Well my most looked forward to comic book movie of the summer is here. The Green lantern movie is finally here. I’ve posted like a million… well closer to 3, trailers for this film. I themed a Trailer Park entry around it and also reviewed the animated movie the other day. Just got back from seeing Green Lantern and you know what, it wasn’t all bad. I guess I should go into more depth, which I will, after the jump.
Green lantern is the tale of one Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) and his progression from being a too cocky for his own good fighter pilot to intergalactic space cop. An evil force of pure fear energy known as Parallax which was entombed centuries ago by one of the greatest Green Lanterns, Abin-Sur, is accidentally freed and is on his way to get revenge on the Guardians of Oa and their Green Lanterns. After being attacked and mortally wounded by Parallax Abin-Sur heads for the nearest planet, conveniently for us it’s Earth, and calls out for a replacement Green Lantern. Which is of course Hal. Hal has issues with fear, despite being a daredevil of a pilot, he always backs away from commitments and allows fear to take over when in danger. An early scene where he shows off how easily, and dangerously, he can take down his fighter jet companies new automated planes almost results in his death when after stalling is plane and failing to regain control he starts having a near panic attack instead of ejecting. His journey in this film is that of his attempts to overcome fear with the courage and willpower he has within.
Meanwhile, Abin-Sur’s body has been recovered by the government and in the process of inspecting the body Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) in infected with a small trace Parallax’s fear juice… for lack of a better term… and he starts to go mental/psychic/telekinetic source of all evil. He has a personal gripe with Hal that’s rather clumsily brought up around 40 minutes into the film when we learn that he and Hal were friends and both were in love with Hal’s boss Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). Hammond has daddy (His father played by the possibly too young for the roll Tim Robbins) issues due to his fathers attempts to force him to become more than what he is. Anyway, as you’ll see as the review progresses the way Hammond, and various other characters, are handled leads to the films main problems.
Green Lantern is a tough comic to be adapted to the silver screen. By it’s nature it’s extremely effects heavy. In order to tell just the origin with any sense of respect t the comics you’re gonna have to sell the audience on some pretty intergalactic stuff. It has underlying themes of willpower and courage vs fear and the power it’s wielders can hold. You also have to convince an audience that this one guy who get’s the power of the ring is the best guy on the planet to wield it. it’s a tough sell because if any elements don’t work out either the audience is gonna laugh at it the whole way through or they’ll be removed from the story completely. In fact at one point in it’s development Warner Bros wanted to make this as a comedy vehicle for Jack Black probably to avoid the risk of having the audience find it all a bit silly.
See when you through a load of weird looking aliens on screen for the main character to wonder around you get what can be called the Cantina Bar Effect, where instead of watching the film progress you’re looking at all the weird aliens and the weird things they do. Luckily Green Lantern seems to have avoided this. There are plenty of sequences on the Green Lantern Corps homeworld of Oa but all the aliens are pretty much just window dressing and they certainly don’t go dancing around doing out of place music numbers with wiggly mouth trumpets or multiple layers of boobs. The sequences on Oa are quite a sight to behold. A lot of time was clearly spent making sure it looked as alien as it could. Unfortunately Hal’s arrival on Oa and his training lasts all of 10 minutes. It’s good while it lasts but we certainly don’t get enough time with Kilowog and Tomar-re (voiced by Micheal Clarke Duncan and Geoffrey Rush respectively). The training sequences are cool but they’re let down by another aspect of the film I shall get to later.
During these sequences we meet Sinestro (Mark Strong) who pretty much stands as the general of the Green lantern Corps. His character is one that is shown to have respect for power and prefers a brute force approach to dealing with Parallax. he is also clearly frustrated by The Guardians lack of affirmative action. Unfortunately he isn’t utilised anywhere near enough and he appears to be missing a key part of his character arc. See everyone knows Sinestro goes evil, eventually taking up the power of the yellow ring of fear. We do see that happen post credits but it’s lacking a key part in his getting to there. Whilst he sees parallax’s power first hand he doesn’t appear to be seduced by it, or even in the slightest bit of awe of it. The Guardians propose to have a fear ring made to battle Parallax with, showing their fear in the process, and after being talked out of using it Sinestro doesn’t even object. The next time we see him he’s being a good Green Lantern and seems to be back where he started. Now I know that it’s not uncommon for a bad guy to mask his true intentions, but here there’s not even a hint of it. When he does put on the ring it just doesn’t feel as important as it should. He’s a character that should have been invoking a sense of looming potential danger, instead, he’s just kind of there. Mark Strong does play him well though. He’s a Sinestro that I’ll be hearing in my head from now on when I read the comics.
