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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Green Lantern

This one is up early on Channel24 so I thought I would post it here today as well. The review has been edited quite a bit on the site so, seeing as how this is my blog, I thought I would post the original here.  Oh, and if you're wondering, the reason why I don't mention the 3d effects, it's because I was fortunate to see a screening of the film that didn't require those annoying bloody glasses.

From Channel24 (Originally posted 22 June 2011)

What it's about

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a cocky test pilot, suddenly finds himself selected to be a member of the Green Lantern Corps, an elite group of “space cops” who, equipped with willpower-based power rings that can create anything they can imagine, are charged with protecting all of the known universe.

What we thought

Comic book fans have had an embarrassment of riches lately with a string of really impressive films based on their (or, to be honest, our) favourite comics properties. Last year we had a pair of truly excellent cult gems in the forms of Kick Ass and Scott Pilgrim vs The World, while Marvel have struck back this year with two of their best massive superhero blockbusters to date: Thor and X-Men: First Class. Unfortunately, with Warner/DC's Green Lantern, that train of goodness has come to, if not quite a crashing halt, then at least a definite bump in the road as we ramp up towards the superhero mega blockbusters of 2012.

Now, to most mainstream audiences not familiar with the comics or animated series/ movies, Green Lantern is, I'm sure, a relatively unknown property. As someone, though, who has been reading Green Lantern comics on and off for two decades now, I had a lot invested in a film adaptation that, until a mere handful of years ago, I was absolutely certain I would never ever get to see. As such, it would be easy to dismiss my crushing disappointment with the film as nothing more than your typically ridiculous fanboy expectations but, honestly, Green Lantern is a film that is as likely to alienate non-fans, as it is to underwhelm the faithful.

As 20 years of Green Lantern comics have shown time and time again, here we have a franchise that constantly fluctuates back and forth between the more straightforward superheroics of a guy fighting supervillains with a “magic” ring and a space opera whose increasingly complicated mythology hues closer to Star Wars (albeit Star Wars on acid) than to Superman or Spider-man. One of the great advantages of monthly comics is that they have the time and space to fully explore both aspects to the Green Lantern mythos. The same certainly can't be said about a 105 minute film and this, more than any of the film's many flaws (weak creature CGI, slow pacing, underwritten characters), is what ultimately sinks it.

It certainly doesn't help that Green Lantern comes mere months after Kenneth Branagh's Thor, a superhero film that was able to balance – to a large degree anyway - its more grounded, earth-based elements with the more fanciful mix of psychedelic sci-fi of its hero's home planet. It may have contained multiple, intersecting story elements but Thor never lost its focus on its titular hero and his journey from arrogant young fool to selfless hero – a character arc that is almost identical, incidentally, to the one that Hal Jordan goes through in this film.

Unlike Thor, Green Lantern pinballs between various plotlines never fully exploring any of them, resulting in a film that is not only extremely disjointed but emotionally inert, to boot. The most telling example of this is the moment in both films when our hero finally accepts his destiny and the responsibilities of the power he is given, ultimately becoming the hero he is supposed to be. That moment in Thor had me jumping out of my seat and letting rip with a very vocal “hells yeah!” (or at least it did in my head) but in Green Lantern, a very similar moment, didn't even manage to elicit so much as an upturned eyebrow.

I had, in short, a tough time caring about anything that played out on screen - and this is coming from someone whose experience with this character and this mythology goes back nearly twenty years. For those without my geek-cred, I'm sure they will not only care even less than I did (I got a kick out of seeing Green Lantern's ring in action, for example, most people probably won't give a crap), they will, even with all of the film's endless exposition, be left wondering what on earth it was they just sat through.

Take Mark Strong's Sinestro, for example. Strong is a fantastic actor and he does his typical sterling work here and yet, though the character he plays is supposed to be a huge part of the Green Lantern story, the film itself doesn't really give any indication as to why it keeps on focusing on him. And don't even get me started on the ways that the post-credits scene ruins his character's arc. Similarly, one of the two main villains of the piece, Hector Hammond, played brilliantly by Peter Sarsgaard is never as threatening as he should be as he plays second fiddle to Parallax, a terrible CGI creation that is supposed to be the embodiment of fear but just comes across as, well, a terrible CGI creation.

There are things about the film that do work – the acting is by and large very good (Reynolds is Reynolds: take from that what you will), the basic story is still a good one, Jordan's training scenes are really good fun and it is, in the end, a mildly enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours in the cinema – but they are outweighed by the film's many missteps. It's not awful by any means but Green Lantern is the most leaden, unengaging and emotionally dry superhero film to come out in a good long while. Fans and non-fans alike are probably better off waiting for the upcoming Captain America.

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