South Park Self

no evil shall escape my sight

One of the minor irritations of the Slight Medical Contretemps which afflicted me in the middle of this year, was its timing. It stuck me in hospital, and immobile/recovering, slap bang over the period when a bunch of movies I would have liked to see were on circuit. In horrible defiance of my ongoing superhero fetish, I thus missed X-Men First Class and Green Lantern, as well as PotC 4, although I'm not too distraught over the last one - Johnny Depp notwithstanding, the films have progressively lost the plot as they staggered onwards into greater and more unrestrained excess. Nonetheless, giant blockbuster special-effects extravaganza superhero films need to be seen on the big screen, all the better to Pow! Blam! Zap!

At any rate, we're watching X-Men FC and PotC 4 for movie club on Sunday, the theme being "Popcorn movies we missed on circuit", and proud of it. Green Lantern arrived in the same batch of videos, and I watched it the other night. I can't say I expected much, the reviews have been terrible, but in the event it was both a bad film, and more interesting than I'd thought it would be.

I Am Not A Comic Book Geek, insofar as I've actually read very few of them, and my collection is a small and random sampling heavily weighted towards Sandman1 and things which have recently been made into movies (mostly because the folkloric adaptation of mythology across media fascinates me unduly). However, any genuine comics geek is fully entitled to righteously look down their nose at me. I've never read any Green Lantern comics (although my unhealthy relationship with Loot suggests that that will change shortly). I didn't know much about it, other than random sideswipes in geeky blog comments, and a half-arsed sense that "the ring allows you to create anything green, but yellow is DOOM!" is not a well-thought-out superpower.

One movie and a spot of random research later, and it's a fascinating mythology. Its genesis is, I think, identical in sensibility to that of the classic old space operas of E. 'Doc' Smith, whose Skylark and Lensman novels presuppose the same inter-species troop of good ol' American clean-cut lads kicking righteous butt across the universe in the name of Mom and apple pie. The whole thing has a sort of goofy naiveté which verges on the endearingly gormless, and for which I have a low, reprehensible fondness. (I love the Lensman books, if only for their galloping excess. By the end of it they're chucking galaxies and universes at each other). The other influence I can't help detecting is that of animated cartoons: the endless morphability of the ring's creations, and in fact the weird alien races which make up the Corps, are really the opposite of realistic, tending to invoke the no-limits fantasy of an animated space-opera universe rather than anything real.

The film caused me, alas, quite unseemly levels of toe-curling fangirly glee, but that's a personal weakness: while it appeals equally to my mutant organs of space-opera and superhero enjoyment, it's not a good movie. It struggles with precisely the elements of unreality I describe above, and I've spent odd moments of the last few days wondering how on earth they actually could have dealt with the Green Lantern story in any way which would infuse it with even a little bit of grit. It's a fairly tall order, trying to use this mythology to appeal to the sensibilities of an audience conditioned to Dark Knights and the strange element of naturalism achieved by RDJ even in shiny powered armour. I don't think it's impossible, the mythology has some interesting things to say about heroism and power, but they really needed to be a lot more thoughtful about it.

The film, I think, hamstrung itself on two levels: in its special effects, and in its lead actor. The green in this movie is very green. Sunday morning cartoon green. Practically glowing. The suit looks plastic, the aliens look cartoon, the landscapes on Oa appear to originate in an animated special. The green ring creations are apparently radioactive, and horribly prone to slapstick. The script is serviceable, if uninspired, and certainly not good enough to infuse the mythology's over-the-top elements with any degree of conviction. Likewise, Ryan Reynolds is an extremely likeable lead, but in fact his fit with the material is almost too good: you could probably equally accuse him of a sort of goofy naiveté which verges on the endearingly gormless, which means he doesn't quite manage to ground the story in anything particularly real. He tries, but ... nope.

I had fun watching this film, but I'm slightly ashamed of the fact. It also occurs to me that at least part of the enjoyment I am apparently able to gain from bad genre movies and TV is the result of my academic inclinations towards contexualisation, analysis, deconstruction. To be an academic and a fan is to exist surprisingly comfortably in a state of dual personality, both enjoyably invested and equally enjoyably distanced. It means that even a bad and facile movie is layered and textured in surprising ways. It works for me.

1 If only because I possess four Absolute Sandman tomes, any one of which must weigh rather more than Hobbit.
  • Current Mood: tired fatigue levels in the red
The green lantern comics had characters called Eddore (cold, reserved, grotesque) and Arisia (friendly female alien) as homage.
I dunno, watching the movie I was vaguely aware of the fact that there's really a very thin line between homage and rip-off. The Green Lantern Corps felt horribly familiar.
I enjoyed Green Lantern, while feeling vaguely ashamed of that - it's a rather forgettable movie, with plastic CGI costumes and monsters.

It did remind me strongly of the Lensman series, and my wikipedia researches afterwards indicates that this resemblance is not intentional plagiarism (or at least it's plausibly deniable), but as mac noted, the debt to Lensman and its genre was acknowledged later.
Now I'll have to watch Green Lantern, I'd avoided it based on the cheesy trailer and annoying power - definitely not enough power limitations to be allowed in any super game of mine.

Let know what you think of XFC, we liked it.
Eek. I draw your attention to "mutant organs of space opera and superhero enjoyment", above, and likewise "not a good movie". If you lack the former, you are likely to be smote between the eyes by the half-brick of the latter.

On the other hand, it's occasionally almost worth it for Peter Sarsgaard and Mark Strong, both of whom are criminally underused.
Following a recent discussion on Reddit about the differences between the Marvel and DC universes finally got me to realise why it is that I generally prefer Marvel over DC. Marvel tends to ground the story in character and gritty realism, setting it usually in some real world city.

DC tends more towards the OTT mythic and completely unconstrained heroes with only very little character development. Batman is an outlier in the DC universe and I suspect that this is the effect of Alan Moore on the Batman story. I don't think he was nearly that dark before Killing Joke.

The outliers in Marvel (Thor, Silver Surfer & Galactus) both date from very early in the Marvel canon, and lost their allure for me. And the recent Thor movie is I think trying to position Thor as less a god than some kind of advanced space race with mega technology. (Interestingly, the Avengers movie looks likely to steal plot lines from the current "Fear Itself" story line)

So I'm not too surprised that you have picked up on (generally) the DC urge towards the space opera style of things. To be honest after the poor reviews I wasn't expecting much from GL, and as a result wasn't too disappointed by it.
Oooh, lovely contextualisation, thank you. Suddenly it all makes sense. It also explains my fondness for DC :>. I'm really enjoying the way the current movies semi-rationalise Thor, actually. As you say, the ethos of that particular story doesn't jive with the general mythology, but they make it work.
It is true that the recent string of marvel movies have avoided mysticism like the plague, to the extent that they super-scienced up Thor and Asgard. However, I draw your attention to an upcoming movie of Doctor Strange. I wonder if it will intersect with the other Marvel movies much. I suspect not.