Friday, June 17, 2011
Green Lantern (2011) movie review
Overall verdict: 6.5/10
The Good: Incredible acting, timely humor, likable main character, very true to the comic book look and feel, unique visual designs, mostly great special effects, clever references to other superhero films
The Bad: some scenes of inconsistent special effects, erratic pacing, underdeveloped side characters, lack of story focus, deviates from the comics in terms of story and characterisation.
Current Availability Status: In Theatres June 17
In Brightest day, In Blackest night, someone did not do Green Lantern Right!
With critically acclaimed, Green Lantern centered events like "Blackest Night" rocking the comic book world, expectations were sky high concerning the live action movie adaptation. It could have been the one non-Batman DC movie to be a major hit and the launch of a multi billion dollar franchise that would eventually lead to a much anticipated "Justice League" film. Perhaps the comics did too good a job of elevating the Green Lantern tale to epic proportions. For compared to that, and even compared to your standard superhero blockbuster, the live action adaptation of DC's favorite Emerald space man is an utter mess.
Ryan Reynolds effortlessly slips into the role of Hal Jordan, a hot headed, daredevil test pilot with a witty mouth. Other than the fact that he crashed a plane and was almost fired from his job, he seems to have a pretty good life judging by his hot girlfriend in bed and his expensive looking sports car. In another part of the galaxy, an ancient evil named after a visual displacement error (Parallax) escapes from imprisonment and seeks revenge upon the intergalactic peacekeeping force known as the Green Lantern corp. One member, Abin Sur, survives the initial attack and crashes on earth. Near death, he bids his power ring to seek a successor who is supposed to be able "to overcome any fear". That successor so happens to be Hal Jordan. Like any good wannabe superhero, Hal goes from disbelief to confusion, to rejection of his heroic calling and then to acceptance and embracing of his duty as quickly as he is spirited off to the alien world of Oa, then back to earth, space, then earth again.
The first mistake Green Lantern makes is that it feels like two different stories pasted together. On one hand you have the set up for this galactic scale conflict between an alien peacekeeping legion and an immensely powerful cosmic entity. On the other hand, you have a run of the mill earth based superhero origin tale complete with tacked on cheesy romance subplot, underdeveloped villain and too much dialogue. The producers chose to go with the latter since recent superhero movies that were comparatively more grounded in reality, such as Iron Man or Dark knight, did better than their less realistic counterparts. But any fan of the comics would tell you that Green Lantern is anything BUT down to earth; the galaxy spanning adventure is what sets it apart from most other superhero stories. The producers failed to realise that.
Then in perhaps the biggest misstep short of giving a romantic Victorian drama film to Michael Bay, they decided to have Martin Campbell be the director. Campbell's resume includes only spy thrillers like Goldeneye and realistic adventures like Zorro shot on physical sets; hardly the kind of guy you would want directing a visual effects laden, green screen shot space epic. Much less so a space epic written by FOUR different writers. Too many chefs spoil the broth. Too many chefs who are ill suited for the sci/fi superhero space genre make turd soup. Thanks to this, the movie cannot seem to decide what it wants to be. It embraces the out-of-this-world, comic book look of the aliens and the CGI sets but never the comic book "feel". Sadly, some of the special effects are painfully erratic with CGI scenes alternating between awesome and obviously cartoony. Thankfully the Hans Zimmer inspired score by James Newton Howard delivers space age electronic tunes with a militaristic beat which complement the sci/fi action perfectly. However, everything seems to screech to a standstill during the more conversation heavy or romantic scenes, even the music stops.
The pacing of the whole thing feels like a race car in a city road. The moment you hit a good adrenaline pumping speed, you got to pull over at the next red light. At least Ryan Reynold's enthusiasm and timely humor saves the conversations from being completely boring. Many scenes seem to be an intended homage to previous superhero movies. Hal invoking catch phrases like "by the power of Greyskull" to reacharge his power ring seems to be a reference to that scene in Spiderman where Peter Parker was learning to shoot web. There is even a very clever homage to the balcony scene in the old Christopher Reeve Superman movie but with a humorous twist. The writing however makes the Hal Jordan character likable, but not easy to relate to despite Reynold's stellar performance. Same goes for the other characters like Sinestro, Hector Hammond and even Hal's love interest Carol. There is a certain sense of disconnection between the characters and the audience relating to them.
Green Lantern is no doubt entertaining as a mediocre summer blockbuster, but serves as a bad case of the right movie given to the wrong people to do. It does the comic books little justice by providing only a cosmetic resemblence but few of the intrinsic elements that made them such a hit in recent years. This film is more intent on following pre-established trends than blazing new ones. Instead of getting "Star Trek with superpowers" we get a poor man's Iron Man with green energy suit instead of armor. What could have been a shining beacon among comic book blockbusters is instead reduced to just another lamp that flickers in the face of sky high expectations caused by over publicity and the critical acclaim the comics have been getting.
So much for the power of Green Lantern's light.
Go For it: if you are interested in seeing Ryan Reynold's best role to date or have not read a Green Lantern comic book and would like a bite sized teaser.
Avoid it: if you are expecting the epic level of action and story development showcased in recent Green Lantern comic book storylines
Replay value: B