Friday, June 17, 2011

The Green Lantern: Reveling in B-Movie Camp

by Michelle Buchman

The Hollywood trend of “serious” comic book movies can be irking. Yes, we get it, the heroes often have other-worldly powers that conflict with the already tiring struggle of their daily lives. Sometimes though, you just want a movie that acknowledges comic book stories are over-the-top. Green Lantern takes a somewhat ridiculous origin story and turns it into campy, summer movie fun.

Within the superhero Universe, Green Lantern contains the most off-the-wall concept out of them all. Spoilers ahead (although if you’ve read the comic, you know how the story starts): a race known as the Guardians of the Universe create the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police force sworn by oath to protect the galaxy. Each lantern possesses a green power ring created by the Guardians. These rings are fueled by the willpower of its wearer and are what grants a lantern their powers. When a lantern is killed, the ring must find someone who has no fear to become the newest member of the corps. Hal Jordan, a slacker-type test pilot, becomes the first human lantern. It sounds slightly confusing, and the film spends at least a half hour trying to explain all of this. I’m still unsure how mainstream audiences will embrace Green Lantern because the origin isn’t readily grounded in anything an audience can easily connect with. Batman, at its core, is the story of a man who doesn’t have superpowers, but uses technological devices and intellect to thwart criminals. Hal Jordan is a man given abilities that makes him capable of joining the fight against those who threaten the different sectors of the universe. We can all relate to the man who wants to combat evil but struggles against the odds, yet often distance between character and audience happens when supernatural or ethereal elements enter the picture.

After watching the test footage debuted at San Diego Comic-Con last year, I was skeptical about the visual effects in the film. However, while Reynold's suit and the rest of the visual effects looked sloppy at Comic-Con, the finished movie has great graphics. The budget given for them is below what most summer blockbusters get, but did not look cheap or take you out of the story. In particular, I loved the scenes with Jordan and the rest of the Green Lantern Corps on the Guardians’ planet, Oa. The CGI for the Green Lantern suit is better, but looks almost painted on at certain points. Additionally, with most films I normally dislike the 3D used, but this movie did a great job of incorporating 3D to contribute depth to the scenes. Not every scene utilized it, but the shots that did weren’t outrageous or headache-inducing.

The standout actor in the film without a doubt was Peter Sarsgaard as Dr. Hector Hammond, the brilliant scientist who turns mad. Sarsgaard plays the role completely over-the-top, embracing the campy, b-movie nature of the story. The result is a fun descent from a good natured man to an evil genius. Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan and Blake Lively as Jordan’s love interest, Carol Ferris, were both passable but not anything special. The script itself doesn’t give them spectacular dialogue to work with. Reynolds is the actor in Hollywood closest to Hal Jordan in terms of appearance, but there were no scenes in particular that stick out in my mind. I enjoyed that the film had moments where it acknowledges the silliness of the genre. A scene between Reynolds and Lively where she recognizes Green Lantern’s secret identity was particularly nice to see. Honestly, who wouldn’t be able to guess a superheroes true self if their only method of disguise is a mask partially covering their face? Moreover, the major complaint I have of the film is the final battle between the movies main villain and the Green Lantern. The fight is lackluster and gets resolved incredibly quickly for what seems like a long build up to it. I would have liked to see more of a grandiose battle. Lastly, make sure you stay for the credits of the film to see a scene that sets up the inevitable sequel, pending success of the first installment.

If you are seeking a fun summer time waster, I would offer up Green Lantern as an option. In particular, I think this film will play really well to kids who won’t overanalyze the convoluted plot as adults probably will. Sure, there isn’t anything groundbreaking going on but not all blockbusters have to be. Green Lantern offers up a b-movie style alternative to all the “serious” comic book films as of late. If anything, let’s hope this inspires more people to pick up copies of Green Lantern and start reading.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Midnight in Paris: Time and place in Woody Allen's newest film

By Eliza Rosenberry

Woody Allen movies are always very obviously Woody Allen movies.  Even as his films branched out from Diane Keaton love affair storylines (see Zelig and Vicky Cristina Barcelona for two of his most creative pieces), there are elements in each that make them definitively Woody Allen.

Although most of these commonalities are characterizations of the autobiographical protagonist (neuroticism, intellectualism, self-alienation), Allen also places a significant value on the location of his films.  Most of his earlier works take place in New York City.  In Annie Hall, Allen’s character notes that he is too East Coast-neurotic to live in California, thereby correlating mentalities to geographies.  Vicky Cristina Barcelona similarly relies on the exoticism and unfamiliarity of the city to create a foreign, dreamlike state of consciousness.  Midnight in Paris, Allen’s newest film, again toys with the notion of tourism but also develops a more complex relationship between the protagonist (a pitch-perfect Owen Wilson) and the city (Paris).