Green Lantern

Let’s get one thing straight: DC Comics does NOT suck. Superman and Batman were starting to look a bit burried under a landslide of Marvel movies. Marvel Comics built its own film studio and every, single Marvel character (even the really stupid ones) had to have his or her own movie. People were starting to say that DC couldn’t hack it, or that they had Batman, but that was their only decent francise. The truth is, DC has been very much alive during Marvel’s decade of dominance at the box office. It simply stayed in the realm of animation. A TV series called Justice League ran from 2001 to 2006, and spawned a large number of hour-long movies. (By the way, Kevin Conroy’s Batman from the animated series is still going strong.) But finally, DC has had the courage to step into the
big leagues with one of their less-recognized characters.

The Green Lantern is a much maligned superhero. People are quick to dismiss him because *snort!* “His weakness is yellow! How pathetic is that?” The thing you have to remember is that Green Lantern mythology is not meant to be taken at all literally. While many superhero stories fit pretty well into the science fiction category, Green Lantern is thoroughly fantasy; it seeks to make sense only in a metaphorical or symbolic way. And while the events on screen are impossible to take seriously, they still capture the universal human experience. A good example is the GL-centrered espisode of Justice League Despero,” which takes place on another planet, but spells out the very earthly themes of  seduction by power and the spirit to resist oppression. It’s the same with this movie. Green
is the color of will. Yellow is the color of fear. As Corps General Sinestro (Mark Strong) explains, “it is fear that stops will; stops you from acting.” That’s why yellow can stop green.

This film does a really good job of bringing Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) and company to the big screen. The origin story is, of course, the necessary evil of every super hero film, and like many films this one has been criticized for being light on action. There’s some truth to that, but, to be honest, I really didn’t notice. Writer Greg Berlanti draws the audience into the story so well, and the cast (especially Reynolds) fills out their roles so well, that mind-blowing action isn’t really necessary.

One interesting development: for obvious reasons, a few years ago, DC began to think that GL creating tanks and tigers from his ring to chase the bad guys was a bit … cartoonish, and so Justice League
limited his power to creating energy shields, lasers and the like. In Green Lantern, the cartoonishness is back, with Hal whipping out gatling guns and roadsters at every turn. But the biggest surprise of all is probably that they make it work pretty well. The story centers around the Corps’ battle with an entity known as Parallax (oddly named after Hal’s eventual super-villain identity from the comics) and Hal’s struggle to be accepted by the Corps. It also has a few goodies, such as a nod to Sinestro’s inevitable slide into super-villiandom, and one absolutely priceless moment that backhands the secret identity complexes of superheroes everywhere.

So how does Green Lantern stack up? It doesn’t have the gritty reality of The Dark Knight, the heart-warming inspiration of Iron Man, or the powerful iconography of Superman Returns. But it’s still a solid adaptation of an under-rated franchise that’s worth checking out.  Incidently, so is the animated Green Lantern: First Flight. Green Lantern is clearly better than:

Electra

The Fantastic Four

The Fantastic Four 2

The Punisher

Spiderman 2

Hulk.

And probably at least as good as:

Ghostrider

Daredevil

Spiderman 3

X2: X-Men United

Iron Man 2

Wolverine

So stop knocking it. If nothing else, the color green has been proven to reduce stress, and this movie has it in spades.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Yo-ho-ho.  A cash cow for Disney.  Arguably the most lucrative and popular financially viable franchise sets sail… again four years following the last outing.  Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides marks the third sequel, and there may be more yet to come.  Why would actors Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally, and Johnny Depp want back in?  Probably for the same reason series regulars Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom jumped ship.  The series has ran its course and claimed plenty of booty, but there are still air pockets of gold left to mine.  What life could be left in the franchise?  Only the scarcest of signs actually.

Depp is back in full form playing the iconic swashbuckler we all adore.  Capt. Jack Sparrow is again a wanted man when he is ordered by the King of England to reunite with Barbossa (Rush) on an expedition to discover and secure the Fountain of Youth.  Rumors have been spreading that Jack is assembling a crew in secret to embark on his own journey.  Sparrow becomes puzzled by the talk and comes to realize an ex-lover has been impersonating him.  Her name is Angelica (Penelope Cruz), and she’s found herself first-mate and daughter to Blackbeard (Ian McShane), a sorcerer of a pirate aboard a ship with supernatural power.  Sparrow is duped into joining Angelica and Blackbeard, while Barbossa and his Englishmen as well as enemy Spaniards trail close behind.  Along the way, Jack must play for multiple sides—remaining under the watchful eye of Blackbeard while secretly keeping the English under little speculation.

In all honesty, franchise writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio bring little to the table as far as the scale of the journey goes.  The film delivers most of its goods within the first 30 minutes as our scurvy hero dodges English capture through a series of elaborate escapes and classic Jack Sparrow antics.  Once he meets up with Angelica and hits the seas with Blackbeard, On Stranger Tides loses its stride and becomes an increasingly long lull of weak plot threads.  The actual quest for the Fountain of Youth is such a disappointment.  I felt as though none of the characters had a genuine interest or drive in finding it.  There’s some talk of Blackbeard wanting to find it to potentially save his soul, however, it’s never a pressing matter.  Barbossa cares none for it.  He wants revenge on a particular foe.  Angelica seems to be after it for her father’s sake, but since he doesn’t care so much, why should we?  I really don’t think the writers thought this one out.

Making matters worse is the fact that nothing particularly memorable or exciting happens throughout the film.  The different groups of treasure hunters encounter a horde of deadly mermaids, but that’s about all the film has to offer audiences that could be considered new or remotely memorable.

This sequel has been directed by Rob Marshall (Nine, Chicago).  I will commend him on tightening up the story and presenting a much more simple and logical narrative than Gore Verbinski’s last venture At World’s End.  However, as disappointing as many audiences found the two-part sequels from 2006 and 2007, I can’t imagine them finding a more refurbished product with On Stranger Tides.  ‘Stranger’ this film is not, and if the last two predecessors had anything going for them—it was that they were at least simultaneously odd and interesting, while also boasting several impressive and memorable effects-filled action sequences.  The previous chapters were way ahead of On Stranger Tides in terms of creativity, and when they failed, they did so grandly.  This chapter storms in and teeters out with little more than a sigh.

Despite the film’s many shortcomings, I can’t fault Depp.  He delivers as always, and the Sparrow character still entertains in high fashion.  Unfortunately his movies aren’t keeping up with him, and while On Stranger Tides will undoubtedly make less than any of the previous Pirates, there will still be plenty of coin to lap up—warranting audiences another sequel.  My suggestion?  Ditch Marshall.  Bring back the strangeness, the surprise, and the suspense.  Savvy?

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