Saturday, August 13, 2011

What Are They THINKING?

Please, sir, I don't want some more

There are many things I rail against in modern film.  Among them are:

  • the continued and insane obsession with 3-D
  • parents taking children to R-rated films
  • the continued career of Channing Tatum

Add to that a new monstrosity: The Unnecessary Sequel.

Contrary to popular opinion, I'm not opposed to sequels.  Both Godfather Part II and Toy Story 2 & 3 are equal to if not better than the original.  I also understand the financial motivation for them: who here DIDN'T think Batman or Spider-Man would have more than one film?

It's not sequels per se that I object to.  It's unnecessary ones, second parts to films that weren't good to begin with or that are made just because a film turned out to be a hit.  With that, I have learned what I had suspected and feared: there will be a Green Lantern 2

Let's have a little Economics 101, shall we?  Green Lantern opened June 17, 2011 in first place at the box office ($53 million).  Not bad I suppose, but both X-Men: First Class and Thor opened with higher box office receipts ($55 and $65 million respectively).   On its second week (second, mind you), Green Lantern drops to 3rd Place to films that are OPENING that week (Cars 2 and Bad Teacher).  Moving to Week Four, Green Lantern drops to 10th place.  Remember, we're only a month after its premiere.  In its fifth week, we slip to 13th place (just above the Selena Gomez vehicle Monte Carlo).  Six weeks post-release, Green Lantern is now in 18th place (now not just BELOW 16th place Monte Carlo but also below 17th place Beginners--and that one's an art-house film with fewer screenings). 

If we think on it, less than a month and a half after Green Lantern was released to an unsuspecting public with massive fanfare, the film is barely holding on at the first-run theaters (after an extensive search, I found it playing at only one theater).    To my mind, this signals that the public, having feasted their eyes on the film (and Ryan Reynolds fabulous body), decided it wasn't worth a second look.

The reviews were...well, bad.  Green Lantern had no real story to it, and my consensus was thus: that while Green Lantern wasn't a disaster, it was a mess.  As someone who has the character of Green Lantern close to his heart (though I never read any of the comics), I was extremely disappointed that the film could do nothing with the character except give him two completely useless adversaries and no real story. 

Let's do a recap: Green Lantern was a critical disaster (the film is in the running for one of the Worst Films of 2011, certainly for one of the worse films of Summer 2011) and a financial flop.  With all that, we're going to get another one?  Why, Dear God, WHY?

To quote Don't Cry For Me, Argentina from Evita, "The answer was here all along".  The Answer is: Opening Weekend.   Green Lantern opened big, and in Hollywood, big means good.  The financial incentive to gain as much as possible from a franchise or potential franchise is simply too great to resist.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, a strong opening is seen as a sign that people want to see more of the same. 

Studios are the true Lex Luthors of comic book film adaptations: they kill off the superhero by bleeding him dry.  Tim Burton's Batman is a brilliant film, and the sequel was close in matching it.  However, once Joel Schumacher got a hold of it, it became such a sorry, sorry affair.  Batman Forever became a parody of the first two Batman films, but still (barely) tolerable; however, when we got Batman & Robin...dear God I still haven't quite recovered from the sheer shock of how awful it was.  This film should not have been made.  It was though, because so much money was to be made from it.  The studio probably thought (not without reason) that plot wouldn't matter, acting wouldn't matter, but what WOULD matter was the fact that Batman & Robin would be BIG.  It was...a big turkey.  Even with all the money it made, the danger that the public couldn't be hoodwinked twice put the entire franchise on hold until Batman Begins brought a resurrection. 

Still, in spite of the flaws of Batman & Robin, at least the characters had established themselves in the public's mind and had come off two good film (Batman Forever is a point of fierce debate).  This can't be the case with Green Lantern.  He isn't a major character in the comic book world.  The movie was not popular with audiences.  Therefore, nothing truly justifies making a second one.   Why then, make this charge into a cinematic Little Bighorn?  Well, the hope endures that audiences will be fooled twice, and that fools will be parted with their money--especially if it can be done through the grand theft of 3-D.

I will say that the makers of Green Lantern left the possibility of a sequel open, and this may be the final curse for this project.  Green Lantern ends with what I thought was nonsense: Sinestro (Mark Strong) puts on the Ring of Fear.  This was such a shameless plug for a sequel, but now we're stuck with having a sequel all around Sinestro and Hal Jordan.  Why? Because we are having the same actors playing the roles, or at least we have Reynolds.  This isn't like Man of Steel (or whatever they're calling Superman now).  In that, we're having a reboot: out with Brandon Routh and that little plot complication I lovingly call Isra-El, in with Henry Cavill and as far as I know, no Grandson of Krypton.  This isn't like The Amazing Spider-Man, where we start all over (dumping Tobey Maguire for Andrew Garfield). 

We're getting another story...which wasn't good to start with...starring the same people...and who weren't all that good to begin with either...involving characters we never cared about.  

My thinking is that when they start filming Green Lantern 2, everyone involved (at least those who can think) will know that the audience has already been burned by the first one, so it will take an extraordinary script to bring them back.  Given the same people who wrote the first one are doing the second one...fat chance of that.  Given that we really never get a reason why Sinestro put on the Ring of Fear (especially since Sinestro was always dead-set against the Power of Fear), it might be a good idea to try to build a story between the defeat of Parallax and Sinestro's fall from grace, to build up the conflict between Hal and Sinestro (which I imagine Green Lantern 2 will be about).

Look, I know there were some fans who LOVED Green Lantern.  They have every right to enjoy it.  I enjoy some bad movies too (Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Little Ashes), but at least I know they are bad.   I am truly stunned that people could be so passionate about this film being good.  Folks, it wasn't.  I know people might think I'm a snob, but I'm not--I'll stand by Captain America and I did call the first Hangover a masterpiece.    HOWEVER, this is not a film that needs a sequel.  I don't think it will make much money.  

Perhaps really it's all our faults.  Maybe we, the audience, simply ask too little from our films.  I've long argued that we are too passive when watching a film: rather than participate mentally with the story, the directing, the acting, we just let it float by without giving it a first thought, let alone a second. 

I can't let that happen, not to me.  Green Lantern 2 is all but certain, but I will wait a few weeks to see it.  I work too hard for my money to throw it away, and frankly, you do too. 

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