There’s a line in the cultural sand of superheroes. It’s a line that says superheroes are either “dark and sophisticated” like The Dark Knight or “slight and stupid” like Green Lantern. It’s deeper than superheroes actually. It’s how we have been taught to view the world now. Shows like Dexter and The Wire and others like them tell us, over and over again, that good guys are an illusion and that genuinely heroic protagonists are a thing of the past. It’s everywhere in our culture, but it’s most obvious to me in superheroes because they come from such a starkly different point-of-view originally.
For long time, I’ve mostly ignored this accepted “truth”. I haven’t tried to make a big deal about it because why should I care? If people want to watch dark shows where everyone’s an asshole, then that’s their choice. But this live and let live attitude has not been returned. I have sat by as the dark side wages war against the other side. The truth is that I can’t ignore films like The Dark Knight and all the praise they get because, inevitably, it leads to outright hostility toward anything even remotely different.
I hate the term “culture war”. And its standard use doesn’t fit this topic very well. But there is a battle for our cultural media, how it portrays good guys and bad guys, how it tells stories, and which stories are valued. If the critics who heaped loads of praise on The Dark Knight and First Class insist insist on attacking a good, fun, and smart film like Green Lantern, then somebody has to step up and counterattack. And it appears that person is me.
Green Lantern is a heck of a good film. Perhaps the best superhero flick I’ve seen in ages. It is fun, lively, and has a terrific little story that never loses sight of its human characters. It promises an epic battle and (mostly) delivers, and has some very creative action adventure pieces. In short, Green Lantern is everything any reasonable person should expect from a magic ring space cop movie. And even a little more.
This is a movie that dares to say being a superhero is cool. Hal Jordan is not damaged goods. He doesn’t come from a tragic past. He isn’t fighting against a psychopath clown. And in the end, he is a good man fighting to stop a monstrous evil. His character arc GL is well-planned, believable, and satisfying. His supporting cast is just important and established enough to make us care about them without making them cardboard characters. And his use of his powers is every bit as fun and absurd as they should be.
Anyone who says otherwise is wrong. Anyone who says The Dark Knight or Watchmen are provably superior films is wrong. Given the nature of all these films and their goals, comparing them is like trying to pick your favorite food. They aren’t trying to satisfy the same appetite. And this isn’t a failing on GL‘s part. This is a deliberate choice. One I can fully get behind.
If I have to pick a side in this cultural war, I’ll take an unapologetic film like Green Lantern over an aching to be meaningful film like Dark Knight anyday. I shouldn’t have to pick though. Fans should be able to like what they like without falling into the trap of “My superhero is better than your superhero” nonsense.
The FX in GL are outstanding. Even if they weren’t, I know this is a story about aliens and monsters. As long as the FX are trying, I can play along. Although, really, the FX are outstanding. I think people are less annoyed by the FX and more by the more fantastic elements.
GL‘s one weakness comes in the appearance of Amanda Waller. She’s a great character who is in here for no clear reason, who accomplishes nothing, and who demonstrates none of her comic book portrayal’s competence and demeanor. It’s annoying that, while the character is short and overweight in the comics, she is tall and leggy (and even introduced wearing ridiculous heels). But it’s more annoying that she appears to be an entirely different character. I could take skinny Amanda Waller. I can’t take dumbass Amanda Waller.
Yes, shame on you Green Lantern for this major mistake in an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable film.
So if you are hesitant to see Green Lantern because of the negative reviews, I’m here to say ignore them. Unless you hate the fantastic and prefer your superheroes more grounded in reality. That’s okay too. Just don’t get mad at me for enjoying a less dark, more positive superhero where the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and where punching a fear monster in the face with a giant fist is what heroes do.
There’s a line in GL that summarizes everything I love about this film and how ridiculous I find its critics.
“I’m sorry. Did I embarrass you when I created a racetrack out of pure willpower and saved hundreds of lives?”
Hell, no, Green Lantern. Quite the opposite in fact.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,