Monday, February 13, 2012

Fixing Green Lantern

            Green Lantern clearly frustrated me, to the point where I’m pretty sure I could make a better Green Lantern movie.  So that’s what I’m going to try to do.  Well, in a sense.  Obviously, I don’t have millions of dollars to spend on making a movie, but I do think I have enough ideas about how to fix the movie.  Note that, to prove a point in some cases, there will be spoilers of the movie and possibly of some comic book plot points.  You’ve been warned.
1.  The conflict should be Hal vs. Sinestro.  This is pretty basic stuff right here, and yet the movie fumbled this, making it the biggest problem with the movie.  The problem with having Hal vs. Parallax and Hammond is that he really has little connection to either of these villains.  Even as parallels, they don’t really work.  Yes, there’s the idea of hope vs. fear, but that doesn’t come out well.  Instead, by shifting the conflict to Sinestro, we not only have two characters fighting on equal grounds, but we have an emotional connection.  Of course, in this ideal scenario, Hal isn’t going to go to Oa and then immediately hop back to Earth.  Hal is going to be mentored by Sinestro.  In the recent comics, each sector actually has two Lanterns assigned to it, which I’m pretty sure was used elsewhere to have Sinestro mentoring Hal.  In fact, a lot of what I’m saying here has been used elsewhere, which is part of the reason it should’ve been used here.
Anyhow, Sinestro will obviously have some conflict over losing Abin Sur and his role replaced by a human.  This will be the initial surface distrust of Hal, but they have to become friends at some point, which will make the fact that Sinestro is evil harder on him.  Now, the reason as to how Sinestro is evil has to be brought back to trying to rule with fear in some way.  We’re going to keep that fear vs. hope conflict, but we’re getting into a personal level.  We can also go several ways here for the big showdown.  I say we take things back to Earth.  If the movie did something right, it was showing Hal’s fear for Carol’s life at one point.  Sinestro could also use this concept.  I’m still not a huge fan of having to bring the movie back to Earth, but it’s a necessary evil here.  And of course, we're going to end with a huge construct-vs-construct battle.  We got a little of this in the training against him here, but imagine a full-on battle where imagination is the limit for both of the fighters.
The other big thing you’re getting out of Sinestro is all you can do in the future with him.  The Sinestro Corps War would be an amazing storyline to adapt, but mixing it with Hal’s origin and having Sinestro’s evil revealed just can’t happen all in one movie.  It’s one of those things you’d have to save for the sequel, and it’d be an amazing thing to put on screen.  In theory, they could still do this in the sequel, but considering that Hal and Sinestro have next to no relation with each other, it’d be pointless.
2. Cut down the human cast. With the big problem out of the way, we can get down to smaller problems, and hoo boy is the cast a problem.  More specifically, the human cast.  I want more aliens, less hoomens, and we can get rid of a good portion of them.  Carol’s father?  Gone.  Hal’s friend Tom?  Did he do anything for the movie (seriously, I had to look up his name, because all I could think of was his old less-that-PC nickname Pieface)?  Cut him.  Amanda Waller?  Why is she even here?  Hal’s family?  Ehhhh.  EHHHHH.  They are only in a scene in the movie.  However, in the comics they provide quite a bit of non-superhero conflict in Hal’s life.  As things are, they’re doing nothing for the movie, but considering that they provide one of the best scenes in Sinestro Corps War, they should be around a little bit.  There’s also Carol herself.  I’m of two minds on this.  On the one hand, she’s a strong, confident female that’s been a long-standing member of the GL mythology.  On the other hand, all the romance scenes dragged the movie down.  Most superhero movies do fine with romance, though, so this may just be incompetent filmmaking.  I think the best solution is to have Hal and Carol already in a relationship at the movie’s start.  We need to spend more time in space, and not having to develop a relationship will keep us there.  Maybe the fact that Hal’s doing so much training and not enough loving can become a conflict at some point.
3. Better CGI.  I spent half the movie looking at the heads of the Guardians of the Universe trying to figure out whether it was bad CGI or they had some weird helmets on.  And Hal’s suit is a joke and made me wary of the movie from the first time I saw it.  For the aliens, there’s nothing really to say here because there’s only one cure.  Well, the other is some damn fine makeup, which is also more than acceptable for some of the aliens.  Obviously, you can’t get around that for the weirder-looking species, including the blue midgets we call the Guardians.  For Hal’s suit, use a more traditional suit design.  The flat color scheme works.  Don’t mess with it if you can’t pay it off.
4. More of the corps. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a million times: Earth is boring.  Hoomens are boring.  Part of the reason people love Green Lantern is because they love all the cool alien species in the corps.  Seriously, there’s Ch’p, a squirrel-race Green Lantern.  Bzzd, the bee Green Lantern that’s apparently the director’s favorite and yet made a cameo.  Even some of the staples like Kilowog and Salakk are cool.  By the way, you barely gave Salakk a cameo in the scene of the Green Lantern assembly.  He’s one of the Corps’ more important characters.  At least give him a scene.
