By The Velvet Rabbit 31 Comments
Having taken my husband to see the midnight release of the shiny, neon-hued new Green Lantern movie, I find myself asking one simple question - what's with the hate? Is it the best superhero movie I've seen? Not even close - not by a long shot. Is it bad? I wouldn't say so. If you didn't mind the Spider-Man franchise (or the old Superman films), I can safely say this film should (key word being 'should') sit well with you. However, its' timely release coinciding with that of another film from * gasp* a rival franchise, has led to many strong and, dare I say, strange comparisons. So let's have a look, shall we? And for anyone who knows me, I am the Wicked Witch of the West when it comes to spoilers, so if you haven't seen either of these movies and don't want the emotional scars attached to having your magical cinematic experience thoroughly ruined by the loud babblings of an annoying comics blogger, please avert your eyes and tell your children to flee in terror this very instant. And just in case you didn't read this paragraph...
WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD! WARNING! SPOILERS AHEAD!
First things first, I like to get the bad out of the way as soon as possible - so here goes nothing. Many people will come up to you touting XMFC as the second coming of Christ, and were I in your shoes, I myself would be inclined to believe them. But this film is not without its' flaws; just bear in mind that this isn't a critical assessment, this is simply my own opinion. First and foremost, my biggest gripe is actually super-anal, and probably of little consequence to the casual observer... character development and continuity. This film doesn't disrespect its' source material in any way, shape or form - it just likes to jumble around with it an awful lot, much like a kid with a jigsaw puzzle. We see a nearly-grown Alex Summers as Havok without so much as a mention of Scott (except for in a possible easter-egg which brings me to point #2 - Scott should be older than Alex, and his powers manifested sooner anyway), Mystique - one of my favorites - is, for some odd reason, childhood friends with Professor Xavier and her usual cold and calculating self is replaced instead by a doubtful and naive young blonde girl who would seem to fit in better in a 1980s' coming-of-age flick, and new characters like Angel Salvadore and Darwin are mind-bogglingly mixed into Charles Xavier's ragtag band of mutants. Having said that, none of these things - save for the mousy and inept characterization of Mystique, as well as the extreme lack of character development for Moira, who is supposed to be one of Charles' closest friends and allies - are really big problems for me. Also, I'm probably going to be alone in this, but I would've loved to have been able to sit through just one X-Men film without seeing the name 'Hugh Jackman' (although, for some odd reason I didn't seem to mind the Rebecca Romijn cameo as much). With that out of the way, let's get to the good part...
Firstly, allow me to address one of my biggest concerns coming into this movie - the bad guys. While my husband and his friends were all on pins and needles wondering if they would do the Xavier/Magneto bromance justice (good news - they did!), my greatest fear was that they wouldn't give the lady-in-white her due - fortunately, my fear was quickly allayed, as all my woes were soon to be alleviated upon entering the theater. Played with a cool subtlety befitting of none other than miss Emma Frost, I watched January Jones play the scheming, conniving and sexually-commanding Frost to the hilt. Meanwhile, Kevin Bacon - who I had initially found myself wary of for reasons which are now unfathomable to me - plays the extremist Shaw, whose demeanor I can only describe as some strange 'Frankenstein's Monster' cross between the eccentric charisma of Auric Goldfinger and the sheer supremacist evil of Adolf Hitler. Along with these two, we also have Azazel (the biological father of Nightcrawler, for anyone here who doesn't happen to keep up to date) and Riptide, although these two really mostly play bit parts and actually have little-to-no spoken lines. However, the villain who really steals the show in my eyes is the street-smart turncoat Angel, played with heart by the talented young Zoe Kravitz, daughter of Lisa Bonet and 90s pop-rocker Lenny Kravitz. As her doubt begins to grow, we watch as the crafty Sebastian busts right into the front door of the CIA mutant facility and manages to turn her over to 'the dark side' with little to no effort.
Secondly, we get to the meat of the story - Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender (an actor who I admittedly knew very little about) respectively. One of the first things I was wary of in the later stages leading up to the film's release was this 'hip' new reinvention of Charles Xavier, but McAvoy pulls it off nicely. That said, Fassbender shines as the vengeful Magneto in just about every possible way, and allows us to see the young idealist in a more - for lack of a better word - human role. Watching the tear roll from the side of Erik's eye as Charles helped push him to move a distant satellite, I couldn't help but feel the slightest bit of compassion for the poor little guy.
