Saturday, June 18, 2011

Review - Green Lantern

“In brightest day, in blackest night, No evil shall escape my sight. Let all who worship evil's might, Beware my power, Green Lantern's light!” Thus decrees the Green Lantern Corps, a mighty intergalactic police force and the subject of Warner Bros' contribution to the Superhero Summer That Never Ends. But despite that stirring mantra, and despite charismatic flyboy Ryan Reynolds burning up the marque with green computer-generated flames, Green Lantern turns out to be a flightless bird. Perhaps a colourfully plumed one, but bulky and awkward nonetheless.

Green Lantern begins with an old school narration describing the cosmic origins of the Green Lantern Corps so that average Joe Moviegoer can understand what the heck the deal is with these little rings energized by the power of will (which is coloured green, as everyone knows). The stylized storyboarding of this prologue seems to recall conventional comic book artwork, making it an appropriate start to the film. But it isn't long until we're dropped (literally) into a sensory-overloading chain of events that are both catalytic and cataclysmic. First, we witness the escape of the villain, Parallax, a terrifying entity that feasts and grows fat on the power of fear (which is coloured yellow, as everyone knows). Next we meet revered Green Lantern Abin Sur, fatally wounded during a close encounter of the Parallactic kind, hastening to Earth to find a worthy successor. His magic ring seems to think cocksure pilot Hal Jordon (Reynolds) is the man for the job, although we are meant to believe, by storyteller's design, that he's no hero. The writers and director Martin Campbell take much delight in depicting Hal as childish and irresponsible – probably more delight than we the audience take in actually watching Ryan Reynolds clowning around for two hours.

We wouldn't be alone in our unimpressed assessment, as Hal's new colleagues on the planet Oa (HQ for the Green Lantern Corps) are equally skeptical of this especially green greenhorn. Rookie trainer Kilowog wastes no time in showing Hal it's not that easy bein' green, and the not-quite-trustworthy Sinestro (how could you trust a guy with a name like Sinestro?) is quick to indict Hal of being more yellow than the power of fear by which he's easily overcome, due mostly to a childhood trauma involving the death of his father.

MEANWHILE, BACK ON EARTH...

The government is having Abin Sur's body dissected by nebbish biologist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard hiding under a HUGE forehead). During the autopsy, Hector is accidentally exposed to some residual yellow energy in the cadaver, blessing/cursing him with a psychic connection to Parallax and with, for some reason, telekinetic powers, which he just might use to release the frustration he feels for being unable to please his father. Guess Hal isn't the only one with dad issues. Maybe these soon-to-be enemies aren't so different after all? No, no they really are. Herein is one of the problems with Green Lantern; the way it grasps at straws to draw parallels between Hal and Hector that just aren't there, even with the paternally-rooted psychoses. They even try crosscutting awkwardly between the simultaneous storylines as though there's some thematic connectivity, which there isn't really. To Sarsgaard's credit, his well toned performance does give a certain spark to the film which it badly needs, and one can't help but salute the terrific makeup creations. They compensate somewhat for the CG effects, which are plentiful but not always convincing.

Another problem is how hypocritical the film is in praising Hal's humanity as his greatest strength, when the character is neither written nor performed in a way one would expect a real human to act. He waltzes through most of the movie with a juvenile air, seeming mostly unphased by the bizarre circumstances which befall him. When waking up for the first time on Oa, he'd sooner strike a pose and admire his cool new suit than drop his jaw and admire the awe-inspiring glory of this inconceivable fantasy realm, which would surely blow the mind of any real human. But not Hal Jordon. He's too cool for that aspect of humanity.

I dunno, perhaps this is a picture that plays better to Green Lantern devotees, but that still wouldn't make it a success. I'll confess to not being familiar with the source material's allegedly rich mythology, but I am familiar with what a good movie aught to be like, and this isn't it.

** out of ****

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