I think I’ve hit most of the biggest problems that could easily be fixed.  Who knows, maybe Green Lantern 2 will come around and it will be blow me away.  As it is right now, I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that I don’t have to write one of these for The Flash.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Green Lantern

            I was thrilled for Green Lantern.  I believe I’ve mentioned several times how much Geoff Johns’ recent run has really made him one of my favorite DC characters.  Not to mention that there’s a movie of a DC character who isn’t Batman or Superman so rarely that anything else they do is practically an event.  Last time was Jonah Hex and uh…we don’t speak of that movie (we do speak of the comic, though).  And I’ll just get to the point outright: Marvel had 3 movies in 2011, all of them based around origins, and Green Lantern can’t even compete with any of them.
            Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a pilot at Ferris Airfields, when he gets brought to the crash site of Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), a dying alien who gives him the Green Lantern ring.  Shortly after, Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) dissects Abin and happens to be infected with part of what killed him, Parallax, the embodiment of fear.  And as he gets transformed, he also acts as a beacon that brings Parallax to Earth (I think this might’ve been meant to be a plot twist, but it was in all the trailers, so whatever).
            I’ll put this out there right now: I’m often a person that fights against the “they changed it, now it sucks” mentality of adaptations.  Of course they have to change things.  You just have to look at it in a way where you see if it still fits with the general themes and style of the work.  This is the logical work, but at the same time, it’s very easy to get emotional about this kind of stuff, feeling betrayed that your favorite work gets put on the big screen and they screwed every detail up.  So I can’t look at this objectively compared to somebody who sees the movie with little to no familiarity of Green Lantern.  The next paragraph shall be me complaining about specific changes, in what might be seen as that phenomenon we call “fanboy rage”.  Feel free to move to the paragraph after for more movie-specific problems.
            Because seriously, guys, what the hell?  Let’s start with the fact that Parallax’s backstory has been changed from a pure entity of fear to actually having a physical-ish body.  This also changes it from a yellow space bug to what looks like Swamp Thing crossed with an octopus in space.  It’s just as ridiculous as it sounds.  This was vaguely based on the Secret Origin storyline (an updated version of Green Lantern’s origin), but besides dealing with his origin and featuring Hammond, I don’t see why they bothered.  They even made Hammond more of a stereotypical nerdy loser than the tragic figure he was in the comic as he got transformed.  This leads to it feeling like he becomes villainous for the sake of being a villain.  In the end of the movie, Hal defeats Parallax by himself.  HELL NO.  In Rebirth, it took 5 Green Lanterns (which was the entire Corps at the time…it’s a long story) and a Master to CONTAIN Parallax.  Apparently they were originally going to have some of the Corps come in and help, but they decided it would make Hal more heroic to defeat Parallax by himself.  This doesn’t work, and all I wanted was to see more of the Corps.  In fact, the Corps barely even shows up.  This despite the fact that Geoffery Rush voices Tomar-Re and Michael Clarke Duncan voices Kilowog, yet they only get minor roles.  We don’t even get a full montage of Kilowog training Hal.  The rest of the vast Corps makes token appearances at best.  Parallax is initially headed for Oa, which would’ve made an awesome battle, but he gets side-tracked to Earth instead.  It’s like they didn’t want cool things to happen in the movie.  And then we just get to the “Why?” changes, like Abin crashing in the ocean instead of the desert, and Amanda Waller’s entire existence here.  She’s the head of the Suicide Squad and the warden of Belle Reve prison in the DC Universe.  She barely has a connection to Green Lantern.  Why even put her in the movie?
            Now that that’s over, it’s time for more technically flawed problems.  The CGI just doesn’t work as well as it should, and the suit is a particular offender.  The almost organic-looking suit is interesting in concept, but in execution it doesn’t work and just doesn’t look good.  The movie also doesn’t know where to spend its time.  It brings us to Oa, which is exciting and cool-looking, and then it takes us back to boring old Earth.  Even looking past fanboyism, I would’ve just loved more of Oa.  I would’ve loved more aliens and joy and wonder.  Warner Bros tried to market this as the next Star Wars.  This isn’t even Turkish bootleg Star Wars.  Really, the problem with Earth is that it slows the movie to a halt.  In one scene, Hal is being whisked away to Oa, flying through space.  The movie constantly kills the momentum by cutting back to Hammond messing around.  About half the movie is given to Hammond, and at the end of the day I could care less about him.  There’s also a party scene that takes too long to get to where it’s going, does nothing for the movie, and ultimately has an absolutely ridiculous scene which is sadly also the first time Hal does something heroic…over an hour into the movie.  This isn’t even origin problems.  Origin movies can be perfectly exciting and full of superheroics.  This is a Green Lantern problem.
