Saturday, June 18, 2011

Green Lantern - Theatrical Review


Release Date: June 17, 2011

You gotta feel a little bad for DC comics. I mean the only two characters they control that anyone seems to really care about are Batman and Superman, one of which isn't as popular as some would think (here's a starts with an "S"). Now they have brought one of their lesser known properties to the big screen in a summer filled with Marvel's A-listers and given the quality of those other films, Green Lantern just feels like a lost opportunity for everyone involved.

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: AMC 12 Downtown Disney
Time: 10:00 am June 17, 2011
Projector Type: Digital 2D

Loves: ...ummm...the color green?
Likes: Ryan Reynolds, director Martin Campbell
Neutral: Sci-Fi comic book characters, Blake Lively
Hates: Shoddy CG work
Four: The number of superhero origin stories we have to sit through this summer

There was a point of revelation for me during the end credits for Green Lantern. It was a moment when I realized just how insignificant this movie really was despite the few scattered moments of enjoyment I got out of it. What was the catalyst for this epiphany you ask, well it was when the director's name came on screen. I had absolutely no idea that Martin Campbell was the man behind the curtain on this production. The reason for my astonishment at this was due to the fact that this was the same man that rebooted the James Bond franchise TWICE (Goldeneye, Casino Royale). Not that everything he has made has been gems though, cough....Vertical Limit....cough, but the guy knows how to direct action and this in after thought was kind of a good fit for the man. Which left me baffled at just how...blah everything felt from the pacing, the story elements, the action and most definitely the casting. While I wouldn't call Green Lantern a failure, I would call it unnecessary which may be the more damming statement actually.

Probably the first and most lethal mistake the film makes is with how it presents it's narrative. Instead of meeting our main character we first get introduced to a bunch of aliens, some prophecies and a good number of sectors throughout the universe that will mean absolutely squat to your average movie goer, such as myself. However, after those opening moments we finally make our way to sector 24...3.....5...?, ah well let's call it Earth shall we. After an alien loses a battle in space with a really pissed off and powerful ex-convict made of smoke and fear he crash lands on our planet where he calls upon his ring, an item that gives him his powers, to find a worthy replacement before he dies. It locates, captures and teleports a man by the name of Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) to his crash site where he quickly gives the ring to him and bestows upon him the power of the Green Lantern, a mystical force that harnesses a person's willpower and let's them manifest anything they can picture in their mind. Oh, and it let's them fly into space to other planets and stuff too.

Hal tries to power up his new ring.

But unlike other superheroes he isn't the only one with this power. During those opening moments we are told that there is an entire planet populated by what is called the Green Lantern Corps where a legion of beings from other worlds are located who have taken the oath to protect the universe from evil. I guess if you want to draw comparisons then you can think of these Green Lantern soldiers as the United Nations military...but more effective and they cover the entire universe. The politics and other goings on for their planet is briefly touched upon but I still got the feeling that there was a lot that was never explained about how this elite force is supposed to operate. I know that it isn't really important to know the particulars but it was just one of the many symptoms where I started to notice just how sloppy this film was put together.

I'm not sure if it was at the script level or the editing but there was just something off about how certain scenes lead into another and the characterizations. Take for instance when we first meet Hal, after waking up and finding a woman in his bed he realizes that he is late for work and rushes out the door leaving this damsel in distress. As he barrels down the highway to get to work he is manically wrapping what looks to be a gift of some kind and narrowly escaping a few collisions in the process. He of course makes it to work where he and his girlfriend(?) Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) promptly get suited up and head into the sky to help test some new type of drone fighters in a dogfight simulation. After a near death experience, a very questionable tactic that let his wingman Carol get shot down and a very ill timed flashback he is off to his nephew's for a birthday party. So, what is wrong with this sequence of events exactly?

Why is Hal so important again?

First of all with the apartment scene we see that he is a possible playboy or womanizer and it is implied that he is a gigolo which is in contrast to his feelings(?) for Carol. The way he pursues her later in the film makes it seem like she is the only one, but the cliched image of a man waking up in the morning next to a super model looking woman is in complete contrast to how Hal acts for the rest of the film which begs the question of what the hell were we supposed to derive from that moment? He never again is seen with another woman either so was that a onetime one night stand or what? I don't mean to put too much emphasis on such an insignificant moment but usually the first few minutes of a character introduction is supposed to give us some kind of idea of their personality. Which brings me to the dogfight simulation and probably the most confusing character set up in recent memory.

I understand that this scene is supposed to give us the impression that Hal is rash, uncompromising and full of himself but it works directly against what we (and Hal) are told later on to be his biggest issue to overcome...fear. Fear is the word of the day for Green Lantern with it being a sign of weakness in the Green Lantern Corps, the source of power for the giant evil space smoke cloud and the thing that corrupts the mild mannered scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard). The problem is the one thing Hal DIDN'T display during that simulation was fear, he attacked his targets without hesitation and even performed a daring aerial maneuver to defeat them. The only time he even showed any signs of fear was during the flashback to his father's death when he was a child and even then it was just an instance where he looked more lost in thought than afraid of anything. As a matter of fact the only real issue that I saw he needed to work on was to try and not be such a conceited ass. Then when he is accepted into the Lantern ranks they quickly tell him that he must lose his fear in order to be one of them...what fear are they talking about?

