Green Lantern – or why we need a tad more “exposition” in our films

Highly enjoyable, but.......

Again, for the fourth time this year, I found myself in my local cinema watching a comic book movie – this time round Green Lantern was stealing one of my Wednesday evenings. Of the four comic movies (The Green Hornet, Thor and X-Men: First Class are the other three) that I’ve watched in the cinema this year, this was the third to utilize 3D tech and it won’t be the last.

I wanna get my opinions on the 3D out of the way first: it wasn’t utilized enough, as I’ve previously said with the use of 3D in Hollywood films – the way things were directed didn’t play with the fact that stuff could be jumping out of the screen. Even my Mum, who saw the film with Paul, my Brother and I, said this.

Onto the execution of what I tend to pay the most attention to: script, story and plot. Because this film has an issue that three of these four comic book films have had this year: a fear of exposition and build up.

Now, maybe it’s due to the amount of money that the addition of roughly twenty extra minutes of screen time would represent, but The Green Hornet, Thor and now Green Lantern have all felt like they were rushed. Events on screen weren’t given the time needed to slowly come to the boil, simmer and then explode absolutely everywhere.

If budget isn’t an issue, then it feels like the writers behind these three films, have been taking Robert McKee’s Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting and how it preaches against the over use of exposition and kind of gone and not used it enough. Like a dieter being told that too much dairy will make them fat and then forgetting that they need calcium from milk to help give them strong bones and teeth.

Sure, Green Lantern has an impressive opening with an easy to understand introduction about the Green Lantern Corps and the Guardians, but it didn’t feel like it properly used subplots to help progress the main plot along. This was a film that needed to get its origin straight, but we never really feel like we properly come to grips with Hal Jordan or Hector Hammond – they’re not given enough time to simmer once their new unique circumstances come into focus and to therefore be properly characterised.

Hell, even Parallax didn’t get quite enough screen time to properly build up. Not that he needed any kind of love story to help move things along.

(And I will try and ignore how Hal’s anti-fear speech to Sinestro and the Guardians didn’t make too much sense – how did he know what was going on? Bit of a plot hole there or something that’s going to land in the Blu-ray’s extras.)

We had flashes of conflict (personal stuff, not saving the world) that the main characters needed to deal with, but they were flashes, often too brief and fleeting to give you a feel for the characters. These were mainly subplots – such as Hector and Hal’s father issues – which were thrown at us, but didn’t go far enough. Though I will say that its Hector and Carol’s characterisation elements that suffered the most. Hal was almost there.

With this exposition free diet going on, the film did feel a tad rushed in terms of the pacing. You kind of ended up with the sensation that you were jumping all over the place without getting a proper understanding of the circumstances.

This also meant that the film’s final confrontation was (if I’m allowed to use a videogame analogy here) akin to prepping for what you think will be the nastiest end boss you have ever faced, only to find that you can kill it in about two moves (the last final boss to make me feel like that was Final Fantasy XIII’s). You’re never quite convinced that Hal is in true peril.

Oh, and Sinestro – you knew that was going to happen. Firstly due to the name, secondly… he was being played by Mark Strong.


4 Comments on “Green Lantern – or why we need a tad more “exposition” in our films”

  1. […] There’s just not enough build up. Also, the film has done little to justify the continued use of 3D in film. It just wasn’t directed with it in mind. (This means that the film I believe has so far best utilised 3D is The Final Destination.) Again, for the fourth time this year, I found myself in my local cinema watching a comic book movie – this time round Green Lantern was stealing one of my Wednesday evenings. Of the four comic movies (The Green Hornet, Thor and X-Men: First Class are the other three) that I’ve watched in the cinema this year, this was the third to utili … Read More […]

  2. […] don’t. Maybe in my look at Green Lantern last week it did sound as if I found the film to have hardly any […]

  3. Sean Samuels says:

    Aren’t you forgetting that most films these days are multi-format. Some of the characterization will have been done in the five prequel comics and some of the exposition may appear in the tie-in game. Films like this have been tending to go that way since the second Matrix film, where not all the plot made sense unless you watched Last Flight of the Osiris and played Enter the Matrix.

    Also, what more was needed for Hector? We were shown that his dad had little respect for him, but still was trying in his own way to help his son along. Anything more than we were shown starts to head towards needless psychoanalysis of the character. Simply put; he is the nerd son of a military man, introverted like the stereotype suggests. He hates Hal because he saw Hal as a love rival. He hated his dad because his newfound power revealed his dad’s secret contempt. He failed to see the love that caused his father to try and get him a top government research position despite this contempt.

    Carol got little characterization, but equally did little in the film. It’s probable she will be explored more and get more screen time with Hal in the next film. As it was, all that was explored was her past history with Hal. She wasn’t important as a character, more that she was important through how Hal saw her. Therefore all we saw was her through his eyes and what she means to him.

    And Sinestro is not a bad guy :p Hopefully the sequel will not reduce him to generic bad guy status. He thinks what he is doing is right, and from a certain point of view, he is mostly correct. I imagine that with Geoff Johns advising, the character will be done right. Although the way Brightest Day ended leaves me worried…..

    • Emily says:

      Fair enough.

      But the film still felt like it jumped all over the place. And there wasn’t enough build up, especially evidenced by when Hal turns up at the meeting between Sinestro and the Guardians on the subject of the yellow ring. He just appears.

      The Matrix Reloaded still made sense whether or not you watched The Animatrix. Same as The Dark Knight regardless of whether you’d seen Gotham Knight.

      It doesn’t matter whether stuff was explained in tie in comics. Motivations and characterisation takes place in Sense and Sensibility, but a reasonable amount will be done in the film that no member of the audience is left unsure of character motivations. And so it felt to me like the film didn’t get the minimum in that it needed to and thus doesn’t quite work as a film in its own right.

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