Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Green Lantern - Movie Review

Better late than never is what I say, and although it may seem like it has come and passed already for many of you, the Green Lantern movie only opened here in Spain this month. Despite some of the bad reviews I had seen on different places (and because tickets were cheap), I decided to give the movie a try. What did I think about it? Hit the jump to see the review.

Green Lantern

Directed by Martin Campbell
Story by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim & Michael Goldenberg
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, and more.

The Plot

The story of Green Lantern is divided into two main sections, one dealing with the earthbound affairs of pilot Hal Jordan, a cocky and confident twenty-something, and the other one dealing with the cosmology of the Green Lantern Corps, a space organization that has been around for millennia. Throughout the whole movie, these two aspects crash (literally) into each other as Abin Sur, a member of the Green Lantern Corps, dies in planet Earth and gives his power ring to Hal Jordan. As readers of the comic book are well aware, a Green Lantern ring powers off the will power of its wearer, being able to produce all kinds of energy constructs. Hal Jordan must join the Corps in fighting a galactic villain known as Parallax, which threatens to destroy planet after planet. Along the way, Hal comes across all kinds of allies and enemies, such as Sinestro and Dr. Hector Hammond, while dealing with his troubled relationship with Carol Ferris.

In Brightest Day...

If I had to pick the strongest aspect of this film, it would have to be the cast. Though I was one of the people that questioned the wisdom of getting Ryan Reynolds to portray Hal Jordan, I have to say I was impressed with his performance. It should be noted, however, that his goof-ball persona is not anywhere near the Hal Jordan you are probably used to seeing in comics, but he still carries that same amount of cocky self-confidence, just channeled in a different direction. He oozes charisma, and it feels like every other person on-screen is a character in his movie, which as a protagonist, is obviously appropriate. There are quite a lot of laughs that come straightly from his personal take on the role, and the movie is better off because of it.

Reynolds needs a straight man to play off, and luckily the script and casting provides him some good choices. Seeing him butt heads with Blake Lively (in the role of Carol Ferris) as a weird mix of boss, co-worker and lover provides an interesting and different dynamic. I had seen some reviews deriding Lively's performance, but I didn't find anything particularly wrong with it. Mark Strong's Sinestro is intense and clearly a good fit for the role. The few scenes where he interacts with Reynolds create a nice contrast between the seasoned no-sh*t veteran and the know-it-all rookie. I left the cinema waiting to see more of Sinestro, but his time on the screen is not very long.

In Blackest Night...

The flip side of the strong performances is that the script is the weakest part of the movie. There are some very questionable plot points and issues with the pacing of scenes. It feels a bit schizophrenic at times, as it switches focus to different parts of the plot, ranging from the problems in Oa, as the Green Lantern Corps discuss what to do with Parallax, to the personal drama of Hal and Carol, to the transfiguration of Hector Hammond. While there's an undeniable comic book feel to the whole transitioning plot points, it just does not work as well in the screen. Some scenes were only a minute long, only to change gears to a completely different part of the story.

At the same time, some scenes take entirely too long, while others commit the sin of being too brief. I was absolutely bored with the sub plot of Hal wanting to quit the Green Lantern Corps, which felt like it went on for a third of the movie (I know it probably wasn't that long, but it sure felt like it), but at the same time, his time in Oa felt woefully under-explored. Sure, we get some nice flying scenes but the training only lasts for about 5 minutes (not only in the movie, but as part of the story too!). This is the story of a man coming in contact with a thousand different species! Shouldn't you at least explore that a bit more? Hal seems to take everything in stride, which is fine for the character and his time on Earth, but you figure something like this would affect his world view a bit or at the very least have him interact more with this brave new world.

No Evil Shall Escape My Sight...

The piece features a double villain attack, one from within Earth in the shape of Hector Hammond and one from outer space as Parallax starts consuming planets. The movie actually did a pretty good job of connecting the two of them, with Parallax acting as the source of Hammond's gruesome transformation into the big-headed bastard we all know. While I had my reservations before the film about using Hammond as a villain, I came out pleasantly surprised with the end result. He's just one of those characters that look well on the page, but with visuals far too ridiculous for a live action adaptation. In the end, Peter Sarsgaard does a wonderful job in creating a new creepy villain. His strongest moment comes perhaps when he stops to smell Carol Ferris hair without her realizing. It's a total sleaze-bag moment and Sarsgaard sells it memorably.

It's a shame the same can't be said for Parallax, who despite providing some rather scary visuals, at time resembles more than a giant space octopus. Look, Green Lantern people, you pushed your luck with one big-headed villain and got lucky, why did you have to go for a second one? There is actually an in-story reason for this look, as Parallax infected a Guardian, but it takes away from his unnatural sense of “other” if he has a somewhat human-looking face. Needless to say, Parallax gets defeated, and he goes out in a grand style though a bit like a chump. For a millennium-old creature, he certainly should know better. 

One could also argue that the other villain of the piece are the Guardians themselves, who in a fashion true to their comic book counter parts, continue to royally f$&# up and refuse to accept their mistakes or change their ways, but that's a whole other post.

Beware My Power...

Much of the movie hinges on the special effects being able to deliver for the big set pieces and ever so important fight scenes. However, much like the rest of the movie, it is an uneven effort that ends up hurting the overall performance of this film. The strongest point is perhaps in the creation of the alien beings that Hal encounters (aside from the already mentioned octopus-looking Parallax). Kilowog and Tomar-Re look absolutely stunning, and the Guardians and their council look as otherworldly as they should and the architecture of Oa is wonderfully creative. The GL suit actually looks better on screen than it does on the stills, and I am reasonably happy with the results. The mask still looks silly, a fact even acknowledged by the people IN the movie, which is never a good sign.

The real trouble starts when the green constructs start filling the screen. For a movie about a weapon that relies on imagination, the people behind it did not seem to get very creative about it. Most of them are just regular objects, which probably speaks of Hal Jordan's simplicity of thought, but nothing really wowed me in the way that it should have. Most of the time, I was groaning at the cheesiness of it all, such as when Hal catches a falling helicopter by creating a car and make it run along an unnecessarily complicated race course to slow it down and/or stop it. I never thought I'd say it, but I would have rather seen him use a giant hand to catch it. At least it would have spared us the minute or two it takes for Hal to finally land the helicopter. The screen is filled with so much green jelly-like constructs that you might start getting flashbacks to that time you watched Flubber.

While we are here, I was wondering how the GL constructs managed to create normal looking fire, such as when Hal uses them to create guns. A no-prize to whoever can explain that.

Green Lantern's Might!

If I had to narrow down the Green Lantern movie down to a single word, it would have to be “schizophrenic”. It tries to do so many things, to juggle so many balls, that it ends up dropping almost all of them. The strong performances by the actors do not carry a plot that wasn't always entertaining or focused. The special effects department got some things right, but not enough to make up for the wrongs.

Verdict – Check It. In the end, Green Lantern is an absolutely middle of the road experience, with some good and some bad. Depending on your set of mind and expectation, Green Lantern will be either a total waste of time, or a good time at the movies.

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Anonymous said...

That movie was god awful.

Ryan said...

RE: Real looking fire.

The gun created a chemical reaction that ionized the actual gasses in the air, producing a normal looking flame.

The flame was a byproduct of the construct, not actually part of it.

Kevin said...

I had mid-road expectations for it and did not like it. Biggest problem with the movie was that it introduces the GLC for 10/15 min. and its done. There is nothing really done to flesh out Sinestro and the others. They actually came out looking weak in the little scenes they were given.

The pacing in general was a big problem for the movie as it lack a build for the audience having a sense of disbelief and getting lost in the world.

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