In this week’s Streaming Movie Club I take Peter’s place to take a look at our third movie, and second super-hero flick. To read the reasoning behind this post, and Peter’s take on the super-hero genre with Thor head over here.
“Xbox Video,” I shouted at the TV. The 360 sat there ignoring me. Then I remembered that you have to shell out for Kinect if you wanted to watch movies like you’re in Star Trek. Instead I scrabbled for the controller, feeling distinctly like I was rooted in the past. Grudgingly, I flicked through the menus, swooshing up and then across until I reached the Zune video marketplace. It was somewhere I’d only been once before, feeling faintly lost as I searched for something I could watch without having to pay actual money. I think the only thing I could find was The Guild, which did have the redeeming features that it was amusing and had Will Wheaton in it. How can you dislike something with that man’s glorious beard in it?
This time I actually had a goal though, to find Green Lantern, work out how I wanted to watch it and then sit back and, hopefully, enjoy. Well I say enjoy, but I remember seeing it at the cinema. Of course, I’d forgotten to take my home made 2D glasses with me and was forced to watch the film in 3D. If you’re not familiar with my 3D issues I find it gives me eye strain at best, or leaves me feeling nauseous at worst; I actually had to sit down once after playing on a 3DS. Perhaps watching the film in 2D via my 360 would improve the experience; even if I couldn’t shout at the console to make it pause.
I entered into the Zune Marketplace quickly enough, the Xbox’s dashboard fading to black and being replaced by the red background of the Zune store. Instead of being fully integrated into the main dashboard, it sits off in its own little section of the Xbox’s world, presumably segregated to stop you accidentally renting movies.
Conveniently enough Green Lantern was actually sitting front and center when I moved into the Zune marketplace. “No searching this time!” I thought to myself. Then I noticed it was actually featured twice, both items having slightly different logos. This was a little puzzling, particularly as when I navigated to them the second item clearly identified itself as Green Lantern, whereas the other refused to reveal any title at all.
Not wanting to let our readers down I persevered, trying the mysteriously untitled selection. It lead me through to a new page entitled “Green Lantern And DC Heroes.” Not only did this feature the typical live action versions of Batman and Superman, it also had a number of DC’s animated features. There were quite a few I hadn’t seen before, and I quickly filed these away for future investigation. Enticing as the animated heroes might be, they were not my goal on this occasion. I wanted to see Ryan Reynolds as the ring wearing vigilante, not a cartoon.
Fortunately the live action Green Lantern movie was the second film on offer in this collection, after a Zune exclusive “Inside… Green Lantern” video. That seemed potentially interesting, but again not what I wanted. I moved away from it and finally selected the actual film, pushing distractions aside.[drop]Impressively, as soon as I moved onto the page which offered up my options for watching the movie, the trailer started playing. No buffering or stuttering, it just started playing immediately and felt like such a nice touch; much better than having to ask to see the trailer. In fact the whole layout was nice, with a scrolling synopsis of the film and a Cast & Crew page also present.
It was also pleasing to see that if I only wanted to watch the film in SD that option was available. Given my 360 is only hooked up to a CRT TV I quickly switched, and was even more pleased to see the price drop by 110 Microsoft Points to a mere 480 for the rental option. Just to test I flicked it over to see how much a purchase would be, and was disappointed to see it only available in SD if I chose to keep it as mine. No, I couldn’t watch it in HD, but as most can it’s annoying to see the option missing.
Happy with my choice to rent a streaming SD version, I punched the continue option. The traditional ‘confirm your purchase’ screen appeared, informing me that the film would cost 480 MS Points, and showing me my remaining balance, and then I was on my way. I was expecting some sort of page informing me that the film was buffering, but the stream started instantly and, although it was only in SD, seemed to be lacking any of the traditional issues associated with streaming media.
Well that was until a “Disconnected from Xbox Live” message appeared, about five minutes into the film. My router had decided it was the perfect time to reboot. However, as soon as I was back online the film was quite happy to resume from where I was.
