Monday, June 20, 2011

Green Lantern: Some Light Entertainment

The latest entry in this Summer of Heroes, the GREEN LANTERN movie, is getting a far sourer reception than it warrants. True, it's not a cinema masterpiece; it's got some hokey dialogue and tired tropes; it goes to that ever-drier well of Daddy Issues at which every modern action flick seems to water; it's hampered by Ryan Reynolds straining to be a charming wiseass; and (spoiler, sorta) the hero would not have been able to defeat the main villain if said villain weren't really, really stupid.

But I still liked it, because it brought to life two of the best aspects of the Green Lantern comics series.

The first is the cosmic factor. Although we've had a plethora of comics movies in the last couple of decades, they've largely stayed earthbound. Generally, the farthest even spacegoing heroes such as Superman get is Earth orbit. We've occasionally had folks come to Earth from outer space, such as in the second FANTASTIC FOUR movie; but the heroes generally hang around terra firma. One gets the feeling that producers feel that non-fan moviegoers don't want too many out-of-this-world concepts in one movie. For instance, the X-MEN movies are about mutants, and so the movies deal only with mutants. The comics may throw in non-mutant antagonists, and aliens, and demons and Lovecraftian elder gods and everything else the creators could think of to keep a series going; but the moviemakers are unwilling to tell stories about anything but mutants. Thus, while the comic-book Phoenix saga had the ill-fated character fly to another galaxy, consume a sun, destroy a civilization, trigger a huge trial-by-combat on the moon between the X-Men and another group of superbeings, and then commit suicide by alien deathray, X-MEN 3's Phoenix just mopes around Earth and kills her friends.

But both GREEN LANTERN and last month's THOR movie break that mold. THOR involves other dimensions, gods, frost giants, and lots of cosmic. GREEN LANTERN brings us right into the GL mythos from the opening narration, featuring a boatload of aliens and the concept of a universe-wide police force of superpowered beings.

The other is the sense of wonder. That goes hand-in-glove with freeing our hero from the confines of Earth. There's something wonderful and freeing about seeing someone actually flying tthrough space (and surviving), without a spacesuit or a spaceship -- only a superpowered ring. It's an image that original Silver Age GL artist Gil Kane made so thrilling. And the movie replicates it. That alone makes the overpriced ticket I bought for this 3-D extravaganza worth it.

Alas, since the huge cost of the GL movie made its fate as a disappointment inevitable if it failed to set box-office records, we will likely see less of this cosmic sense of wonder in our movies. Let's enjoy it while we can. Life's too short to stay earthbound.

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