16 June 2011

Movie Review: Green Lantern


Green Lantern
2011, 105mins, 12
Director: Martin Campbell
Writer (s): Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Michael Goldenberg, Marc Guggenheim
Cast includes: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins
UK Release Date: 17th June 2011

It seems the studios will adapt any comic book they can get their hands on. “Green Lantern” is the latest foray into this blockbusting subgenre, working from a source that dates back to 1940. The film has a capable director at the fore and features some interesting casting choices, but ultimately the central concept and dopey screenplay combine to render shaky results. It’s an incredibly unsophisticated project working from a premise that feels dated in today’s cultural climate, the film taking many of its blatantly silly components far too seriously. Had “Green Lantern” been released 10-years ago it might have triggered a more forgiving response, but in a post-Nolan era it feels insubstantial and unadventurous.

A talented but unreliable pilot still haunted by the ghost of his deceased father, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is shocked when a dying alien initiates him into a legendary team of galactic defenders known as the Green Lanterns. Endowed with newfound power, Hal arrives on the Lantern planet of Oa, only to be met by a disapproving Sinestro (Mark Strong), a high-ranking commander unconvinced by Hal’s fortitude. However with a planet destroying evil named Parallax roaming through the galaxy, and misunderstood scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) acting as the malevolent force’s puppet on earth, Hal is forced to disregard his doubters and fight for both his home and the woman (Blake Lively) he loves.

Much like “Thor” before it, “Green Lantern” is tasked with turning a barely bankable superhero into a viable 21st century icon. The character suffers from goofy origins and a basic lack of complexity, both these faults jumpstarting major problems within the movie at large. The outlandish creature designs, smoggy bad guy and protagonist’s weapon of choice (the Lantern’s ring) aren’t likely to be received warmly by contemporary audiences, who now seek moodier and less flamboyant fare. Similarly the lack of depth evidenced in Hal Jordan is troubling, all we get are generic daddy issues and a growing intimacy with Blake Lively’s sexy but underexplored Carol Ferris. These are hardly groundbreaking emotional hooks on which to rest an entire picture (and possible franchise), Hal’s supposed inner demons never convincing for a second. It’s hard to attack the writers for flaws so close to the original material, but then again their clunky narrative structure and collective taste for slim characterization is also of concern. Ultimately it’s a patchy screenplay based on a product which now feels unfashionable, so who’s really to blame. I suppose the scribes for doing such lackluster jobs, and the studio for believing this was something anybody was hungry to see in the first place.

There are too many personalities featured here, Reynolds makes for a decent leading man, but nobody else is given enough time to shine. Blake Lively looks gorgeous but is underserviced by the fact she portrays nothing more than a romantic prototype, whilst talented performers such as Mark Strong, Tim Robbins and Geoffrey Rush filter in and out of the tale with nothing much to do. Both of the villains present are unintimidating, one being a giant gas cloud, the other a sniveling nerd with a laughably enlarged cranium. Sarsgaard does his best to get something out of Hammond’s arc, convincing as an underappreciated loner in the opening half, but unfortunately by the end he’s just hamming it up. “Green Lantern” tries to create a dynamic between Reynolds, Lively and Sarsgaard, but the screenplay is so muddled this facet of the picture constantly feels confused and saggy. The production’s storytelling as a whole is generally pretty grim, “Green Lantern” cutting between its multiple subplots with little respect for pacing or tone. It’s a barmy piece of work, but rarely in the good way.

Campbell stages the action methodically, using his experience to at least imbue the set-pieces with some semblance of kinetic energy. “Green Lantern” opens with an exciting sequence built around fighter jets, and admittedly finishes on a bombastic note, but the stuff in the middle is run of the mill. The special effects work is at times stunningly executed, extreme care and detail having been lavished on the digital creations, but in other instances things look much weaker and less technically evolved. Due to the picture’s fantastical scope, it’s not surprising to find “Green Lantern” highly dependent on CGI, something which might at least halfway explain the mixed visual quality. Huge swathes of the movie are fully reliant on the computer generated imagery, leaving me to speculate that for budgetary reasons Campbell had to prioritize certain sections over others. This theory could indeed be total garbage, but it would at least explain the distractingly variable FX standards on display.

Warner is pitching “Green Lantern” as the start of a prospective franchise, but after viewing this first chapter that seems unlikely. Leaving aside the fundamental scripting missteps, “Green Lantern” doesn’t feel like a story audiences will connect with, especially in such a mediocre and tonally uncertain form. By tediously working through the background mythology and profiling at least half a dozen unneeded characters the picture spreads itself out too thinly, resulting in a blockbuster that’s all exposition, with no distinguishable pay-off.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2011


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