            I really don’t see how we’re ever going to get a DC Universe on-screen at this rate.  Poor pacing, little faith towards the comics, laughable writing.  A few years ago, the straight-to-DVD animated movie Green Lantern: First Flight was released.  Pick that up.  It’s what this movie could’ve, should’ve been, but just wasn’t.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rayman Origins

            When I played Ms. ‘Splosion Man earlier this year, I thought I knew I had played the hardest platformer of 2011.  After all, MSM required precision timing, expert platforming, and just a general skill level you don’t see in most games.  Rayman Origins, though…I didn’t think it would be hard.  Colorful hand-drawn graphics.  Hilarious trailers backed by a soundtrack with vocals that consisted of “wakka-wakka-doo”.  Marketing towards kids.  And the second you’re lulled into it, it turns around and kicks your ass.
            Let’s just outright skip the minimal story and get to the first thing you’re going to notice about the game: the graphics.  This is a gorgeous game.  It uses the new UbiArt technology, which allows the artists to make beautiful stuff like this.  It’s colorful and well-animated.  And the bosses are so fully detailed, but still manage to exist in the game world’s style.  I think there’s been this turn of some developers to have to make sure that, if they’re going to keep making 2D games, they better look damn good.  And this game does.
            And the other major part of this game is that it is not fooling around.  This is platforming harkening back to the golden age, and it knows what that entails: a kid-friendly game on the outside, a completely unforgiving death-trap-laden world inside.  This is a game where one of the trailers was called “10 Ways to Die”, and I’m pretty sure that barely scratched the surface.  Now, the controls are simple enough.  You can’t do anything but run, jump, and attack.  Even the new abilities you unlock don’t affect the game’s basics that much.  Running up walls or helicoptering around just means the game has a new element it can use against you.  By the halfway point, which is around the time you have all your abilities, it’s expected that you’re also a master of them.  And the game stops messing around.  You mistimed a jump, you’re dead.  You didn’t hit the attack button at the right time, you’re dead.  You didn’t run up the wall, jump to another wall, keep this up, jump off, swing from a vine, and keep platforming in one of the auto-scrolling segments, all the while avoiding spikes?  No points for guessing what you are (hint: dead).  Rayman (or Globox or the two Teensies you can also play as) can’t be hit at all, or he’s dead.  About the only nice thing the game does for you is giving you unlimited lives, which takes off some of the possible frustrations.  Now, you can get hearts which give you a whole extra hit point.  I found this was generally useless throughout the game.  What tends to happen is that you aim your jump wrong and hit a spike, which makes you lose your heart, and then Rayman jumps around on the spikes more and dies.  It can be a nice safety net in some situations, but rarely is it going to be a game-changer.  The difficulty, however, makes the game rewarded.  Every moment you memorize, every split-second jump you make or precision movement that saves your life feels rewarding.  The game likes to put coins which give you more Lums (the game’s collectible, like coins or rings) in extremely dangerous situations, like surrounded by spikes.  It’s a good feeling when you’ve got the stage down enough that you feel like you can get that coin.  This arrogance is foolish.  You’re dead.
            The one gameplay switch the game makes, where you fly around on Moskito, at which point the game turns into a shooter.  Strangely, these segments really don’t feel too out of place.  In fact, sometimes they can almost be a breather.  This doesn’t mean they’re easy.  It’s still one-hit-and-you’re-dead.   And it can still require some precision dodging.  One segment almost went right into bullet hell territory.  But in comparison to what the game asks of you platforming-wise in the later levels, it’s a cakewalk.
            I know there were complaints when the game went from being a downloadable title to a retail release.  These were ridiculous.  Not only does the game have 10 worlds full of levels, but there’s plenty of replayability here.  For one, on each stage (non-Moskito stage, the standard from now on) there’s two hidden Electoon cages that you can find.  Getting enough of the Lums in a level also earns you an Electoon, along with completing the time trial for a level.  Getting enough Electoons unlocks the chests, which are HELL IN AN AUTOSCROLLING STAGE.  If the main game doesn’t break you, these little levels (which can easily be finished in under 2 minutes once you get them right) will.  And getting all of these unlocks the Land of the Livid Dead.  Which no, I did not unlock.  On a related note, though, there’s no achievement for beating the game, but there is one for beating the Land of the Livid Dead.  I normally try not to bring up achievements in reviews, but screw you, UbiSoft.  You didn’t even use all 50 achievement slots.  But yes, this is a full game.  This is not a downloadable title slapped on a retail disc.
            This is one of the must-have games for 2011.  It’s a completely unforgiving, tough-as-nails, make-you-curse-like-a-sailor platformer.  And I love it.  It doesn’t pretend to be nice, but it is fair once you learn it.  For all the times I was frustrated, I could never shake that feeling of “just one more level”.