Thursday, June 16, 2011

EARLY REVIEW: GREEN LANTERN


Here's hoping that Green Lantern does not represent a new direction that Warner Bros. will be taking with its movies based on classic DC Comics characters. It’s not a terrible film. Nor is it a good one. It is completely, thoroughly, utterly mediocre. I can barely summon up the energy to write about it, it made such little impact on me.

Sticking close to the comic-book lore from which it was derived, the film tells the story of how daredevil test pilot Hal Jordan, played here by Ryan Reynolds, comes into possession of an alien power ring that grants its user amazing powers. Soon, Jordan finds himself the newest—and the first human—recruit in an intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps, made up of thousands of life-forms large and small, all sworn to uphold peace and justice throughout the universe.

Jordan, a reckless, unreliable, overly confident scoundrel, is chosen for this responsibility thanks to his ability to overcome great fear—which will come in handy when he must face Parallax, an immensely powerful creature that feeds on that particular emotion.

The movie gets some points for not deviating too much from the source material, which, as longtime comic-book readers know, is bursting with imagination, action, drama, and fun. Longtime Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns, who serves as a co-producer on this film and was recently appointed Chief Creative Officer of DC Comics, reinvigorated the character several years ago with his Green Lantern: Rebirth limited series and continues to produce compelling GL stories to this day. So it was wise for the filmmakers to bring Johns into the fold and to not muck around too much with the established canon.

But I have to imagine that for people unfamiliar with the mythos, the voiceover narration at the very beginning of the film that explains the overall backstory will just be complicated gobbledygook.

Even worse, there’s nothing really compelling, imaginative, or fun in this movie. There’s no real sense of wonder. For example, when Hal is first transported to the wondrous planet Oa—the main headquarters of the Green Lantern Corps—and surrounded by alien life-forms the likes of which he could never possibly have imagined, he should be totally overwhelmed and in absolute awe. Instead, he reacts as if he simply woke up in a strange girl’s bedroom and is now meeting her somewhat eccentric roommates.

There’s just no spark of life here. No heart. No soul. No wit. There is nothing emotionally engaging. All of the characters are woefully underdeveloped, to the extent where I challenge moviegoers to give the slightest damn about any of them.

The cast is fine—Reynolds was a good choice for Hal. Blake Lively is decent as Hal’s on-again, off-again girlfriend (and boss) Carol Ferris. And the production was lucky to get Peter Sarsgaard, who can play both the most honorable protagonists and the sleaziest villains, for the role of Hector Hammond, a tragic figure who emerges as a major threat. But they’re all let down by a weak, shallow, by-the-numbers script that makes only the most token attempts to infuse the characters with any depth.

And that goes for the members of the Green Lantern Corps too. The fishlike Tomar Re does little more than deliver exposition. He has no personality whatsoever. Kilowog, the GL drill sergeant and one of the most popular characters from the comic books, fares slightly better, but little is done with him, aside from a training sequence that drags on and isn’t nearly as amusing as the filmmakers apparently intended.

Parallax, the main villain, is not much more than special effects, noise, and clich├ęd threats. Even his look is a big ho-hum—the filmmakers would have been much better off using the visual from the comic books.

Of all the characters in the film, the only one who even comes close to being interesting, multi-dimensional, and downright cool is the purple-skinned, pointy eared Sinestro, a senior member of the Green Lantern Corps. Played by Mark Strong, perhaps best known as the main villain in 2009’s Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr., Sinestro is arrogant, stubborn, and noble. When he’s onscreen, you can’t take your eyes off him, and you wish more would be done with him.

The CGI, and there is plenty of it, ranges from somewhat impressive to shockingly unconvincing. As for the 3D—if, after reading this, you still intend to see this movie, at least save yourself a few bucks and see the standard 2D version. Aside from a few green beams of energy that seem to shoot out into the audience at the very beginning, I didn’t notice a whole lot done with the 3D that warrants seeing the film in that format.

Green Lantern could have (and should have) been another Iron Man, with a charming, funny, likable, flawed hero overcoming great challenges—including his own personal shortcomings—and surrounded by appealing supporting characters. I get the sense that director Martin Campbell and his team were aiming for something along those lines, and maybe they thought they had it on paper, but somehow, it just didn’t make it onto the screen.

I can only hope that the makers of next year’s Superman: Man of Steel will look at Green Lantern as an example of what not to do.

5 comments:

  1. Sad to hear it. I'm not going to be able to see it until next Wednesday and I'm not looking forward to it anymore, but I have to see it in order to be able to write about it from an informed point of view.

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  2. Glenn, I'm a little disappointed that you couldn't include the fact that your friend who saw the movie with you fell asleep, which he has never before done in a movie theater. Sure I was tired, but nothing that I saw made me want to fight to stay awake!

    I particularly like your observation about Hal's arrival on Oa. Good stuff! Was shocked to see the Star Ledger's positive review of the movie this morning. Three stars! Mostly on the merits of what separates Hal from other super heroes: Superman was born to be super, Batman decided to be super. Spider-Man accidentally became super. Green Lantern was CHOSEN.

    A reasonable rationale for Green Lantern's quality as a distinct hero. But in my eyes, not enough to make a compelling flick.

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  3. Here's the single most important question: Was G'nort in it? :)

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  4. Bunche--
    You have been warned!

    Matt--
    That's your story to tell!

    J.M.--
    I looked for him, but there were too many GLs to sift through in the crowd scenes. And I ain't going back again to see if he actually made it into the film. Sorry! :-)

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  5. ill still see it this week, but thanks for the warning. I enjoyed drawing GL as a kid, and I think Reynolds is pretty genuine on screen.

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