Monday, June 20, 2011

Green Lantern review; flickers more than glows

It's the Golden Age of comic book films, and it was only a matter of time before a Green Lantern film was to be made.  Quick breakdown: Hal Jordan is a Green Lantern, an intergalactic space cop who is in charge of patrolling multiple planets.  He is chosen after one of greatest Green Lanters to ever live, Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), crash lands on Earth.  By wearing the Green Lantern ring, you can make your thoughts into reality (including an automatic machine gun).  Jordan is now a member of the Green Lantern Corp made up of 3600 Green Lanterns; Oa is where they call home.

I remember the news coming out about the 'terrific' script, to the casting showdown between Ryan Reynolds and Bradley Cooper to the hiring of director Martin Campbell.  Who better to start up a new franchise than Campbell, he successfully did so for James Bond in the great Casino Royale.  A GL film should have been a piece of cake, not so much.  Let me begin my likes and dislikes. 

What I liked about the film:
Ryan Reynolds
I'm a fan of the man's work, and have been since his sitcom, "Two Guys and a Girl".  Reynolds has had a leading man charisma since the beginning, so it shouldn't have been too difficult a choice for Warner Brothers when it came time to cast the hero.  Reynolds did well creating the character.  Hal Jordan is the fighter pilot that does well to pretend he's fearless, but in reality, battles his inner fear throughout the film.  His comedic timing is as good as ever and so are his abs (which are glorified throughout the movie).  If the movie does indeed become a franchise, he will be great in the next GL tale.

Oa / Eye Candy
Warner Brothers spent millions and millions of dollars on the CG, and I could tell.  They even had last minute touch ups that really enhanced the film.  Perhaps the best part of the movie is seeing how Hal Jordan and the other Green Lanterns turn their thoughts into reality.  Everything from machine guns to swords to catapults; it shows you how CGI has made it possible to make movies of this size and scope.

The planet of Oa looks incredible in the film.  It is completely computer generated and really is eye candy.  The way Green Lantern's suit illuminates, the way he flies, etc. are magnificent.  The supporting characters such as Tomar Re (voiced by Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush) and Kilowag (voiced by Oscar nominee Michael Clarke Duncan) look great.  They are true to the comics and look as real as possible.  Money well spent Warner Brothers.

The Supporting Cast
This includes the aforementioned Rush and Duncan.  But those are voice actors, what about the live actors?  Blake Lively is good in this film.  I am not a fan of the actress at all, and enjoyed her turn as Hal Jordan's oldest friend/love interest.  The primary villain is Hector Hammond, played by Peter Sarsgaard, and he does a great job being as spooky as possible.  Hammond's father is a senator, played by Tim Robbins.  Angela Bassett rounds out the primary cast of characters as a doctor in charge of testing Abin Sur's body.  Robbins and Bassett don't have much to do in the film but could if there is a sequel.

I must point out Mark Strong.  He was THE PERFECT choice for the role of Sinestro, one of the leaders in the Green Lantern Corp.  Strong's performance is something to behold as he keeps us guessing which side he will end up on.  He challenges Hal Jordan and is able to intimidate without yelling, just simply being stern.  Great job.

What I didn't like about the film:
The Script / Story
Remember that 'terrific' script I was talking about?  Yeah, it must not have translated then.  The movie suffers beyond believe due to the script.  The second act is abysmal, there is no other way to describe it.  There is a whole lot of nothing going on for a good 45 minutes before an impressive action sequence hits.  In this second act, the hero is supposed to have some sort of self-discovery that never really formulates.  I was asking myself, "why did they keep this in the final cut?"

Besides the second act, the movie is so unorganized, and it wasn't due to editing.  We're on Earth, then Oa, then Earth, but back to Oa, then he quits, back to Earth, then he un-quits, back to Oa.  What the hell?  I hate when this happens in film.  Campbell should have cleaned up the story and screenplay so there is a smoother flow to the storytelling.  Again, the narrative is so weak, the main character ultimately never live up to their full potential.

The Supporting Cast
I know, I know.  How can the supporting cast be an aspect of the movie I liked AND disliked?  Well, because they're barely in the movie!  Ryan Reynolds must have been in 95% of the film.  Those amazing special effects featuring fully CG characters are barely on display for more than a few minutes at at time.  I wanted so much more.  What makes Green Lantern such a unique superhero is that he is a part of a team, the Green Lantern Corp.  He doesn't fight alone like Superman and Batman.  There is NO teamwork on this film whatsoever, it's all about Ryan Reynolds sporting the suit and nothing more.

The Lack Of A Real Villain
I really like Peter Sarsgaard, I do, but Hector Hammond is just not going to cut it!  He's a spooky science teacher that can read your thoughts and throw projectiles at you.  He's no Two-Face, and definitely no Joker!  Then there is Parallax, the worst possible choice for the first film in the franchise.  It is basically a cloud that eats up the souls of people who possess fear.  Remember when Fox tried this with the Fantastic Four sequel?  IT DOES NOT WORK!  Seeing hundreds of extras run through the streets is not what's scary.  Seeing the Joker threaten to cut someone's cheek off was ten times as affective and didn't require millions of dollars in CGI work. 

The Verdict:
Unfortunately, Pass (until the blu-ray)
I have to be honest, the first few minutes after leaving the theater, I think I convinced myself it was a better film than it really was.  After discussing it with my cousin Robert in more detail, I began to find more and more things that irked me about the film.  I think Campbell had a lot to do with the poor outcome of the film.  He is a very capable director, but just did not come through on this one.  Reynolds will be fine, as well as the rest of the cast, but I doubt Campbell is asked to return after the movie just opened to only $52 million dollars (on a $300 million dollar budget). 

I wish I could say it was the same caliber film as X-Men: First Class, but I can't.  Or even as good as Thor, but I can't.  All the pieces were in place: Ryan Reynolds, Martin Campbell, a cult following, etc.  But they just could not come together for the narrative.  If they're lucky to get another crack at it, let's hope they do a lot better next time. 

Good superhero movies in the Summer of 2011: 2
Bad superhero movies in the Summer of 2011: 1

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