Green Lantern

Posted on June 16, 2011 at 9:52 am

Let’s get right down to it with the superhero essentials checklist.  Cool powers?  Check.  Interesting villain?  Check.  Interesting girlfriend?  Half a check.  Aliens?  Check.  Fancy gala party?  I’m not sure why that appears to be a crucial part of every superhero movie, but it’s here.  Working through some angsty parental issues?  Check.  Special effects and action sequences?  Maybe three-quarters of a check.  Does the superhero outfit avoid looking silly?  Half a check.  Is the 3D worth it?  No check.

Another month, another superhero, this time DC (home of Batman and Superman), not Marvel (home of the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Thor).  Hal Jordan (a very buff Ryan Reynolds) is an irresponsible but irresistible rogue and a test pilot for a company that makes planes for the military.  He has an on- and off relationship with the test pilot/executive daughter of the head of the company, Carol Ferris (“Gossip Girl’s” Blake Lively).  When four members of the intergalactic force for peace and justice — think outer space Seal Team 6 — are killed by a creature who looks like a spider made of smoke, their special green lantern rings seek out the successors.  For the first time, a human is invited to join the Green Lanterns.  The alien dies, telling Hal only that he has to use the ring and lantern and say the oath.  Hal tries the only oaths he can think of — pledge of allegiance, He-Man — before the ring and lantern lights up and he gets it right: “In brightest day, in blackest night, No evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, Beware my power… Green Lantern’s light!“

It is fun as long as you don’t think too hard.  There’s so much nattering about Will versus Fear that it could have been written by Ayn Rand and directed by Leni Riefenstahl.  (Carol would be right at home with Dominique and Dagny.)  The Lanterns’ power includes calling into being anything they can imagine, which undercuts any peril and dramatic tension in the big confrontations.  It makes the struggle internal, one of strategic imagination and determination, not the best idea for a big special effects film.  The bad guys include a nerdy scientist whose exposure to the evil smoke-spider turns him into a misshapen, anger- and jealousy-driven madman, and the smoke-spider, whose surprising connection to the Lanterns makes him even more dangerous. But it seems unfocused, overly fussy and most likely re-cut following a poor reaction to an earlier version — characters like Hal’s nephew and best friend are introduced and then disappear and Angela Bassett barely appears as a scientist.  Mark Strong is a skeptical alien with a ridiculous mustache and even more ridiculous dialog, and the elders look like first-draft Yodas.  And everybody has father issues.  What, no one has a father who’s present and supportive? Aren’t there any mothers left?  Reynolds does fine as Hal but Lively never lives up to her name, swanning around in elegant sheaths and high heels but without any of the wit or energy of Gwenyth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts.  The credit sequence ends with a sneak peek at the villain for the next episode.  Let’s hope they have the will to call up something a little more fearless next time.

(more…)

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3D Action/Adventure Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel Fantasy Science-Fiction Thriller

Hancock

Posted on November 25, 2008 at 8:00 am

The problem is, this is not a 4th of July movie. It is not a bad movie. It is not a good movie either. It is a flawed but interesting movie but its biggest problem is that on the 4th of July the kind of Will Smith movie people want to see is a brainless summer blockbuster with some cool explosions, some quippy dialogue, and the kind of bad guy you can cheerfully enjoy seeing fall off a building. This is not that movie, and people who expect that movie are doomed to disappointment. Go see Iron Man again. Or put those expectations aside, start from scratch, and go this this messy but intriguingly ambitious film. Inside the $150 million-budgeted would-be blockbuster there are two or three quirky little indie films trying to get out.

Will Smith’s Hancock may be faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to soar like the eagle, his favorite animal, but he is no Superman. He dresses like a homeless guy, drinks like a wino, and talks like a sulky teenager. He will save lives, catch crooks, and hurl beached whales back into the ocean but he won’t be happy, nice, gracious, patriotic or careful about collateral damage. Everyone needs him but no one likes him. He doesn’t like anyone and he doesn’t like himself.

