From Forbes By Mark Hughes
I have to think the filmmakers and folks at DC and Warner Bros are scratching their heads right now, wondering what happened and why so many reviewers hate Green Lantern instead of seeing it’s a fun, well-made, exciting entry in the genre. I know if I were them, I’d be disappointed that the film isn’t being appreciated for how hard it tries and succeeds on most all levels. It’s not a dark, “illusionary realism” sort of film like The Dark Knight, it is more on par with the Marvel films of late, going for a much more the feel of a comic book come to vivid life, and as that sort of summer blockbuster superhero film, it more than delivers the goods.
I can’t help feeling that expectations have gotten so high for the genre that they’ve grown unrealistic to the point that we want everything to be too epic and Oscar-worthy, as if there’s no room for pure fun, adventurous entertainment that is capable of winking at us and embracing the most outlandish elements of itself akin to Superman: The Movie. Just imagine if we’d seen Green Lantern in, for example, 2002. It probably would’ve blown everybody’s mind, and been hailed as a top-notch sci-fi super-heroic summer blockbuster.
But now, with so many origin tales under our belts and so many big action CGI-effects films, we lose sight of what’s IN this film and don’t judge it for what it actually is, so much as judging it against our feeling of “I’ve seen too many origin stories” and expectations of something like “The Lord of the Rings in space.”
Not that judging a film based on what you think it COULD have been is wrong. I just think those are the dominate reasons underlining most of the bad reviews, overshadowing assessments based more on the actual quality of content in the film, and that it’s not really being judged on its own merits. And I think superhero fatigue played a BIG role in some of the mainstream critical rejection of this film, feed a simplistic narrative (“Green Lantern sucks and it’ll flop“) that was pushed until it took hold before the film opened. That narrative became an echo chamber, and helped shape the perception of this film as “failed” before the first weekend was even over.
Well, I think the negative reaction to Green Lantern is excessive. It’s not just that I liked the film a lot (which I most certainly do), I genuinely think a lot of the criticisms are riding a wave of “negative narrative” that got set in stone early on and came to dominate the messaging of the opening weekend, and once that narrative took hold it was increasingly unlikely anyone wanted to step forward and disagree by praising a film that the supposed consensus was panning.
The critiques of the effects and acting are especially a mystery to me — the film is visually stunning, the effects brilliantly realized, and I think the quality of acting overall from the entire cast is easily on par with the Iron Man and Spider-Man films, which got plenty of approval for their respective casts.
All this talk of Green Lantern as a box office disappointment might be a bit premature as well. The film made more than $70 million worldwide in its opening weekend, and still has several markets in which to open overseas. If word of mouth among audiences is that this film is a fun summer flick, it could have a smaller than expected decline into the second and third weeks, and be headed toward something approaching a $500 million worldwide box office. Consider that Thor topped $400 million despite the fact its second weekend faced the huge opening ofPirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and then the third weekend had two big releases as well. Green Lantern faces Cars 2 on its second weekend, but that’s a film pulling in a much younger audience and family viewership that isn’t really the main target demographic forGreen Lantern anyway. No, the next serious direct challenge to Green Lantern’s audience is two weeks away, when Transformers: Dark of the Moon opens. But that’s the ONLY big film opening against Green Lantern that weekend, and then the next challenger doesn’t show up until two weeks after that with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part II‘s final bow (another WB film) hitting theaters.
What all of this means is, Green Lantern just might be positioned to face only a modest drop next weekend, especially if word of mouth creates some buzz that the extreme negative reviews are overstated or outright wrong, as is starting to happen among fans. And the film could end up as the go-to alternative for younger teens who might go to the theaters with their families next weekend, but who don’t want to attendCars 2 with their parents and younger siblings — an odd bit of potential counter-programming that might unexpectedly work to Green Lantern’s favor.
It’s also worth noting that the film is hitting around 45% for 3D showings domestically, meaning that it hasn’t slid farther than the previous couple of films that sparked knee-jerk hyperbole about the death of 3D. If foreign markets are as receptive to this film as they’ve been to other films lately that got dismissed by foreign critics while soaring to box office success overseas, Green Lantern could enjoy a well-deserved appreciation by foreign audiences, who also seem not to have gotten the “3D is dead” memo and are still attending in large numbers.
I hope it keep its legs under it for the next couple of weeks, to build some staying power and better buzz that carries it toward something around at least a $450-500 million worldwide box office. I think it deserves much better treatment than it’s gotten in the press so far, and most audiences would enjoy it if they gave it a chance.
I hope audiences give Green Lantern a chance and make it more popular, and that DC/WB definitely move forward with the sequels. There’s a lot of potential, and this film set up the franchise quite nicely. I’ll go back to see it at least a couple of times again, and plan to bring friends with me as well.
If you’re looking for an exciting summer film that thinks being a superhero should be fun and sometimes even funny, and you want to see a mixture between the typical superhero film and sci-fi elements that create a new, incredible world of aliens and technology and backstory mixed with humor and a very good human story, I encourage you to ignore the negative reviews and go see this film. And if you’re a comic book fan who’s waited to hear more about it, this film is like a comic book come to life and proud of it — go see it, you won’t regret it!