Saturday, 23 March 2013

Green Lantern

In brightest day, in blackest night... don't ever, ever watch this shite.

With a new Justice League film in the pipeline, I thought it might be interesting to revisit the 2011 Green Lantern - seeing as it potentially will tie into the DC universe in the same way that Iron Man, The Incredible HulkCaptain America and Thor tied into the enormous success that was The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble  if you're unfortunately like me and British). I had high hopes when I started the film again, thinking to myself: okay, it can't be that bad. That's what I hoped.

Green Lantern stars Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, an army fighter pilot come daredevil come ladies man who, after encountering a fatally wounded alien, is entrusted with one of the greatest honours in the universe: joining the Green Lantern Corp. The film then its pretty predictable: Hal joins the Corp, doesn't want to be a part of it, but in true fashion American Style, finds the courage to save Earth and become accepted by his fellow lanterns.

Let's talk about the one saving grace of the film: Ryan Reynolds. I know he has done a few iffy films in the past (*cough* Just Friends *cough*), but I think he pulled off the role really well. He captured the hedonistic and fearless essence of Hal Jordan, and if he is to be included in the new Justice League film, then I am confident that he will do a great job.

Okay, with that done, let's get started with the bad things. Firstly,  I felt that the villain of the film, Parallax, was wasted. I'm sure there are die hard fans of the comics that would argue that this was an accurate portrayal of the yellow entity, but to me, it looked like a form of explosive diarrhoea with a head - something that most hungover people think is arguing with them when they void their bowels on a Saturday morning. Another problem with the film other than 'Space diarrhoea Godzilla', is that the film is too short. The personal struggle of Hal coming to terms with taking on this immense task is highlighted but never fully developed, meaning that there is a lot of wasted potential. I'm not saying that the film should mirror the same personal conflicts that we saw in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, I just felt that Jordan's story was never real enough for the audience to connect with him. When you watched Nolan's films, they hurt; you felt Bruce Wayne's struggle. In this, however, it feels as though it doesn't even try.
I know it's a film and I know that there isn't a green army of space police watching over the universe, but if this happened to any normal person - I mean a purple alien giving you a ring that looks like it came out of a cracker and asking you to join a secret band of space warrior - I am sure the response wouldn't be to just accept that this is what you must do. But in this film, it doesn't seem to phase Jordan, even when he is on the alien planet Oa being trained by Kilowog (voice by the late and great Michael Clarke Duncan). If someone I know asks me to do them a favour, I even have to think whether I can be bothered, let alone doing something on the magnitude of joining the Corp.

If this had been the first official film in a Justice League saga - in the same way Iron Man kicked off The Avengers Phase One, then I wouldn't be holding out much hope. I'll admit it's not the worst film ever, but with a poor script and flimsy plot, not even a magic power ring could make it better.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

HFR reviewed

As many of you know, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been in cinemas for some time now. I saw it the first weekend it released, but due to the chaos that is Christmas and feeling rather lethargic after over-indulging on mince pie and an array of unhealthy food, I didn’t have time to review it. Not that it’s an issue, as I am sure that you could find many review dotted all over the web with people expressing their love or hatred for Peter Jackson’s return trip to Middle Earth. I previously saw the film only in 2D, however, today I to take a return trip to Middle Earth and see the film again in 3D HFR. HFR, or High Frame Rate, intends to make the visual experience as real as possible, increases the speed of the frames from 24 per second to 48 per second. The result is a more lifelike and fluid looking film, narrowing the gap between reality and making what the audience see feel real.

After hearing the mixed reviews that the preview footage received, I was not too bothered about seeing An Unexpected Journey in HFR. After seeing the film today in the different format, I can see why people had their concerns. There is no denying that the visual scenery of New Zealand Earth is breath-taking, making it look as though the film is a documentary of Thorin and Company’s quest to Erebor through Middle Earth. However, this realism, when applied to the CGI and the actors, doesn’t look as cinematic, making it harder for the audience to suspend their disbelief. At times I was watching and could tell when the actors were on a set and not on location; I could see the contact lenses in characters eyes and could tell when they were standing against a green screen. Just like the Uncanny Valley theory in 3D technology and robotics, the attempt at making the film as realistic as possible ultimately causes the audience to feel manufactured and artificial, thus making it impossible for the audience to believe in what they are seeingFor me HFR is like caviar: it’s high quality and is provided for those who like to overspend on simple things; you enjoy it for a short while but when you realise what it is actually consists of (namely fish eggs) you’re not as keen on it as you thought you were. I would go as far to say it looks like shit but that’s a bit harsh on the film, seeing as caviar really does look like shit.

For me, my first experience watching a film in HFR feels very much like the first time I watched my first 3D film – which was Avatar (2009) if anyone cares. Personally I am not a big fan of 3D. It is a gimmick that intends to provide the audience with something unique but ultimately fails to deliver the desire effect. However, if it is done well and does not include scenes with blatant and overt uses of the technology – like some of the effects in The Final Destination with blood-covered poles and champagne corks popping out into the audience like you’re watching a 3D short film at an amusement park – then 3D does have its good points.  The same can be said for HFR: it’s clunky, unnecessary, and the film can be enjoyed far more without it. However, as I said before, if it is done well – as in the case of An Unexpected Journey – then it is a brilliant cinematic experience. Yes, there were occasion where the film felt fake and contrived, but I can’t deny the beauty of some of the imagery and sequences and the way they were shot – including the escape from Goblin Town and the Stone Giant battle which are much more exciting to watch in both 3D and HFR. I will say that when The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again are released, I intend to see both in 2D first to appreciated the story, then HFR 3D to enjoy the visual experience. 
Perhaps HFR may not be the future of cinema, but it is a superb visual treat nonetheless. As Gandalf said to Bilbo, every good story deserves embellishment.