Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Movie Review: Green Lantern

Green Lantern (2011)

 Directed by: Martin Campbell

Written by: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, and Mark Strong

Running Time: 114 minutes

In the interest of full disclosure I should point out that I’ve been eagerly awaiting the Green Lantern movie for years now. Not necessarily the Green Lantern movie now in theaters, however. The movie I’ve been excited for is the script I’ve had in my head for several decades now and never did get around to putting on paper. But that’s where I’m coming from in attempting to review this movie.

Green Lantern is the story of Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a cocky and irrepressible test pilot for private defense contractor Ferris Air. His immediate supervisor is his sometimes-girlfriend Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), whose father is CEO. (And they wonder why he chafes at authority.) Hal’s life is quite suddenly turned upside-down by the arrival of Abin Sur, a dying fuchsia-skinned alien whose final act is to bestow upon Hal the power-ring, and attendant responsibilities, of the Green Lantern Corps.

The Corps, as it turns out, is a kind of intergalactic peacekeeping force. The ring uses a mystical green energy to physically manifest the will and imagination of its bearer. Dependent only on his strength of will, Hal can use the ring’s power to create anything he can imagine. It’s the ultimate story of “With great power comes great responsibility.”

But Hal has never been the responsible type. When his best friend Tom Kalmaku (Taika Waititi) quips, “Maybe in their language ‘responsible’ just means ‘a—hole’,” Hal responds soberly, “I sure hope so.” But, as he will eventually find out, “responsible” in this case means saving Earth, the Corps’ homeworld Oa, and by extension the Universe at large, from the giant space-squid Parallax which feeds off of the fear of its victims before proceeding to destroy their planets and wipe out their civilizations.

As the story of Hal’s maturation from loose cannon to enthusiastic space-cop, the movie generally hits all the right notes. But as a space-opera, it falls flat. The Green Lantern comics have roughly fifty years’ worth of accumulated mythology, and the film tries to cram too much of it into this one movie. The effect is much like trying to get into Star Wars starting with Phantom Menace instead of the original trilogy. If you're not already a rabid fan (and quite possibly even if you are), you might find yourself wondering why you're supposed to care.

As a super-hero story it barely registers. What I found missing most of all from this film was the giddy sense of a hero coming into his powers. With everything the writers took from the comic’s expansive history, they seem to have overlooked one basic tenet which every GL origin story I’ve ever read takes for granted: throwing your hero into action before he has the least idea what he’s doing or is even capable of, making him learn on the fly, makes for good drama.

Think back to Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie, the scene in which a young Peter Parker first launches himself into the Manhattan skyline to swing from rooftop to rooftop. It’s one of the most engaging moments ever to come out of the super-hero movie genre because it lets us share in the euphoric terror of a once-ordinary guy discovering in the heat of the moment the extent of his new powers. Green Lantern has no scene like that, though it sorely needs it.

The movie is certainly entertaining. It starts strong, it ends well. It comes unraveled somewhere around the middle, but manages to pull together for a fairly satisfying conclusion. But there is a lot of wasted opportunity there. Green Lantern, with his ability to give substance to the whims of his imagination, should be one of comicdom’s most visually dynamic super-heroes. Green Lantern the movie just feels visually apathetic.


Beam Me Up said...

I saw the anime GL treatment and it sounds like it worked better than the movie. Hal starts off on the wrong foot just trusting the wrong people but manages to fumble his way to an acceptable version of a GL cop. I may have seen the better of the two.

Homer said...

At least it doesn't sound like a total write-off. I'll buy it when it hits retail. As a kid Green Lantern and The Flash were two of my favorite of the 'tier two' superheroes at DC.

You have to admit that both Marvel & DC have had their share of real turkeys when porting superheroes to the big screen.

I still haven't seen The Green Hornet because I can't find it for $.50 on Amazon.

I have both attempts at The Hulk, both of which I have never watched because everyone said they sucked sooooo bad.

I do own Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. Yes, I admitted it. You have to admit Alicia Silverstone looked good in that costume!!

However, I am proud to say that I do not own Superman III, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace or Supergirl (even thought I thought Helen Slater was hot)!! Speaking of hot women - I do not own Catwoman either!!

I have Ghost Rider, watched it once. Gathering cobwebs. I did like the bike though!! Carry on Nick Cage.

Jonah Hex. Love the character in the comics. I thought the movie would have been a lot better if they had left out Megan Fox (or at least got a hottie that can actually act).

Of course, I also have all of the good flicks from the Superman, Batman, F4, X-Men, Iron Man, etc. franchises.

Now we have Thor and Captain America this summer with The Avengers, Justice League, the Spiderman reboot and the next Batman movies out there in some form of production. I wonder how many more characters from the Marvel and DC universes Hollywood will try to make a buck off of and how many will end up in the suck pile?

Beam Me Up said...

With you Homer. I will rent the blu-ray, just cause I like to what they included for extra entertainment. Directors comments are sometimes and often there are making of and out takes... sometimes it is worth the bother

JoshM said...

Homer, I too have yet to see Green Hornet, for much the same reason!

I actually really liked the first Hulk movie, the Ang Lee version with Eric Bana and Jennifer Connelly. I think the second attempt was a better reflection of the comics but the first was a better movie.