Green Lanternby Nas Hoosen / 01.07.2011
We’re in the grip of a comic book-movie onslaught. They put us through Thor, Captain America’s coming up and The Avengers is slated for 2012. Over at Marvel Studios, they’re feverishly mining their lesser known comic back-catalogue for movie pitches and laughing all the way to the bank. The process has only begun at Warner Bros where they are looking beyond Batman to keep shareholders happy. Which brings us to Green Lantern, starring likeably buff Ryan Reynolds, as the arrogant fast talking (but oh so charming) test pilot Hal Jordan who sidesteps responsibility at every turn.
When a purple alien space cop crash lands on Earth, Hal is recruited into the intergalactic peacekeeping police force called the Green Lantern Corps. Each Lantern gets a ring with the power to turn their thoughts into reality, a terrifying prospect for most of us, and a point barely clarified in the endless expositional training sequence Hal (and us) have to endure to master his abilities.
There’s a whole lot that isn’t exactly clear. Hal is trained by the alien warriors Kilowog (voiced completely unnecessarily by Michael Clarke Duncan), fish-like Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush in a more inspired bit of voice casting) and the great and powerful Sinestro (Mark Strong, doing his level best to carry this picture). After they show our hero the ropes, all of them just kind of fade away. Same goes for Jordan’s earthbound extended family, who are introduced early on, never to reappear. Not even when ‘Uncle Hal’ is flying around as a superhero or when their hometown is attacked by a giant evil cloud. I’m sure they’re fine though. Right?
Reynolds does his best to charm us into liking Hal but there’s not a lot for him to do after that. Between the minimal action sequences, essential to the popcorn summer blockbuster, there are a lot of hollow speeches about realising destiny and overcoming fear. The movie never really establishes the relevance of these themes to the plot. They’re only there because they’re in the Green Lantern comic books. You have to wonder if either film or comics is really being advanced by this cannibalising love affair?
The villains are mutated biologist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard being creepy) and the aforementioned CG cloud, called Parallax, and voiced by the legendary Clancy Brown. They’re fine as villains go. But the film spends so much time building up Hammond, the supposedly epic Parallax never feels like the threat the dialog makes it out to be.
Where is the movie we wanted to see? All the elements are there, waiting to be played out, but the action falters as the movies progresses, leaving us with long scenes of Blake Lively and Reynolds moping and emoting when Green Lantern should be out there kicking ass. In an era of hyper-successful superhero and sci-fi movies, Warner has a vague $160 million mess of pretty CGI and not much else on its hands.
While Marvel made a similar misstep with Iron Man 2, bloating the film with extraneous characters and plot elements jammed in at the last minute, that movie rode the success of its solid predecessor. Balancing out its weaker scenes with some decent action sequences, and a whole lot of Robert Downey Jr’s insouciance. Green Lantern reaches for this fun plus action combo, but loses the balance early. It tries too hard to be everything to every kind of viewer.
Lengthy romantic scenes try for richer characterization but are just repetitive. The action sequences are fleeting. The plot banks on the idea that comics and superheroes are “for kids” and sacrifices narrative consistency. The hero comes across as indecisive. And I can’t imagine kids finding any of this all that exciting. Warner should’ve looked to Paramount’s revitalized Star Trek movie for inspiration. That film does action-packed space opera right.
Ironically here’s a movie about a hero who has to overcome mortal fear to do the right thing when the movie itself doesn’t have the courage of its convictions. Apparently there’s a 3 hour version the studio couldn’t muster the courage to release.