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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Robin Hood

Ridley Scott’s difficult epic finally reaches movie theaters after several failed attempts at reincarnating the infamous legend of Robin Hood.  The laborious project began as an investigation thriller under the title of “Nottingham,” and took the perspective of the Sheriff of Nottingham tracking the hits of the mysterious Robin Hood and his merry men.  The script was later altered to cast Russell Crowe as both Robin Hood and as the sheriff in disguise.  Finally, the movie delivered to audiences strips away a lot of its artistry and does much the same as ‘Iron Man 2:’ it exists purely and simply to ready a different, seemingly more exciting movie altogether, with little ability to stand on its own legs.

This take on the famed archer features Russell Crowe doing his very best Russell Crowe-in-Gladiator impression as a soldier named Robin Longstride, sent to deliver the sword of a fallen comrade to the man’s father in Nottingham.  Upon meeting Sir Walter Loxley (Max von Sydow), the elderly sightless fighter adopts Robin as his replacement son and forces an appearance-marriage on Robin and his daughter-in-law, Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett).  Things get sticky when the newly appointed King John (Oscar Issac) decides to lay siege to all lands that refuse an unlawful tax.  Robin and William Marshal (William Hurt), the former ruler’s adviser, take it upon themselves to dupe the king into a civil war against his most trusted military adviser (Mark Strong) that ultimately leads up to a battle of macho butchery.  Now I have to ask: does this sound like Robin Hood to you in the slightest?

No, it does not.  This prequel of sorts spends 99 percent of its running time attempting to establish a franchise, and one that I don’t think audiences are going to buy into.  Granted, at surface value, the idea of reteaming Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe for a Gladiator-esque epic sounds like a grand idea.  Their collaboration on “Robin Hood,” however, takes a devastating blow.  Scott seems intent on mixing fact with fiction, setting Robin in the middle of the Crusades as a soldier put to death for standing against his king, and having him escape only to deliver a sword and take part in a final throwdown of steel.  A lot of this feels like “Gladiator,” and the problem is that it doesn’t feel like “Robin Hood.”  This film is simply a generic Crusades epic that may only be marginally better than Scott’s own “Kingdom of Heaven.”  I read a miniature review stating that Crowe still thinks he’s on the set of Gladiator, and Scott still thinks he’s directing Kingdom of Heaven–and I honestly couldn’t agree more.  I’m all for Ridley and the studio wanting to turn Robin Hood into a trilogy or series or whatever they want, but they forgot to make it exciting and fresh.  “Robin Hood” continuously falls flat when trying to advance the story, while the action and supporting actors work their magic to hold our interest.  This installment’s greatest drawback is the lacking parallels to what audiences know and expect from a Robin Hood film and what Ridley Scott has put together here.

Walking out of the film, I wanted to say I enjoyed it as a passable action epic filled with mostly good performances, but upon closer inspection I felt as though I had been duped.  The couple of battle sequences in this film are quite good–very bloody and violent, especially for a PG-13 rating–but once the dust settles on the plot and characters culminating this project, nothing holds up.  Robin Hood is supposed to be a character who robs from the rich and gives to the poor.  As written by Brian Helgeland, directed by Ridley Scott, and interpreted through a miscast Russell Crowe, he’s a complete bore of hero with confused motivations.  The movie spends its gritty time treading through uninteresting back story before finally declaring: “This man is an outlaw!”  Then before the credits role we read: “And so the legend begins…”  All the action, gorgeous cinematography, and amazing set design can’t quite compensate for a hollow hero and a lacking story that was constructed to postpone the movie audiences are thinking they’re paying to see, but will probably never witness (since I don’t think a sequel will actually surface).  The idea of a prequel might have worked if the backstory had actually been engaging, exciting, interesting, etc. and containing familiar elements of the well-known character.  Unfortunately, “Robin Hood” mostly lulls along, splicing a few impressive battle sequences into a bare-bones plot, providing a movie about the infamous character that I don’t think anyone would care to see.  If it is marginally enjoyed, it is because viewers, like me, will be forced to forget this is a movie about “Robin Hood” until the end credits.

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Sherlock Holmes

The other big release living in James Cameron’s shadow over the holiday season, “Sherlock Holmes” pits Robert Downey, Jr. in the titular, brilliant detective character, this time in a 2009 F/X-filled upgrade courtesy of Guy Ritchie.

The plot is a little shaky, but seems to involve the sorcerer Lord Blackwood’s attempt to take over the world in all-too-evil fashion.  After his capture and sentenced hanging early on, he returns from the grave to entice the interest of the doubting Detective Holmes and his most trusted counterpart Watson (Jude Law) to investigate.

Law and Downey have a real chemistry here, consistently delivering the laughs and swashbuckling fun. In fact, this end-of-the-decade rendition of the classic character is both unlike anything audiences have seen before and perfectly suitable. The film boasts an infectious “Pirates of the Caribbean” vibe, and Downey is always worth the watch.  Having recently jump-started his career again, it’s a pleasure to see the talented A-lister swashbuckling his way through this fast and often funny adventure film. But to my digress, the film has the wrong director: Guy Ritchie. He takes a lot of directorial nods from his “Rock N Rolla” and “Snatch” to deliver a confusing, almost uninteresting narrative.  The plot never kept me involved, even when the set pieces and two lead actors did.  With that said, the action and comedy deliver for the most part, and for that reason “Holmes” will be a fun time for most, you will just wonder what’s going on.  I have to express my minor disappointment, but nonetheless, I am looking forward to a more engaging sequel.

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