Poor Hector, he was just a victim of circumstance in the end.

I am sure that this all makes sense to anyone familiar with the source material but for someone like me who has no idea I was left with a big question mark above my head most of the time. Smaller issues revolve around scene order or placement as well. Going back to the scene I described once again, why is he in such a hurry to wrap a present for a party he isn't going to until hours later? Then again what was the purpose of even bringing up that he has a brother or nephew in the first place? They appear no where else in the film and add nothing to Hal's character that we didn't just learn during the dogfight sequence. It is literally the equivalent of having Aunt May from Spider-man appear in the beginning to never be seen or mentioned again for the remainder of the film. And in case you are wondering, the only reason I am beating this opening scene to death is because it contains almost every aspect of what I felt was wrong with the film.

Here is a little shocker for you though, the one thing that most everyone thought would be the problem with the movie is in fact it's greatest asset and that is Ryan Reynolds. Say what you will about the guy's choices in films but he is a very capable actor who has that rare quality of being able to do drama and comedy in believable ways. While I still hold true that he would make a much better Deadpool (if a proper film treatment is ever given to that character) he handles the character of Hal rather well despite all the scripting issues. I would say that he did surprisingly well acting against a green screen (or did they use blue for this one...hmmm?) most of the time but given that his last film had him contained within a box buried under ground the entire time I don't think he had much trouble here.

Yeah, you're pretty but what else can you do?

Peter Saarsgard did an admirable job in a role that should have had more focus put on it. The problem with the Hector character is that for being Hal's main adversary he doesn't really feel like the real super villain he should be. That is because of that space smoke creature floating around out in space that is using him as a henchman more or less. And while that makes sense in the storyline it unfortunately diminishes his effect as a suitable bad guy for the Green Lantern to face off against. They have a couple scenes where they clash though but just like another character I am about to bring up, Hector is so loosely connected to Hal's personal life before the craziness happens that it almost felt like an afterthought. They literally have one quick shot where they are standing next to each other and that's it, apparently we are supposed to understand all the years that Hector has longed for Carol and how frustrated he is that she only has eyes for Hal in that ten second scene.

Then we have Blake Lively as Carol, whew boy...where to begin. I can't deny her good looks and I really can't say one way or the other about her acting abilities but my god was she miscast here as the fighter pilot/love interest/corporate exec. I don't pretend to know who could have fit this part better but she just felt so out of place most of the time. Probably the worst offender of her casting is that she didn't have any real screen presence. Now I know she has her fans and this isn't so much a knock on her talent but more a jab at how poorly her character was implemented into the story. Whenever she was on screen I couldn't help but think to myself how little I cared about anything she said or did. That isn't so much the actor's fault as it is the script writer and director though.

Hal masters his fear...oh wait, it was already mastered.

The story itself is your everyday superhero origin story but for some reason it felt completely disjointed. Hal's journey of self-discovery comes across but only after laboring through all the messy bits strewn throughout. We are never given any reason to like the guy or even really root for him. The fact that he is just one out of a couple hundred thousand other Green Lanterns doesn't help either. I actually found the leader of the Green Lantern Corps, Sinestro (Mark Strong), to be a more compelling character. If there is one thing the poor world building director Martin Campbell did here it was to help me appreciate just how well done all the Asgard stuff was in Thor. In that film I understood everything I needed to about that reality in just under thirty minutes where as Green Lantern seems to be struggling through it's entire run time to explain how this universe works. While I did understand it by the end (I think...) it shouldn't take that long for me to settle into what is happening on screen.

I know that I have been spending a lot of time with my negative reactions to the film but truth be told there is some fun and inventive things to be found here but I have the feeling most of that had to do with the general conceits from the comic book. The Green Lantern's power itself is a really neat and exciting bit of fun with all the different things that Hal thinks up on the fly to either get himself out of a jam (two jet fighters strapped to his waist) or just for laying the smack down (an entire anti-aircraft gun battery). It is all kind of cartoonish in some respects but the visual effects and out of left field manifestations provided probably the film's best moments. And this may be a small bit of praise but I never got bored while watching Green Lantern, it may not have been put together very well but at least it went by fairly fast.

The Green Lantern power is cool and pretty unique.

I wanted to like this movie, I really did and although there were some really cool ideas at work it just didn't come together the way it should of in the end. The visual effects were decent with some really rough patches concerning the digital Green Lantern costumes, the acting was par for the course with most of the performances being undermined by a poor script that seemed kind of schizo when it came to characterizations and finally I just never really found myself caring about this world very much. The finale will leave most people scratching their heads (why didn't the other Lanterns want to help again?) and I never felt like anything really mattered. Ultimately Green Lantern will most likely please the built in comic book audience (there is no way this film is filled with all this crazy stuff and it wasn't in the comic) but I can't imagine it crossing that divide like Iron Man or Thor have done to bring in a new fan base. It just comes off as a little too silly for it's own good and because of that I would recommend anyone out there curious about it to....




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