Friday, June 17, 2011

Green Lantern Review

Green Lantern in essence is about a group of millennium old aliens, The Guardians that harnessed the greatest power in the universe, the green energy of willpower and with that power decided to create an intergalactic police force that would use this power bestowed to each of them within a ring to protect sections of the universe from evil. With said rings the wearer would be able to create objects out of thin air of whatever they could imagine, called constructs. These space cops would be part of the Green Lantern Corps and together they would patrol the universe and protect the innocent lives from whatever threatens their existence. With such a purely fun and grand scale fascinating idea it would be nearly impossible for Green Lantern to be a film completely devoid of fun or excitement, but yet here we are with a movie that not only completely avoids any semblance of entertainment but goes as far as to be painstakingly overproduced as if to say, but look at all the pretty colors.

Ryan Reynolds plays the titular hero, Hal Jordon an ace test flight pilot who is chosen by recently deceased Green Lantern Abin Sur’s ring to be the next Green Lantern. Our reluctant hero finds himself quickly tossed into the Green Lantern Corps on their home planet of Oa. And within 30 minutes the movie makes its first (of many) huge mistake, most of the mythology of Green Lantern is pretty detailed and complicated and the movie just relays all that information with giant info dumps and exposition speeches. It’s also quite jarring how quickly Hal Jordon goes thru this process, in 20 real world minutes he gets his suit, learns to fly, learns to create perfect constructs and promptly quits and returns to earth, uhh what? I nearly got whiplash keeping up with Hal Jordon, Ryan Reynolds is at the very least charming during the course of the movie and is immensely likable and keeps the mood fun throughout. Its a testament to his acting chops that he is able to actually make Hal Jordon a compelling lead, because the words that come out of his mouth are laughable, the dialogue is absolutely terrible. Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond in particular comes of really hokey and often seems like he is in the wrong movie.

While Hal Jordon is coming to terms with his new found power, there is a parallel story centered on Hector Hammond and his Senator father. Hammond is picked up by some government officials late one night and brought to examine an alien body, the very same that gave Hal Jordon his Green Lantern ring. The creature that killed Abin Sur infects Hammond and while performing the autopsy, this creature known as Parallax is the greatest enemy of the Green Lanterns and is the point of conflict for the THIRD story happening concurrently with the rest of movie, as it involves the second strongest Green Lantern Sinestro (Mark Strong) trying to convince the Guardians to let him track down and destroy Parallax. We later discover Parallax is the result of the Guardians harnessing a power even greater than Willpower, the yellow energy of Fear. And it is fear that unites all these stories, Jordon is fearful of dying and not living up to his father legacy and is therefore apprehensive of becoming a Green Lantern, Hammond is afraid of being ignored and feeling insignificant by everyone including his father, and the Green Lanterns and by association The Guardians are afraid that Parallax will destroy them all.

A movie this risky should have dropped at least one of these stories as it makes the movie feel overstuffed and forces some major things to be underdeveloped. The relationship between Hammond and … anybody is frequently frustrating as the film makers make it very clear he has had a past relationship with Hal Jordon and his on again off again girlfriend Carol Ferris, yet it’s never explained. Same goes for Hammond and his father who is the catalyst for Hammond becoming full on evil and embracing the alien infection to gain its powers of telepathy and telekinesis. So when Hammond breaks down and starts killing people it means nothing and ends up being a contrived reason for Hal Jordon to have someone to fight mid way through the movie. It’s sad because you can envision a scenario where Hammond’s entire journey into becoming this big headed monster only because of years of being overlooked and overshadowed finally came to a boil. Instead its meaningless and boring and takes away from other parts of the movie that could have used more time on screen.

I want to say that for the amount of money that was thrown at this movie the special effects are laughable and inexcusable in this day and age. Most of the time things look like they don’t belong and stand out, Oa in particular including all the myriad of different alien species look just plain unfinished. Ryan Reynolds head appears floating since his entire suit is CG along with several environments throughout the movie and it looks bad. A movie with such variety and wonder could have looked beautiful instead everything has the same few colors tones, green, purple, some blue and in general looks plain. Parallax is a giant smoke monster in space, and it looks about as stupid as it sounds, with a creepy little head that pops out of the mess of smoke to suck the life (?) out of anything in its path.  

I want to be clear, Green Lantern is far from a complete failure, quite contrary it has many shining moments of brilliance, but they only stand to make the rest of the movie look worse. There are constant sparks of potential, including Sinestro who is genuinely compelling whenever he is on screen and makes you want to watch a movie where he goes around with a gang of Green Lanterns kicking ass. Constructs are almost always inventive and imaginative, including race cars, mini guns, giant nets and springs. The all too brief training sequence was starting to get fun but they needed to fast forward to when Hal Jordon is a complete badass who doesn’t need any help. Which brings me to another problem, everything is to easy for Hal Jordon Green Lantern within the comic books was never about being an unstoppable force that can overcome anything, I mean they are the Corps for a reason, and yet never do the rest of Green Lanterns come to help Jordon and why would they, he defeats everyone with ease and in turn makes all conflict boring. 

I am hesitant to even say this but, I think a sequel could improve on a lot of the flaws, and bring out those shining gems that are so obviously buried deep down within this movie. Ryan Reynolds is amiable, and the few Green Lanterns we spend more than 10 seconds with have potential. Tomar Re, Kilowog and Sinestro especially could be a ton of fun to watch kick ass alongside Hal Jordon. But this movie suffers from a poorly written overstuffed script that never ignites any real joy or excitement out of the audience. I would not go as far as to call it a miserable failure but it defiantly squanders most of its potential. Watch at your own risk, or if you’re a huge fan of the comics. 

(2 out of 5)

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