Monday, June 20, 2011

Green Lantern Review

It can be a little heartbreaking when something you have spent months looking forward to does not measure up to your vision of what could have been. Case in point, the Green Lantern feature film which finally saw its big screen release this past weekend following weeks of cheer inducing advertisements promising a superhero movie on par with the best of them. This past Thursday night some friends and I went to the special midnight screening of “Green Lantern.” As an avid reader of the comics my expectations were high going in. I wanted to be enthralled by the discovery of exotic alien worlds, I wanted to root for the main character, Hal Jordan, as he is bequeathed one of the most powerful weapons in the universe and humbled to change his reckless, self-destructive ways, I wanted to marvel at the pantheon of alien warriors comprising the sacred brotherhood of the Green Lantern Corps, I wanted the movie to be as good as Star Wars, no, better than Star Wars, and saunter out of the theater with an ear to ear grin, thrilled by the cinematic wonders I had beheld and confident it would spawn several sequels and spur the production of other feature films for B list DC characters like The Flash, Wonder Woman, Hawkman, etc.
However, as I sat in the darkened theater when film concluded and the credits started to role, I felt a ripple of sadness wash over me for the optimism which, just a short time earlier, had seemed boundless. While by no means a bad movie, Green Lantern, to me, skirted by as slightly above average. Nothing so bad as to make one heave their fists in the air in spiteful condemnation, and nothing so good as to leave one starry eyed and wonderstruck, wanting, no, needing to return for a second and maybe even third viewing. No, it was just slightly above average, and when one considers this fact in light of the stellar cast and immensely talented film crew who appeared to have worked tirelessly to bring emerald avenger to life, the dissapointment seems even more wounding.
To summarize the plot, the movie is pretty much your classic superhero origin story whose main character, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a cocky test pilot with little regard for his own safety and a trove of unresolved daddy issues is chosen by a dying alien being whose space ship crash lands on earth to protect all of sector 2814, a quadrant of space including our own milky way galaxy as a member of the Green Lantern Core, an elite, intergalactic police force comprised of extra-terrestrial beings from every known planet whose job it is to maintain the tenants of peace and justice in a chaotic, volatile universe. The movie chronicles Hal’s journey as he is inducted into the Corps, given a crash course in ring slinging by veteran Lanterns Kilowag (Michael Clark Duncan), and Sinestro (Mark Strong), faces his first major adversaries in the form of Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a xenobiologist who gains telekinetic powers and descends into madness after being infected by alien tissue and Parallax, a giant, multi limbed monstrosity who absorbs the fear of others to sustain it’s life-force, violently sucking them dry and leaving them as lifeless husks in it’s wake.
Taking a moment to focus on the good aspects of this movie, and despite the negative slant of my review thus far, believe me, there are good aspects. The cast, for one, is top notch. Despite being the center of many a fan-boy complaint against the decision of his casting I thought that Ryan Reynolds did a fine job portraying the irresponsible test pilot turned dedicated superhero Hal Jordan. With a confident stride and mischievous smile, Reynolds effortlessly manages to capture Hal’s roguish charm and devil may care attitude until the call to serve as a Green Lantern gives him a higher purpose to strive toward.
Blake Lively surprised me at how capable of a job she was able to do as Carol Ferris, Hal’s boss and ex-girlfriend who is conflicted between her feelings for Hal and the myriad responsibilities of running the family business alongside her father. Despite her numerous detractors whose reviews I looked at I think she was the right choice for the part and was fine with her.
Peter Sarsgaard gave a memorable performance as the film’s humongous headed antagonist, Hector Hammond, loosing all sense conscience and empathy after his exposure to Parallax leaves him contaminated and deformed, Sarsgaard manages to be equal parts frightening, repulsive, and a little sympathetic as well.
Even though he is only in the film for a short time, Temeura Morrison was pitch perfect as Abin Sur, the Green Lantern whose final act of heroism turns out to be the most crucial as he passes on his power ring to Hal Jordan in his last moments before dying.
In my opinion however, the true standout of the cast was Mark Strong as the greatest of all the Green Lanterns, Sinestro. Even with pointy elf ears and magenta colored skin, Strong inspires an almost reverential sense of gravitas in every scene he’s in and his whole performance seems to crackle with raw power and energy.
Hands down my favorite scene in the movie was the duel on Oa between Sinestro and Hal as part of the latter‘s training. The animosity between the two is palpable and it was interesting to see the much more seasoned Lantern just completely dominate the young rookie whom he believes to be unworthy of the power ring owned by his best friend and mentor.
If the entire movie had been comprised of incredible scenes like this, Green Lantern probably would have been able to give even The Dark Knight a run for it’s money. But as it is, the appealing aspects of the film are weighed down by some poor CGI and a problematic script that prevents the superhero from ever truly setting soar.
Clocking in at an hour and forty five minutes the story just feels rushed and abrupt in a lot of places and the overall film seems to suffer because of it. I would especially have loved for some of the scenes involving Hal on Oa interacting other Green Lanterns to be given more time than they were. As it is, comic book favorites like Kilowog and Tomar Re are wasted as little more than background and even Sinestro, whose relationship with Hal remains one of the most complex in arguably all of comics is frustratingly shortchanged when it comes to screen time. We are informed that every Green Lantern responsible for protecting their own specific quadrant of the universe yet disappointingly, the film seems content to spend much of its time earthbound and Oa is the only real alien world the audience is ever able to visit. It is little things like this that add up and make the movie a missed opportunity.
I really think that a lot of the aforementioned problems could have been corrected if the filmakers had chosen to do away with the whole Hector Hammond storyline. Even though I liked Sarsgaard in the part, I thought the character was really unnecessary in relating the origin story of Green Lantern and it seemed that his main purpose was just to supply an earthly foil for Hal to do battle with.
The CGI was kind of hit and miss for me. Some things, such as the green constructs and the uniform, itself meant to be a fixture of light created by the ring, looked great, Oa looked pretty good, if not a bit too computer generated, the same can be said for the motley assortment of alien species who proudly carry the Green standard. On the other hand I thought the giant squiddy, cloudlike redesign for Parallax was pretty unconvincing and I probably would have preferred something more along the lines of his reptillian/insectoid look in the comics. The Guardians as well just looked too computer generated to me, not to mention the first time we see them is just so arbitrary and really lacks the oomph needed for the audience to take them seriously. These are, after all, the oldest most powerful beings in the universe.
These are a few of the most glaring flaws I found the movie to be hampered by and I could probably go on to list more but I really want to conclude this review on a positive note and give credit were credit is deserved. Though sadly not the sci-fi masterpiece it could have been Green Lantern is nevertheless a fun, leave your brain at the concession stand crazy train of a movie that to my satisfaction largely manages to remain faithful to its comic book roots. Though not the brightest day many of us were hoping for, at least we have been shown a glimmer of something.


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