At this point you’re probably thinking “This article is all well and good, but it doesn’t actually say anything about the film.” It’s a fair criticism, that I hope to address roughly now.
Ryan Reynolds plays hotshot pilot Hal Jordan, otherwise known as “every character Ryan Reynolds has ever played.” That might be unfair given I haven’t seen Buried, and is needlessly harsh given I’ve actually been a fan of his work going back to the sitcom Two Guys and a Girl. That said, I’m sure you’re all fairly familiar with the type of character Reynolds typically plays, and it’s more of the same here.
After Hal crashes an F-35 in a test flight his life should be falling apart. Instead Green Lantern Abin Sur crash lands on Earth, after being mortally wounded, and his power ring selects Hal as its next bearer. I confess that I’m not the biggest Green Lantern fan but to the best of my recollection this isn’t a perfectly faithful retelling of Hal’s origin. However, it certainly seems to qualify as close enough and works fairly well. Again using my fuzzy knowledge of the character’s past, and what I’ve learned in reading the recent DC reboot, Reynolds’ on screen portrayal seems to be fairly accurate; in particular he’s nailed the character’s over confidence and general cockiness.[drop2]As Hal tries to unlock the secret of the ring he’s been handed by his alien benefactor, the film also introduces one of the two villains, Hector Hammond. He’s tasked with performing Abin Sur’s autopsy, after the alien’s corpse is taken by the government. The quick cuts between Hector’s medical procedure and Hal’s experimentation with the ring establish the two polar opposite characters works surprisingly well, and never suffers from the normal frustration that can come with these sequences.
Hector doesn’t actually start out evil, although he’s clearly angry at a world that seems to treat him poorly because he’s a shy, nerdy, scientist rather than the strapping fighter pilot figure that Hal Jordan cuts. The thing is he’s actually a far more sympathetic character than Hal, whose swings from brash over confidence to cut short self-doubt leave him feeling slightly hollow and worthless as a character. Attempts are made at some sort of redemption for Hal as the film progresses, but a character who constantly casts aside his responsibilities and alienates other characters throughout the story can’t be redeemed in a few moments of self realisation and sacrifice, no matter how grand they are. It works in the comics but that’s because he’s been given years to turn himself around, in a two hour film it simply doesn’t work.
Putting Hal’s issues to one side for the moment, Hector’s rise to super-villain comes when he is infected by Parallax, a fear entity created by the Guardians who watch over all the Green Lanterns in a failed experiment. Sound like a lot of back story? It is, and the film seems to gloss over much of it quickly, trying to cram a lot more into this film than is really necessary. It’s undeniable that Parallax is one of the great villains associated with Hal Jordan and other Green Lanterns, his fear based powers serving as the perfect contrast to the willpower that fuels a Green Lantern’s ring. However, he (or should I say it?) is pretty complex as a concept, and feels overwhelming in a film that’s just introducing this whole universe of characters.
Disappointingly, whilst the story may leave you overwhelmed, the film itself feels distinctly underwhelming overall. There’s either way too much going on, or not enough. Apart from the first twenty minutes or so the pacing is simply horrible, in particular the scenes where Hal is finding out more about his responsibilities as a Green Lantern jump speeds so quickly you’re left feeling disorientated.
The other real issue I have is the fact that Hal seems very willing to accept the stuff that’s happening to him. Not the actual responsibilities or powers, no he’s clearly too much of a “rebel” for that. Instead, he seems to quickly breeze passed meeting Abin Sur, being shocked by it for all of five minutes. On top of that when he meets the other Green Lanterns, who he has no reason to suspect exist, he again just accepts it and moves into his training. This is likely due to the whole thing feeling so rushed that none of the characters have a chance to actually respond to situations.
However, that’s not to say it’s terrible. It’s certainly not The Dark Knight, but it’s far, far above Batman & Robin. There’s bucket loads of issues I had with the plot but it is, ultimately, faintly enjoyable. Oh and to touch on my complaints about 3D movies, it was a much more enjoyable experience in 2D, possibly because it didn’t give me a headache.