Thursday, June 16, 2011
Review of GREEN LANTERN
Superhero films are all the rage right now. This couldn't be better for a comic book geek. I love superheros! And there is definitely not a shortage of comic book movies at the moment. I'm more familiar with Marvel than DC. I don't think I've read one GREEN LANTERN comic, though I do know about his character from various animated shows like SUPERFRIENDS, BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, and JUSTICE LEAGUE. I have noticed that he was one of the more serious heroes, who didn't really joke around too much. I was curious to see how the film adaptation would be, but got extremely nervous after I saw the first trailer, which didn't look very good.
The film opens spectacularly as we learn about the Green Lantern Corps, who are Guardians of the Universe that use the green essence of willpower to battle fear. Each sector in the universe has a Lantern. Then we meet Abin Sur who defeated the ultimate being of fear called the Parallax. Several lifetimes later, Parallax escapes, finds Abin Sur and mortally wounds him. Abin escapes to planet earth. It's there he finds Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a hot shot jet fighter pilot who likes to bang superficial blondes. Or I should actually say that Hal finds Abin, when his spaceship crashes into the ocean (though to be fair, Hal was brought there by a giant green bubble). The alien tells the shocked Jordan that the ring chose him. He takes the ring, and discovers he can do amazing things with it. When he puts it on, a costume and mask consume him. He can also fly.
I feel like I'm getting ahead of myself. There is also a girl in Hal's life, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) who work with Hal at the Air Force Base. After he screws up a simulated mission, Hal gets fired. He's irresponsible and kind of a self-appreciating jerk. Also in the mix is a scientist named Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), who is brought in to study the alien Abin Sur, after he dies in Jordan's arms. But something happened when he touched Abin. Somehow, part of the Parallax gets inside of Hector, slowing transforming him into an evil SOB. Meanwhile, Hal travels to the planet Oa and meets the head of the Corps, Thaal (Mark Strong), who informs him about his destiny. It's there where Hal trains with Kilowog, and discovers that with the ring, he can create anything that he thinks of (like swords, guns, brick walls, etc.). The earthling is reluctant to be a hero at first, but of course once Parallax threatens to devour Earth, he steps up to the task.
If you've been reading reviews of this movie, than you know that it's getting some of the most negative criticism of the year. I've seen may critics call this a train wreck, and one of the worst superhero movies in recent memory. Is it really that bad? No, not at all. So is it a good movie? Well, not exactly. There are many things that work, and many that don't. It's so much easier to review a movie if its just good or just bad, but this one is a mixed bag, which can be more frustrating than watching a terrible film.
What works: The opening is fantastic! Right away the audience is immersed into a Universe that is quite unique. The Parallax attack is riveting, and the design of Abin Sur's ship is awesome! Everything on the planet Oa works. The creature design of all the different alien Lanterns are astounding. There are a few frames containing 50 different types of creatures and I loved looking at all of them. My favorite one was the giant monster thing with one eye. My daughter's favorite was the Bee with the ring on his stinger. When Hal goes to Oa and trains is also great. It was pretty cool seeing him come up with different things to fight with, like a vindicator Mini-Gun. YES! The effects (even though some are cheesy) are very well done. Loved the Hot Wheels track! This also may be the best converted 3D film I have seen. It looked pretty good, though still unnecessary (2D is the way to go). The action sequences are handled very well by Martin Campbell, and he knows how to stage action (CASINO ROYALE, MASK OF ZORRO). Mark Strong does a great job as Thaal Sinestro, Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan do solid voice work as Lanterns helping to tutor the clueless Jordan. I thought the Guardians who watch the Universe were pretty awesome too, sitting on tall stone thrones. This film works best at introducing a world that is very "science-fiction geeky", and they make it so cool.
What doesn't work. Unfortunately, Ryan Reynolds is mis-cast. I always thought he would make a terrific FLASH (since he's a smart ass), but he doesn't give the dramatic weight needed for the GREEN LANTERN. Part of that blame goes to the writers, since Hal's written as more of a class clown than a serious hero. Would Hal really say "I know, right?", after he shows his friend his suit. It seems like they were trying to make him a bit of a playboy too just like Tony Stark, and then have him change his ways. But that arc is half baked. Doesn't quite work here, because I never felt that Jordan was fully developed in the first place, so there is just no emotional connection to the character. Blake Lively is not a talent actress, but she doesn't derail the film. She does an okay job, acting wise, but I just couldn't buy that some artificial looking bimbo with fake tits and high heels would be the head of an Air Force operation. It's almost as bad as Tara Reid trying to be a rocket scientist in ALONE IN THE DARK. Peter Sarsgaard's Hector is extremely underdeveloped. When it's revealed that he has a longtime crush on Carol and feelings of envy toward Hal, what was supposed to be villainous motivation seems to come out of nowhere. Sargaard's performance doesn't fit with the movie either. He's not bad, and maybe in David Lynch's Dune his eccentric, strange performance would seem at home, but it doesn't work here. Tim Robbins still hasn't proven that he deserved that Oscar back in 2003 (I don't think he deserved it then), as he portrays Hector's Senator father. His makeup and hair look ridiculous. Angela Bassett is completely wasted, and when did Jay O. Sanders start looking like shit? Also, while I liked James Newton Howard's main theme, too many times he resorted to the standard progressive electronic percussion sounds that Brian Tyler overuses in all of his scores.
The love story between Hal and Carol seemed shoehorned in, because that angle worked so well in SPIDERMAN and IRON MAN. The movie definitely didn't need it, but it also doesn't work because there is just no chemistry between the two characters. Every time the movie focuses on this aspect, it stops dead in it's tracks. The finale felt a bit rushed, and turns into a little like a Roland Emmerich film when Parallax starts destroying the world, and of course he starts in the city were Hal resides. Stupid. But the biggest issue, besides the little nitpicks, is that you don't really connect with Hal. That's why SPIDERMAN and IRON MAN worked so well, because we genuinely care for Peter Parker and Tony Stark. Hal Jordan is just an empty shell.
While I think there are moments in this that work better than anything in the overrated THOR (especially the stuff on Oa), it's not consistent enough to be successful. I probably can say THOR is better because at least it was the same way through out. The GREEN LANTERN's high and lows are much more extreme. I would say that this film is 50/50 good and bad. The stuff that works really works, but the stuff that doesn't work doesn't really work. If they make another one, I would recommend keeping most of the action in space and on planet Oa. I loved the Science Fiction aspect of this story, but everytime it went to Earth, it just felt generic.
This isn't a huge failure by any means. All of the elements were there to make an exceptional film. I think with a few rewrites, this could have been great. Unfortunately, Hollywood isn't patient enough to take it's time to make a quality film anymore. This could have been fantastic, but instead comes up a bit short. You were almost there guys.
**1/2 (out of ****)