Friday, June 17, 2011

Green Lantern The Movie: A Review

To sum the movie up in one word, disappointing.

With all of the talent involved this should have been a home-run. Instead they took one of the most basic superhero origin stories there is and managed to make it more complicated even while dumbing it down.

Suffice it to say, if you're a Green Lantern purist, you'll likely be pissed off by the liberties taken. Even more liberal fanboys like me, who understand that sometimes these changes have to be made, will wonder exactly WHY certain changes were made when the changes don't make much more sense than what was in the original books.

Still, the movie has much to recommend it. The biggest problem is that the excellent cast is poorly utilized with nobody getting much in the way of screen time or development, except for Hal who is earnestly played by Ryan Reynolds, though the script - penned by four actors - leaves Hal Jordan seeming more schizophrenic than conflicted.

And yet - despite all this - I liked it. I didn't love it. And it's nowhere near as good as I'd hoped. But I'd say it's worth seeing on the big screen because the effects ARE amazing. The movie isn't anywhere as bad as it's being made out to be by some critics but I can't really say it's that great. It's a popcorn movie. Nothing more.

For massive spoilers, read on.

I know several Green Lantern purists will be offended by some key elements of the mythos that have been changed. In this version, for instance, Parallax is a rogue Guardian consumed by the power of Fear. In this version, rather than being wary of any emotional energy but Will, The Guardians refined the power of Fear but decided against using it after what happened to Parallax. And the idea that any single Green Lantern like Abin Sur could contain a rogue Guardian... preposterous!

Really, these changes are inconsequential. It matters not just how Parallax came into being so long as he is a monster made of pure fear, who feeds on the fears of others. It matters not just how the Yellow Energy gets created, so long as it is there for Sinestro to claim one day after his fall from grace. Do you really think we can easily explain way the Anti-Matter Universe, The Planet Qward and the Weaponeers without becoming as bogged down in continuity as the David Lynch version of Dune?

What matters, as always, is character. Sadly, Green Lantern is lacking in that regard.

The biggest problem with Green Lantern: The Movie is that it is the very definition of a plot driven story, where characters motivations and actions will change on the spin of a dime because that's what the story says happens.

Hal Jordan is portrayed as being a brave - if foolish and reckless - young man... right up until the point the plot requires him to have a crisis of faith in his own abilities.

Sinestro is portrayed as a cold but courageous leader who insists on handling everything personally... right up until the point the script requires him to start doubting The Guardians and their power and for him to refuse to help a rookie Lantern whose ability he doubts.

Carol Ferris is a confident, all-business professional... right up until the script calls for her to start cooing like a schoolgirl. Well, I think that was the intent. With Blake Lively, it's kind of hard to tell as she spends most of the movie looking like a school girl playing at being a tough business woman.

Apart from her, the cast is excellent - though wasted. Michael Clarke Duncan is perfectly cast as the Green Lantern drill sergeant Killowog... for all of the two minutes he is on screen. Ditto Tomar-Re and Mark Strong as Sinestro. Perhaps strangest of all is Angela Bassett as Amanda Waller - a name which has a lot of significance to long-time DC Comics fans... though you'd never know the importance of the name from the way her character is treated here.

Ryan Reynolds is a great Hal Jordan, with his portrayal being reminiscent of Mark Waid's take on the character in Justice League Of America: Year One - a confident hotshot who romances, drives and flies without fear. He is Maverick from Top Gun on speed. At least for the first 20 minutes of the movie...

As I said, the script leaves a lot of the characters in a very schizophrenic state. Hal is a man-child who never grew up, has one night stands, drives recklessly and endangers his livelihood and his life at work. He seems completely fearless... until the point when he is supposed to have a crisis of faith and have long talks with his semi-girlfriend about how he can overcome his fears.

The script tries to throw fanboys various bones, with scenes where we see Hal's troubled family life, his close relationship with a nephew who worships him and a flashback where we see Hal's greatest defining moment - the death of his father in a plane crash. But as nice as these touches are and as good as they are at humanizing Hal past being a typical cocky jerk protagonist, nothing is done with these characters or these concepts save to show that Hal is a decent guy under all his attitude.

Another weakness of the script is how very little of it makes sense. In the opening scenes, Ferris Aircraft is trying to sell drone planes to the US Military, claiming that they can do anything a human pilot can do and do it better. Given that, why are they pitting their own pilots against the drones? Wouldn't the USAF insist on putting their own pilots against the drones, if for no other reason than - oh, I don't know - the pilots working for the company selling the drones might not be objective in the field?

And honestly - there is no good reason for Hector Hammond to be in this movie. None whatsoever. He's not an A-List Green Lantern villain, even if Geoff Johns DID include in him the latest retelling of Secret Origin. The make-up for the character looked ridiculous and inspired laughter in the crowd of teenagers I saw the movie with, who were otherwise silent for the rest of the film, shockingly enough. And really, his acting as a beacon for Parallax adds nothing to the movie. You could have just as easily had Parallax key in on the ring that imprisoned him - i.e. The one Hal is wearing now - and have him decide to attack Earth that way.

And if I may allow myself one fanboy nitpick? The idea that he somehow develops telepathy and telekinesis from touching a bit of Parallax that was in Abin Sur's body is far more ridiculous than his origin in the comics, where he developed superpowers after being exposed to the radioactive core of an alien spaceship.

That beind said, is there anything about the movie I did like? Well, yes...

Ryan Reynolds does a good job with Hal, despite the weaknesses in the script and he totally sells the funny parts as well as the sheer joy as he learns the powers of the ring. The bit where he first flies under his own power is magical.

Most of the cast is good, for what little time they are on screen.

The effects are top-notch and raise the bar for CGI in superhero movies.

And I've had a few people text me already asking which Green Lantern stories I'd recommend since - after seeing the movie - they want to read some of the books. Any comic adaptation that encourages people to seek out the source material can't be that bad.

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