Finally, those who are familiar with my tastes know that I'm a very visual viewer - in the more traditional sense, of course. While I myself don't much care for heavy special FX, my background with costumes and cosmetics mean I'm very affectionate towards the elaborate outfits, the exotic locales, and the simple wonders of a well-made period film. And when it comes to time periods, there is no single period of time I have more affection towards in a work of fiction than the 1960s. My mother was a 60s gal thru-and-thru, and I grew up with much of that mindset. And as an added bonus, the filmmakers worked the Cuban Missile Crisis backdrop into the film quite nicely. Bottom line, this film did something I had only previously dreamed possible - it made a camp film with a serious tone.
Also, Banshee is adorable, and Hank McCoy rocks my socks. Just thought that was worth noting.
THE BOTTOM LINE
4 out of 5 - fun for comic lovers and, more importantly, accessible to casual fans.
To my beloved hubby - I love you, honey, but this film is FLAWED. As in, heavily so. Then again, what summer blockbuster isn't? Of course, it wouldn't be fair and balanced if I didn't take a run-through of just what exactly why the negative reviews keep rolling in.
First and foremost, the biggest problem with the movie is its' length. It tries to tell a plethora of stories in what adds up to about just under two hours - Hal's relationship with Carol, the rise of Parallax, the politics of Oa and the Corps, and Hector Hammond's own little personal struggle, among other things. I know about the comic lore, but for a casual observer, I imagine this film can become a jumbled mess. Also, the special FX - one of the film's highlights - finds itself struggling at times. When it's good, it's good. But when it's bad, it's worse.
Also, I'll happily say it with glee - Ryan Reynolds is not Hal Jordan (but he does a good job anyway). Plus, Blake Lively seems to struggle between whether Carol should be the liberated, powerful lover we see in the comics or a domesticated housecat and dedicated damsel-in-distress desperate for Hal Jordan's approval. Being that Star Sapphire is one of my favorite characters of all time, this upsets me a little bit.
As Tammy Wynette once sang, you've gotta stand by your man - so when I'm told this movie's not bad, I'm actually inclined to agree.
As stated earlier, the Special FX are very hit-and-miss - which is a double-edged sword. While some of the visuals are a bit clunky, the film looks positively splendid for the most part, and I'd say the 3D is actually well worth the ticket price if that's your cup of tea. Parallax (voiced by the Kurgan himself, Clancy Brown) looks thoroughly terrifying, Oa is a magnificently-built spectacle of CG engineering, Sinestro, Kilowog and Tomar-Re are a sight to behold, and while many of the ring constructs are fairly straightforward, you can't say they aren't darned pretty. So right off the bat, you can't say this film doesn't look nice.
On top of that, while Ryan Reynolds was a fairly off-handed casting choice, many of the characters are actually pretty decent. Peter Sarsgaard steals the show as the malevolent and truly horrifying Hector Hammond, Star Wars' Temuera Morrison makes a grand Abin Sur, Taika Waititi plays well of Reynolds as the nerdy Kalmaku, and - let's face it - Mark Strong is Sinestro. However, my favorite casting choice would probably have to be Angela Bassett as Amanda Waller, even though the character's relegated to little more than a glorified extended cameo.
How about action? While the pacing is usually either too quick or too slow, it shouldn't surprise people that this is, as a target summer blockbuster, intended to be your run-of-the-mill action flick. While it's true Martin Campbell was the man behind the recent Bond reboot (Casino Royale), people also have to remember that he was also the man behind the 1995 hit GoldenEye. A classic in its' own right, but if you take off the nostalgia goggles for a moment, you may remember that GoldenEye was actually a pretty traditional Bond film, and served little more purpose than to act as a vehicle to get audiences accustomed to Pierce Brosnan as the new face of Bond. Having said that, Green Lantern is actually pretty effective as a common action/sci-fi film. However, in the future, an added 20 or 30 minutes and a slightly more subtle tone wouldn't kill you, Warner Bros. The avocado industry may suffer on Subway's behalf, but the moviegoers will thank you.
THE BOTTOM LINE
3 out of 5 - worth seeing, but probably only if you're either a die-hard fan of action films or green lantern comics. definitely not amazing, but certainly worth a second chance.