Archive for January, 2015

Bloggers Note: My buddies Claynferno and John Hunt used to joke that they could tell whether or not I was enjoying a movie-going experience by my reaction, saying that if I spent most of the movie “fidgeting and sighing,” then it wasn’t a very good one. So, I thought it would be a fun idea to compile some of my feelings on my favorite genre of movie, the comic book movie, into some blog posts. And once I get thousands of hits and followers, I would eventually turn them into a best-selling book. Right?

Anyway, here’s my first post of Fidgeting and Sighing for your reading pleasure:

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Not every hero’s journey can fit nicely onto a two-hour movie.  Occasionally, you come across a hero that does not necessarily translate to a mainstream audience.  Being a fan of comics requires a certain suspension of disbelief, so to try and feed certain characters to a mainstream audience, tell their origin and the origin of their nemesis in a small window and expect to tell a good story on top of it is sometimes asking a lot.  Jean Grey morphing into the Phoenix in X-Men 3 was one example.  A classic, year-long comic book epic simply did not fly in the movie.  Basically, she was a pretty nice person up until she was inexplicably resurrected, and then suddenly her face got craggy and she decided to kill her boyfriend (off-screen, no less!) and her mentor and turn into a real rotter.  For no reason other than she was a powerful mutant.  At least, that’s all we were told as a movie-going audience.  Granted, the filmmakers didn’t have time to send the X-Men into space so Jean can sacrifice herself to save them only to actually be kidnapped, replicated and put into suspended animation for a decade, but still,… those chumps took the easy road.

Green Lantern is another such example.  While he is a beloved comic character with decades of history, by the time the technology existed where it could be done right, and the demand for comic book movies reached a level where it mattered, the studio was so gung-ho for a Green Lantern film that apparently no one bothered to read the script.  The comic book movies that make boatloads of money do so because they seemingly take place in the “real world.”  The audience is supposed to believe that any high school kid (or even themselves) could have been bitten by that radioactive spider and gained super-powers.  Or that there is a dark knight patrolling the streets protecting us from evil while we sleep.  A good writer will be able to put the audience in the story somehow, otherwise there is no emotional attachment and the audience might as well be watching The News.  A competent writer realizes that just because no one has ever travelled through time does not mean that Back to the Future is not a compelling movie.

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Unfortunately, Green Lantern is not compelling in the least.  The idea that a huge cadre of warriors exists and that each protect their own corner of the universe is maybe just a little too far-fetched for a mass audience, and these writers don’t do their job of selling it to them.  It’s silly enough as a comic book.  To try and tell the story of Hal Jordan (played by Ryan Reynolds), bumbling test-pilot, in a couple of hours is hard enough, but when you toss in the fact that he is chosen by an ancient green, power ring to protect this sector of the universe from all manner of evil, that he has to learn to use said ring’s power, impress Blake Lively, defeat the bad guy, and still remain witty Hal Jordan is a lot of crap to squeeze into a screenplay.  This is why comics have story arcs.

Speaking of Blake Lively, she plays Jordan’s love interest, Carol Farris.  Like most comic book movie love interests (Kirsten Dunst, Katie Holmes), she could be a potted plant.  She only exists to look nice and for the hero to have someone to save at the end.  Reynolds himself isn’t much more significant, because his job is basically to look nice in his green spandex (including those icky toe-shoes) and looked awe-struck when light-structures come out of his ring.  It’s not entirely his fault because he has very little to work with here, but this is also what happens when you take guys who should primarily be in romantic comedies and cast them in comic book movies.  This is why Hugh Grant will never play a super-hero.  Obviously, I don’t blame Ryan Reynolds for getting the big payday, but “cashing a paycheck” does not even begin to describe his rigid performance.

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Still, despite being hand-cuffed by such a bizarre concept, a good writer might have been able to salvage something (Thor is an out-there concept, but they made a decent movie out of that.)  Certainly not something Oscar-worthy, but at the very least likable.  The film doesn’t do itself any favors by being a pretty ridiculous movie on top of having a concept that is hard to swallow (not to mention follow.)  Once Jordan learns how his power ring works, he begins to use it to create objects.  In this vein, he is at the mercy of his special effects artists.  For example, to save his beloved Blake from impending disaster in a falling helicopter, he decides, within seconds, to use his ring to create a giant slide to get it safely on the ground.  Well, “safely” is a relative term.  The chopper still kind of crashes, it just does so more spectacularly and doesn’t actually kill anyone.  Relating this incident to what was said earlier about making the audience believe this stuff could happen, I would like to think that the “real” Green Lantern would create something a little more practical to catch a falling helicopter.  Say, a net.  Practical, maybe, but not nearly as cool to render in CGI.

Still, a less-picky, and less-fidgety, audience member would probably be willing to over-look such weaknesses in writing if the movie possessed other qualities.  It does not.  The acting is painfully stiff.  The story is weak, and the special effects aren’t even all that special.  The final showdown between Green Lantern and his arch-nemesis, the bubbly-faced alien, Parallax, typifies the general feel of the movie, as GL declares that the only way he is going to win this fight is to “out-think” his opponent.  He then proceeds to create a green Gatling gun to blow him away.  Not exactly a good message for the kids.  Good thing none of them saw it.

Green Lantern suffers from the same affliction as many of its contemporaries; just because a filmmaker can do something does not mean he necessarily should.  You would think that through the miracle of CGI, a screenwriter would only be restrained by their own imagination and that it would be easy to write in anything they want and it would come up roses.  In fact, often the opposite is true.  Just because the CGI experts have the ability to create a giant slide does not necessarily mean that they should, if it doesn’t serve any real purpose in the movie.  The limitless possibilities have instead made some writers lazy, especially when it comes to the very basics of story-telling.  Why does Hal Jordan say he must out-think his adversary, only to then blow him away instead?  There is no earthly reason.  It’s just bad writing.

Let me put it this way; they still teach Tootsie in screenwriting classes because of the structure, not because Dustin Hoffman looks good in a dress.

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