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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Green Hornet

I’m sure you’re all wondering if The Green Hornet is any good. It depends on what you’re looking for. A far cry from the original version, this one is more like a mismatch buddy comedy than an actual super hero movie. The first scene (aside from the prologue) sets the meta tone for the movie. Two villains meet in the back room of a night club and attempt to intimidate each other. What do they talk about? How many men they each have? Guns? No! They critique each other’s image and marketing. “You need a better name!” “Well you need a better suit!” By now we all know what kind of movie this is going to be.

Much like the villains, our heroes decide to be such almost by accident. The new Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is the irresponsible son of a millionaire newspaper owner (Tom Wilkinson), who spends all his time partying. After his father’s death, Britt hates being overshadowed by his legend. He meets Kato (Jay Chou), who used to work for Britt’s father and also didn’t like him. After a few beers one night, they go out to vandalize Britt’s father’s tomb. Since this is a movie, they just happen to run across a couple being mugged by several men. Through his impulsive heroism Britt manages to piss the bad guys off, before Kato puts them all in the hospital (Britt lands one punch). They then go home and get really hammered. Britt says to Kato “We’re wasting our talents! We could be heroes.” The rest of the dialogue boils down to “sure, why not? We just need a cool name! And better suits!” Thus begins the battle of image between heroes and villains who strive to be cooler than each other. I won’t mince words; The Green Hornet is definitely stupid. It’s saving grace is that it knows it’s stupid, and remembers to make fun of itself, rather than insult its audience.

There are a lot of funny moments here that I won’t spoil, and some great action sequences (Refer to Mythbusters for the question of whether any of them could happen).

Seth Rogen with the real Green Hornet.

On the other hand, Rogen’s Britt Reid is hardly hero material, being propped up by Kato throughout the movie. What’s more, the relationship between them seems pretty forced, changing from standoffish strangers, to friends who call each other “brother,” to hating and punching each other over (what else?) a chick, to reconciliation in time for the big showdown, in a little under two hours. It would have been more effective had Rogen (who also wrote the script) reduced the number of transitions.

I guess it boils down to personal preference. When I go to a superhero movie, I expect to be blown away, not to laugh at movie that laughs at itself. I want a real hero, not a wise-cracking bumbler who gets lucky a lot and has his sidekick do all the work. If you want a movie you can have fun with and not take seriously, check this one out. Don’t bother with the 3-D.

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