When idealistic PR guy (if that is not an oxymoron) Ray (Jason Bateman) gets stuck on the train tracks, Hancock rescues him and (literally) drops him off at home. Ray invites Hancock in for dinner and offers to give him some help with his image. He advises the petulant superhero to accept responsibility for his actions and remind everyone they cannot get along without him by spending some time in jail and getting some help with anger management. Pretty soon Hancock is shaving, wearing a streamlined leather superhero suit, and handing out compliments to the cops. And he looks pretty good. After all, he’s Will Smith.

But then the story takes a darker turn that makes it at the same time more provocative, more interesting, less safe, and much, much messier. Smith, Bateman, and Charlize Theron as Ray’s wife do their best to ride the bucking bronco of this movie’s seismic shifts set up by director Peter Berg and writers Vy Vincent Ngo & Vince Gilligan but by the end, which bears the unmistakable marks of a panicky recut to make it more upbeat. Too little, too late.

And so a promising idea about a superhero with an existential crisis several times greater than the “great power means great responsibility” growing-up metaphors of Spider-Man and other Marvel and DC denizens wobbles through wildly misjudged moments with way too much emphasis on the metaphoric and literal aspects of the terminating point of the lower intestine and then turns a sharp corner and has something of an existential crisis of its own, leaving the audience itself asking why we are here — meaning in the theater.

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Fantasy Superhero

Dr. Horrible — This Weekend Only!

Posted on July 19, 2008 at 10:30 am

Until midnight tomorrow you can watch a new three-act musical from Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Firefly”) online. It is the story of Dr. Horrible (a sensational Neil Patrick Harris) and his nemesis, the very manly Captain Hammer (Nathan Fillion of “Firefly” and “Waitress”). And of course there is a girl, Felicia Day as Penny.

Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon says:

So you’ll have to forgive me if I lapse into slavish overpraise here for Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, the utterly brilliant singing, dancing, Web-only action-adventure you and your brothers have cooked up. I hope it doesn’t sound like hyperbole when I say that Dr. Horrible is better than kittens and sunshine and cheese. Doled in three tantalizing, quarter-hour-long nuggets (the first two went up earlier this week, the conclusion debuts July 19), “Dr. Horrible” stars an impeccably dorky Neal Patrick Harris as a would-be supervillain who pines for his lovely laundromat crush, Penny (a luminous Felicia Day), while battling nemesis and rival Captain Hammer, a musclebound jerk played with idiot bravado by “Firefly’s” Nathan Fillion. Will Horrible create his freeze ray and earn his way into the Evil League of Evil? Will he get the girl? Tuneful, hilarious and, in typical Whedon fashion, unabashedly tender, the only thing wrong with Dr. Horrible is that the damn thing isn’t a regular series.

It has already inspired responses like this one from a would-be sidekick:

After Sunday night, it will be available only on DVD, so watch it online while you can! (NOTE: Brief mature material)

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Musical Satire Shorts Superhero

Women Critics on Superhero Movies

Posted on July 5, 2008 at 6:00 pm

The members of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists speak out on superhero movies. Are they just for boys?
ironman-05_normal.jpgMaryAnn Johanson, who’s carved her critic’s niche by taking superhero movies seriously, provides an introduction:
“Comic books and comic book movies ain’t just for boys anymore-if they ever were. The latest slew of superhero flicks, which began to come of age with 2000’s “X-Men,” have gotten increasingly sophisticated and now focus equally on the existential dramas of their heroes and the mythic arcs of their typically tragic stories as they do on slam-bang action…Today we’re seeing fantasy drama with an accent on the drama. Superhero movies are not longer lighthearted comedies dressed up in capes-as in 1978’s “Superman”-or expressions of over-the-top outrageousness-as in Jack Nicholson’s Joker in 1989’s “Batman,” for example. Even “Hancock,” which was marketed as a comedy, turns out to be more intensely dramatic than it is funny.

Lexi Feinberg comments, “I’d say they’re mythic. Adam Sandler movies represent the dumbing down of audiences much more than “Spider-Man” or “Batman”.”
The critics overwhelmingly chose “Iron Man” as the best recent superhero movie and hope for better superhero movies featuring women. The survey quotes my comment about Elektra and Catwoman: “they were made by people who don’t understand women, comics or movies.”

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