Zac Pensol

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On Captain America: An Open Letter to Warner Brothers Studios, authored by the Green Lantern (Part 1)
Posted by Zac Pensol on Sunday, July 24, 2011 at 9:58:44 PM

To Whom It May Concern-

Having just attended a screening of "Captain America", I was encouraged in writing to you to offer a few words.

Captain America made his debut in comic books in March of 1941, just under a year after the first appearance of my predecessor, Alan Scott, the first Green Lantern, in July of 1940, so, so-to-speak, the Captain and I have been known to the public for about the same amount of time.  Now, I suffer no illusions that Captain America was probably a little more well-known than me prior to our respective movies, but I maintain that our similar age, as well as our multitude of fans each, put us on a relatively similar level.  So, when it came down to our movies being competition-of-sorts in this summer's box office, I - as well as many others, I'm sure - assumed the 'winner' (in terms of audience favorite, which presumably would be reflected in the box office intake) would be a complete toss-up.  After all, while Captain may have been more popular, the visual brilliance of my powers and his lack thereof seemed to be an ace in the hole for me.  Especially with 3D (which seems made precisely for a movie about me) being so popular, it really did seem clear that a movie about me would sweep moviegoers off their feet.

So what happened?

Honestly, for me, it took a while for the 'Green Lantern' movie to sink in.  Of course I was a bit jaded going in (pun intended), so it really had to digest a few days.  But after those few days of really breaking it down and thinking about it, I came to realize that there was hardly anything, and I mean ANYTHING, redeemable about my film.  "Perhaps this is just in the nature of these types of movies!" I thought to myself.  I really wanted to like my movie, you see, but something just wasn't right.  So again I thought to myself, "Wait until you see Cap - see what they have in common - what ailments seem to befall both - and perhaps ALL - comic book movies and then, THEN you can truly judge 'Green Lantern' in proper context.", so I waited.

This brings me to this afternoon, wherein I saw "Captain America", and I must say - my thinking was correct, because 'Captain America' really helped me form my final opinion of 'Green Lantern': I hated it.

It takes a very large and specific amount of disdain to really *hate* something, ESPECIALLY a movie that is based on you.  Or maybe it's the other way around.  Regardless, I like to think of myself as a clearheaded individual, and there's no doubt that I do have a considerable amount of willpower and self-discipline (see the Green Lantern Corps selection process), so I'm confident that my opinion of this film is in no way biased - for or against - by the fact that it was based on me.

That said; let's discuss what 'Captain America' did right and what 'Green Lantern' did very, very wrong:

Character development:

In 'Green Lantern', we're introduced to "Hal Jordan" - cocky, lazy, self-seeking, haunted playboy.  Basically Tony Stark.  And for the record, had any of the screenwriters taken the time to, I don't know, talk to me before trying to capture me for the film, maybe they would have realized how unfitting and offensive their portrayal of me was.  I mean, I have my faults, I know, and I've certainly overcome many more since before getting the ring, but come on - if you're going to make me look like a jerk, at least give me some credit.  But this is all just an aside - the point is that you learn those things about "Hal" pretty early into the film... and then that's it.  Nothing further.  An added total of about 10 minutes was spent showing who "I" was, which was about all that was needed considering this was a cliché character-type that everyone has seen before.  No sense wasting time, eh?

 This was far from the case with ‘Captain America’, where about 70% of the movie was character development.  At first glance, this might seem a bit overdone and even, perhaps, boring, but the skill of the filmmakers prevented such tragedy.  You see, they recognized that for audiences to really love a character, they needed to get to know him, and so ‘Captain America’ spends a great deal of its runtime letting viewers into the mind and world of Captain, or, rather, Steve Rogers.  He’s a pathetic guy with aspirations that extend far beyond his capability, much like “Hal”, but the difference here is that people ACTUALLY CARE.

When it comes down to it, effects and humor are great, but they’re mere puddles of icing if there’s not a delicious cake for it to adorn.  Think about it this way: my associate, Guy Gardner, has the exact same power ring as I do.  No difference.  But if you ask anyone, they’ll say I’m the more powerful hero.  Why is that?  Because there’s more to me underneath that ring than there is him.  It’s my heart that makes me the endearing hero that I am (Sorry if you’re reading this, Guy, but I think you’ll see my point).  ‘Captain America’, both the film and the character, had a wealth of heart that viewers could see – ‘Green Lantern’, on the other hand, had none.

Special effects:

As I said before, when it comes to special effects, it seemed pretty clear to anyone, I’m sure, that ‘Green Lantern’ would stand miles above ‘Captain America’.  After all, my powers basically ARE CGI, how hard could it be to mess this one up?

I’ll start off by saying that the effects done on the obvious thing, my ring, were great.  They captured exactly as they needed to and my holographic hat is tipped to the animators who slaved away for hours working on those effects.  Had the movie consisted of those effects and only those, things would have been fine.  Problem is; they didn’t.  It was like the computer effects department got so high on what they were doing that they called up the camera men and props/set guys and basically said, “Chill out, I got this.”

Frankly put, many of the things in this movie just did NOT need to be computer generated.  The aliens?  Okay, maybe, even though some CGI-assisted puppets, ala ‘Jurassic Park’, probably would have been cheaper and looked more realistic, helping to ground the rather ‘out there’ movie into a little more believable territory.  The costume?  Totally unnecessary.  Again, maybe some assistance, making some cool green light radiate out from every seam would have been neat, but this was just overkill and – let’s face it – just an attempt to look cool since CGI is the ‘happening thing’ these days.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have ‘Captain America’.  A movie not without its share of CGI, sure, but done much more beautifully.  Instead of wasting their effects budget on computer-generating every tank, car and background, the filmmakers instead choice a more subtle approach.  Computer-ASSISTED imagery made up the entire first third of the film, sure, but the number of things completely created on computer were few and far between.

Now, you might be saying to yourself that this is all apples and oranges, that one can’t really compare a movie with virtually no need for CGI to a film that relied on it, but that’s precisely my point: ‘Captain America’ proves that a film doesn’t NEED CGI to work, that CGI should be used entirely as a tool and not a selling point.  Similarly, ‘Green Lantern’, proved that a complete over-reliance on cool effects was not enough to make for a great film.  Had the filmmakers of GL made the film as if CGI wasn’t even an option at first, perhaps they would have been forced to make a film that doesn’t need CGI, at which point the effects would be introduced, as they should be, as icing onto an already delicious cake.


Oh, shoot - trouble on Titan, I'll have to finish this later.  To be continued in Part 2.


Green Lantern of Sector 2814 out!


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ABOUT ZP!!!!!!!!!!!
First Year You Attended The MSC

Favorite Superman
90's animated version

Movies, comics, art, Christianity, catching goblins. Okay, I've never caught a goblin. Not sure what I'd do if I did. Make a stew?

Favorite Quotations
"I feel like I live in a world made of cardboard, always taking constant care not to break something, to break someone. Never allowing myself to lose control even for a moment, or someone could die. But you...You can take it, can't you, big man? What we have here is a rare opportunity for me to cut loose and show you just how powerful I really am."
-- Superman to Darkseid, 'Justice League: Unlimited' - "The Destroyer".

This whole comic issue:
Hitman #34 - After enduring a sobering tragedy, Superman is given some encouragement by a professional hitman.

"If you knew how you are loved, not one of you would raise a hand in rage again."
-- Superman, "JLA/Hitman #2", the follow-up to the above-linked comic.

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