Throughout the film there are similar missed story strands. It’s as though key character moments were cut that could have allowed the audience a greater connection. For example, Hammond is just some guy we see getting power until halfway through the film when, as mentioned, we learn he has ties to Hal. Some scenes just seem to happen with no plot threads leading to them. Now this isn’t a completely story destroying issue because there is enough there to keep you involved, but it’s enough to make you disconnect at certain times. Other story issues include how no-one, except Carol Ferris and Hal’s friend Thomas seem amazed by anything that’s going on. Hal just accepts that he’s on an alien planet and talking to a mass of various creatures while on Earth, after using his powers in public for the first time, people just seem to kind of accept him. Maybe in this world Superman exists and people aren’t that impressed anymore.
Hal himself is handled well enough. Some elements of his relationships with his father, family and Carol are a little bit lip service like but there’s enough there t make him a likable hero. By the end of the film he really is the hero you expect from Green Lantern and that’s really what needs to have happened. One thing that did really irk me though was how he came to be in possession of the ring. It is much like in the comics where he’s whisked away to the crash site where Abin-Sur hands the ring to him. Thing is it just kind of happens. We know the rings looking for him but it just kinda grabs him after a visit to his family and that’s it. To me, it would have made more sense if the rings energy lead him to the crash site. That could have shown Hal’s desire to explore and see strange new things. Or maybe if he had been witness to tha crash that was lead to his position by the ring when he was at a low point. Ryan Reynolds really tries his best with the by the numbers script and dialogue and in the end he’s a character I’d happily see more of. Speaking of Green Lanterns I wanna see more of (No not like that!), apparently there’s a cameo from John Stewart (The future GL not the Daily Show host) but damned if I could spot it.
A lot of people have complained about the special effects but honestly they’re pretty damn good. Green is not a fun colour for CGI artists to play with. Just watch the behind the scenes features on Ang Lee’s Hulk and you’ll hear him talk about how the artists wanted him to make Hulk gray because of how tough it is to make stuff look real in green. The Green Lantern costume itself is entirely CGI in this film and at times it shows. But it is unlike any costume seen in a superhero movie before. It pulses and courses with energy and light which intensifies with the more emotion and effort put into it by Hal. At times some of the shots of the aliens on Oa does look a little cheap but when they’re rendering hundreds of different aliens to appear on screen for less than a second you can forgive them if they aren’t 100% perfect. Parallax is quite a terrifying sight to behold which is good for the films finale. Seeing that massive living cloud of evil and fear descend on Earth is a marquee moment for the film. it’s the sort of sight that would genuinely send you into a panic attack if you were to see it for real and as far as intergalactic space clouds go it’s a lot more threatening than that pink thing at the end of Fantastic 4 2. As for the 3D it’s a bit shaky. At times it’s impactful and at others it’s barely noticeable.
One thing that does hurt this film is the largely forgettable score. the only thing I ever picked up from it was a few notes that sounded like they were ripped straight from Superman before someone slapped the composer on the wrist and he stopped. Scenes that should be dramatic and attention grabbing lack impact which isn’t helped by the weak character development. Thing is, when one pillar of your movies structure is weak you need to make sure the others are working extra hard. In this case the visuals are strong but the storytelling is weak, as such the music needs to stand up and make you pay attention.
This sounds like I’m really ripping into the film but believe me it isn’t all that bad. This is in no way Batman & Robin or X-Men 3 bad. it’s just lacking the key parts needed to step it up to higher levels. If this had been released 5 years ago people would have likely been blown away by some of it’s visuals. But now every other film can have similarly giant scale visuals and as such a well constructed script needs to come to the forefront. I get the feeling the script they had went under so many rewrites that eventually they just had to run with what they had. Add to that I feel as though maybe director Martin Cambell’s heart wasn’t quite as invested in the material as clearly Ryan Reynold’s is.
Overall Green Lantern is a fun action filled movie with some great sights to behold but it is let down by poor storytelling and weak staging. I would definitely like to see more though. the Green lantern universe is a potentially very rich one ripe for mass exploitation. Maybe in a sequel The Guaridans of Oa could decide that each sector needs a second Lantern and I could finally see John Stewart on screen, and then go back to the dvd of this film and see where he was. I’m not saying to avoid this because I think a lot of people will enjoy the hell out of it. Just don’t go expecting anything on the same par as X-Men 2 or The Dark Knight.
Also, no, everyone’s favorite Lantern Ch’p doesn’t appear in the film. i really looked out for him too.