Friday, August 19, 2011

Fix It Fridays: The Green Lantern

You know, based on the one-star review from my local paper and the horrendous word of mouth, I thought The Green Lantern was going to be among the worst films ever made, but you know, it really wasn't that bad. (A ringing endorsement, I know.) The general plotline was good (if a bit heavy-handed - dude, if one more person said the word "fear" I was gonna give them something to be afraid of) and the cast was pretty badass (and just pretty, too. Ryan Reynolds is so six-packy!).

But they made a mistake. One which I think is kinda elementary. Writing 101. Here's the rule (and this is not a rule I found anywhere, just something I'm making up as I go along, so take with a grain of salt): No matter how cool and interesting your world is, your viewer needs a reason to care about it. A connection with a character connects you with the world and gives you a reason to watch.

You know all those disaster movies where the world is crumbling to pieces? Have you ever noticed how they all begin with one random dude (usually not even a primary character, just some guy) being impacted by the first sign that there is disaster to come? It's not a voice-over telling us that there is an asteroid hurtling toward Earth, it is that human moment of Average Joe realizing "Oh shit, an asteroid is hurtling toward Earth!"

Now, good movies can begin with a brief voice-over, a line or two, but if you're still once upon a time-ing after five minutes, your audience is starting to rustle their jujubee wrappers. The Green Lantern's opening seemed to go on forever - and what really killed it for me was the fact that ALL of that information had to be revealed to the hero later in the film anyway, so it's not like we wouldn't have had a chance to learn all of this (really not that urgent) world-building then.

So immortal dudes harness will, build planet, form green lanterns, imprison fear-eater dude, fear eater-dude breaks free, attacks latern guy's ship, lantern guy gets away but is badly injured and is headed toward earth. At most what we need of that is that latern guy was attacked and is injured & headed toward earth. The rest can wait.

The problem with starting with massive chunks of worldbuilding is that it sucks away time that could have been used establishing the relationships between the hero & the girl & the villain. They all knew each other in their childhoods. The bonds they formed then are important. The day Hal's father is killed seems rather crucial, but all we get is one tiny flashback of the crash with no shots of the girl or the villain? What the movie needed to do was open there. Open on the HUMAN side of the story, not the alien side.

Three kids who will later grow into the pivotal trio, playing on an airfield during a test flight. You see how each of their fathers shaped who they became. You see that the hero & the girl have a connection (perhaps she is the one to first try to comfort him when he sees his father blow up). You see the villain is brilliant but always feels like an outsider. Then when you jump forward and they are all adults, you don't have to work so hard to demonstrate a depth of relationship between those three.

What's weird is that the rest of the movie almost plays as if that scene was really in the opening. I often had this feeling like I was supposed to know the relationships, the history. If I had, I might have cared more about the characters. Instead we meet our hero for the first time when he is crawling out of bed with a blonde we never see again and on his way to have a fight with the heroine before flying a daring test flight. It was like the Rocketeer, only... not.

Moral of the story: Harry Potter doesn't start with a voice over explaining that Hogwarts exists and magic is cool. It starts with Harry. Our character is our access point to the world. So instead of starting with the green lantern mythos and working inward, start with Hal and work out. That's the fix.

1 comment:

Kali said...

Dude. The only thing that got me through that opening was the prospect of seeing His Royal Ab-ness, Ryan Reynolds.

I was sooo confused by the relationships between the 4 main characters and the only one I cared about was Reynolds' Abs. (Yes, his abs get their own billing in my world). I think the writers just got too caught up in trying to be faithful to the comic and forgot about making characters. And from what I've read, it wasn't all that faithful either.

I did really enjoy the hotness and the violence aspects though.