Mission Log - Green Lantern, The Aristocats, Bright

Welcome to the first of my Bite-Sized Reviews! I'm throwing down brief thoughts on the three most recent films we've seen in a non-theatrical setting. Think of this as a journal entry from my road to watching every movie. Today I'm taking a quick look at a superhero flop, singing cats, and orcs on the force.


Green Lantern (2011)

Well, I'll just come out with it. Green Lantern is not a good movie. It would be easy to trash for its lousy special effects (That costume! That mask!) or impossibly silly villains, but I'll settle for casting barbs at its screenplay.

Green Lantern is utterly unambitious; it aspires only to execute on then well-established genre formula. Mediocrity is not criminal as long as it is competent, but Green Lantern neither does anything new nor seems to really understand the betters it seeks to mimic. A superhero movie is more than powers and a boss fight. As with any satisfying story, we want our hero to learn something, to change, to grow. This script is unburdened by such frivolities as character development or story arcs. Hal Jordan begins the film as a high flying ace, the best at what he does, and ends it the same way, only having traded his jet for a magic ring.

Does he learn anything? Not really. Infuriatingly, in a film where the villain is literally fear given form, it seems obvious to have your hero learn to face and overcome his own fears and doubts. The script seems vaguely aware of this. Early in the film, Hal, having flown a successful mission, suddenly becomes paralyzed by memory of his father's death in a plane crash (in an unintentionally hilarious scene, his father throws a thumbs up before exploding). Brushing off his troubled feelings, Hal tells his family its "my job to not be afraid." And that's that, it's never brought up again. Hal accuses others of giving into fear then saves the day without resolving any of the internal conflict, clumsy though it may be, that might make him an interesting character.

Anyway, it's got Ryan Reynolds, so that's good I guess.

Score: 2 of 5 of those who try to stop whats right burn like my power, Green Lantern's Light! 

The Aristocats (1970)

Here's a bit of colorful fun! It's probably among the weaker of Disney's earlier animated portfolio, but I'd be lying if I didn't catch myself chuckling as paint splattered kittens jump around on piano keys or compulsively humming O'Malley's theme tune a few days after watching the film. On the other hand, "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat" might be the worst Disney song of all time (I look forward to your letters) and that's before considering the sequence's abrupt veer into racist caricature.

Distasteful relic of a less sensitive time aside, I can see why the people who grew up with The Aristocats love it. The characters are cute and quotable (noted non-feline duo Napoleon and Lafayette made me laugh out loud more than once; they are good boys, yes they are). There's a good-natured silliness running through the entire adventure. Comparisons to One Hundred and One Dalmatians, which preceded The Aristocats by about a decade, are unavoidable; after all, both films feature cuddly pets escaping schemes to off them. The Aristocats is undeniably the simpler film and, having traded the very frightening Cruella de Vil for bumbling butler Edgar, is less scary, too, and so better suited for the very youngest children.

I always feel a twinge of loss watching the old Disney classics. Not to diminish the artistry of modern animation, but there's something amazing about hand drawn features and their little flaws. An errant sketch line is a momentary reminder of the human touch on every frame, each an imperfect labor of love.

Score: 3 of 5 kittens learning their scales and their arpeggios. 

Bright (2017)

And then there's Bright, a generic buddy cop movie spliced with generic fantasy tropes that would be mediocre but inoffensive if not for its tortured exploitation of real race issues on an ill-advised quest for relevance. The script, presumably a first draft written in crayon, is allergic to subtlety and so (rather than with skillful symbolism) presents an instantly recognizable caricature of America where black people have been essentially replaced by orc stand-ins, orcs which are universally depicted as blinged-out, baggy-clothed gangsta stereotypes (well, near universally - our hero orc cop is one of the good ones, I guess). Anyway, maybe watching cops beat and abuse thuggish orcs instead of brown people will jolt Joe America out of his All Lives Matter idiocy, but I somehow doubt it.

The film doesn't actually do anything with all this imagery, by the way. Bright isn't really about racism or racial injustice, the film just wants you to know it knows they exist. How very progressive.

If it feels like I'm harping on the point, that's because the rest of the film is entirely forgettable! I did enjoy the future-fantasy aesthetic and the interactions between Will Smith and Joel Edgerton. And that's all I got. I wouldn't not watch a sequel (I do not value myself or my time), but I definitely wouldn't re-watch this.

Score: 1.5 of 5 fairies brutally murdered while Will Smith exclaims "Fairy lives don't matter today!" (No really, that happens. Yikes.)


Thanks for reading! If you've seen any of these films and want to agree (or disagree) with my takes, I'd love to talk about it, so leave a comment or send an e-mail!

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