to 20 miles per hour (sometimes less, if you’re in a hurry). That’s just simple physics. No way could it speed along like a FAST AND FURIOUS musclecar.

2. Any puny pickup truck that collides with one of those massive rails basically turns into twisted metal while the train keeps plugging along or, at worse, comes to a stop after a few wheels or, at best, the engine derails. No way could the whole train derail to the point that entire cars would be flying thru the air and (even wackier) thru buildings.

3. Considering the movie folk thought it would look cooler to load the truck with explosives, the vehicle was shown vaporizing upon impact! The whole thing lit up like a sparkler and pieces were strewn everywhere like a typical MYTHBUSTERS episode. So no way would the driver be in one piece, let alone alive, let alone become conscious!

Really, guys. Do you think your audience is that acerebral? Please.

What infuriated me most was that it was all unnecessary. For a speeding train like the one in UNSTOPPABLE, it could have just had less cars with no damage to the plot. The character in the pickup could have just as easily nabbed an 18-wheeler, which would have more likely caused the desired pyrotechnics and destruction, with the added bonus of having the driver thrown from the truck to survive. All much more believable, less insulting to viewers’ intellect. (Next time, Mr. Abrams, please contact me first! Heh. I’ll even do the boards for FREE.)

These guys are great. The one on the left has seen my art but I’ve never had the chance to work with him. Anyone who can hook us up gets a bonus! And I’m buying dinner for everyone.

That said, tho, SUPER 8 was a blast. (Pun intended.) Especially for anyone who grew up in the 70s or 80s, or just remembers being a wacky, monster-movie-obsessed kid. Homages, tributes, cameos and visual gags abounded, and there are probably more to catch upon repeated viewings. True, the creature’s face was a bit awkward and should have been shrouded more in darkness; but overall the movie was damned entertaining.

And ironically, it should pull in a lot more “green” than the Lantern flick.

So what did YOU think about either or both films? Or the reviews? Hit me with your synaptic impulses below.

Thanks,

Mike

P.S.: Just to reach my weekly allotment of bad puns: Oh! Uh…(or is that spelled Oa?)…YOU can pick up a shining new super commission (or eight) from me for very little green. Just ask my guardian Craig here!

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