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Green Lantern opened last week to underwhelming box office (particularly in light of its huge budget) and disastrous reviews, and is now shaping up to be one of the biggest financial and creative failures of 2011 - a pricey dud poised not only to torpedo its own burgeoning franchise, but the proposed run of DC Universe movies that Warner Bros. was hoping would replace Harry Potter as its yearly cash cow.
But is it really as awful as you've heard? With so much of the modern film discourse dominated by web-based critics and a geek community hype machine that's often heavily invested in aspects of the material existing apart from the film, can you be sure you're not getting an inappropriately skewed appraisal? Was Iron Man really that spectacular, or were critics with a fandom background simply whipped into irrational euphoria by Nick Fury announcing the arrival of The Avengers and comic-style continuity to the silver screen? By the same token, is Lantern really so poorly assembled, or are fans just angry about minor details like continuity deviation or costume changes?
Well, my review was one of those disastrous ones - and as far as I'm concerned the answer is that yes, it's really that bad. (Answer to the Iron Man one: Kinda, yeah - pretty much everything after he saves that village is actually pretty damn forgettable.) However, the concern raised is a valid one. So, here's what I'm going to do: This piece will be an in-depth appraisal of Green Lantern based only on specific elements of filmmaking - completely excluding the film's success or failure as an adaptation from the equation. Did they "ruin" the costumes? Is the mythos "butchered?" Perhaps, but for the next few pages none of that matters - this is a Fanboy(ism) Free Zone from here on out.
For the purposes of (relative) brevity, we'll deal with the film's major issues in sections. Major spoilers, obviously, follow:
Info Dump Opening
The film opens with a long expository monologue from Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush) explaining the entire back story of the Green Lantern Corps, starting with the beginning of the universe and ending an undetermined number of years before the main story. It's a lot of information all at once: a flood of alien names, alien worlds, mythic histories, even the exact division of sectors in the Universe and the precise distribution of Green Lantern agents therein.
There's nothing wrong with opening like that - Thor did, after all, and so did Fellowship of The Ring. Sometimes, it's the only pragmatic way to catch an audience up on a litany of extra knowledge they'll need to get into the main story. Except in this case, it's clearly not an organic addition. All of the information it delivers is information we learn again later on. Typically, this is an indicator that the filmmakers have recognized late in the game that their narrative isn't working, and that the audience may require some training wheels.