Monday, 20 June 2011

Review: Green Lantern

But why does he keep calling it his "precious"?
Green Lantern (2011)

 Hal Jordan is just your average, everyday hot-shot test pilot when a ball of energy whisks him off to the crash site of an alien spaceship where a dying purple alien hands him a ring and a futuristic lantern, then tells him that Jordan's been chosen to be a Green Lantern; part of an intergalactic corps dedicated to preserving peace and justice throughout the universe.  As the bewildered and unsure test pilot is transported by the ring to the Green Lantern Corps's headquarters on the planet Oa, the cosmic evil that killed the alien is rampaging loose in space and has even infected an Earth scientist; giving him deadly psychic powers.  Will Hal Jordan be able to live up to the challenge of becoming a Green Lantern?  Will the evil of Parallax consume the universe?  Will Hector Hammond's head get any bigger?

I've been waiting 45 years for this film, so I'm a bit forgiving when it comes to judging it.  Though Green Lantern has been around in his current incarnation for half a century, he's been a very long time coming to the screen compared to his more famous comic book colleagues.  One reason is that a magic ring that can do anything the wearer can imagine is pretty tricky to carry off in a film in a way that's both dramatic and visual.  A ring doesn't exactly capture centre stage like a light sabre.  That's one of the reason why the character in the comic books wears white gloves; so you notice the thing.  The other is that Green Lantern isn't as compact a hero as Superman or Batman.  He isn't a man with inherent superpowers nor is he a wealthy vigilante with lots of clever gadgets.  Green Lantern is a cosmic policeman operating an intergalactic scale as part of a larger organisation that dates back millennia.  And his power ring isn't that easy to explain.  Not to mention that, unlike Superman and Batman, he's the only superhero with a badge, which I always thought was an interesting twist.  All that back story is a lot to cram into a feature film and it doesn't help that the writers tried to include a love story, all the major elements of the Green Lantern world, set up the villain for the (hoped for) sequel, and to give the characters deeply personal motives.  Hector Hammond has to be evil because of an unrequited love triangle?  Isn't good, old-fashioned will to power enough?  Add to this that they wanted both an earthbound story to establish Hal Jordan's character and one set on Oa for the cosmic grandeuer, but ended up with a plot that kept shifting gears as it commuted back and forth across the galaxy. 

Ryan Reynolds does an adequate job playing Hal Jordan, though I'd have preferred if they'd made him less of a case of arrested adolescence and more of the Chuck Yeager meets Steve McGarrett that is Green Lantern at his best.  He manages to carry off the basic character development that a superhero story requires, but the romance between Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris goes nowhere.  There is simply no chemistry between Reynolds and Blake Lively, making their scenes definite speed bumps in the action.  Peter Sarsgaard's Hector Hammond never really gets to establish his villainy, though he's obviously trying for all he's worth.  And Mark Strong vanishes so completely under his make up that You wonder why they didn't just make him CGI like the other alien Green Lanterns and be done with it.

A good movie?  No.  A good superhero movie?  I'd say it was more than adequate, but not up to the level of Iron Man of Superman II.   On the other hand, it's a Green Lantern movie and it has Hal Jordan, so I'm happy.

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