I don't get it.
I mean, someone's got to be pulling my leg, right? In a summer bookended by big-budget comic book movies, the first, Thor, was supposed to be awesome; so awesome that I was sad to have missed it at the cinema, so when the Blu-ray release rolled around, I gobbled it up.
And I thought it was silly nonsense. Daft but largely harmless.
Green Lantern, meanwhile... well, I only watched Green Lantern out of some misplaced sense of duty to a medium I dearly adore - the comic book, of course - so unanimously dire were the pronouncements about this particular superhero vehicle. But you know what? I actually enjoyed it.
Now I'm neither so fool nor so full of myself as to think expectations, or indeed a lack thereof, played no part in my experience of these two similar-but-different films: that Thor had come so highly recommended rather raised the bar in terms of my idea of it, I don't doubt, and perhaps the presumption that Green Lantern would be wall-to-wall terrible left me easily impressed. Nevertheless, I think there's a case to be made for Casino Royale director Martin Campbell's return to men in tights six years on from The Legend of Zorro. It's an unabashedly popcorn-friendly film, with markedly more interest in low entertainment than high art -- and what in all the quadrants is the problem with that?
Nothing, is what. And Green Lantern makes no claims to the contrary: in fact from the get-go - a clunky pre-credits VO explaining the origins of the Green Lantern Corps, as if it'd be an affront to let us figure these things out on our own - you know what this film will be. It will be ridiculous. It will be overwrought. It will pander, and indulge, and embarrass.
And, so it seems to me, you will either love every minute of it - unlikely though that may be if you're in your double digits - or despise this harmless bit of sci-fi eye candy for what it is.
I'm coming around to thinking that critics seem to see the superhero movie as something of an all or nothing proposition. Either it can be brilliant, basically because it transcends the trappings of its origins in the funny pages - a la Sam Raimi's Spider-man, or Bryan Singer's take on The X-Men - or it's some despicable thing because it doesn't.
Green Lantern certainly doesn't; to a fault, it seems subservient to the sixty-some years of comic books from which Hal Jordan, space cop, springs, not at all fully-formed. But between the masterclass and the amateur hour, film critics tend to afford the superhero movie precious little middle ground, and I would argue that - of all the genres there are in cinema - the superhero movie needs as much or more middle ground as any other. Were there such a space, Green Lantern would sit squarely in the middle of it. On an ornate throne fashioned solely from force of will.
Yes, it's ridiculous. Yes, it's overwrought. Green Lantern is pretty much all the things it's been called - and it's been called a lot of mean-spirited things, I do declare - but it is all of these things so very inoffensively, innocently even, that the hate seems to me way out of proportion. Sure, there's some cheap-looking CG, but there are too some beautiful visual effects.
Actually, by and large, Green Lantern is spectacular to look at, up to and including the lovely Blake Lively as the Ryan Reynolds' love interest. Reynolds is for his part dopey but endearing, and his character's counterpart - Peter Sarsgaard on fine form as insidious supervillain Hector Hammond - is a good match. I did however shed an imaginary tear to see how far Tim Robbins has fallen.
In any case, Green Lantern is good looking, well cast, ably acted, and it sounds the part, too, thanks to a tense orchestral score from M. Night Shyamalan collaborator James Newton Howard, who just so happened to work with Hans Zimmer on the superhero movie soundtrack to end all superhero movie soundtracks: for The Dark Knight, needless to say.
The plot is of course a bit of a mess - better, as Fleetwood Mac might say, that comic book movies go their own way - and a more liberated script would have made a great deal of difference, but as it is, Green Lantern remains a mildly exciting, if not exactly thrilling way to spend two hours, and though it never quite comes together as some more optimistic souls than I had hoped it might, still it is leagues better than the abhorrent nonsense it's been made out as.