17 June 2011


Looks a bit like this, all the way through.
I have this distinct memory of reading something online, about nine months ago, that said Warner Bros. were hugely excited with how Green Lantern had turned out, specifically saying that it was really good. Dark Knight good. The final result doesn't bear that out, but it does show that the studio itself probably had something to do with that particular report. If there's one thing Green Lantern has succeeded in, it's in raising audience awareness.

As something of a poor cousin to last month's much superior Thor, this is another comic book movie that's a little Out There, even by usual superhero standards. Hal Jordan is a test pilot and titamaboob who happens across the crashed spacecraft of a dying alien. This alien represents the Green Lantern Corps, outer-space police who have tapped into the emerald energy of willpower, and use it to defend the galaxy. Hal is bequeathed with a power ring and becomes the first human Green Lantern, just as the Corps confront their most deadly enemy- fear itself.

If it sounds like a film with too much on its plate, that's because it's the result of Warner Bros. picking at the finger buffet of recent comic book movie hits, with less faith to the dense mythology of the source material. If I were to compare it to any other superhero movie of recent times, it would be to Tim Story's Fantastic Four films. It is at once a modernisation of the character and an attempt at campy entertainment.

When wearing his power ring, Hal's powers are only limited by his imagination, so it's a shame that the film's imagination is this limited. The finger buffet affects the film by turning it into a very deeply inconsistent and tonally uneven film, and oddly reminiscent of those TV movies based on comic books, made during the Nineties. It's looks nothing like as cheap as Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD or 1990's Captain America, but it feels much less like The Dark Knight than it does Batman & Robin. That's immediately as harsh as many other critics have been on the film, but it's still easy to see just why so many have been disappointed.

The prolific marketing promised a space opera, the source material has a detailed mythology to draw from, and the whole thing was made all the more exciting by Martin Campbell's presence in the director's chair. Sadly, there's nothing of the man who made Bond cool again (twice) in this concerted studio effort. The space opera angle of the film is almost all spent in the trailers, instead favouring The Adventures Of An Uncertain Ryan Reynolds On Earth. In the end, I believe it comes down to the script.

Ironically, Reynolds has to rely on interacting with his imagination on green screen sets for most of the movie, so heavy is the use of special effects, but he can't quite pull off the character while grounded either. And whatever idiothole decided to animate the Green Lantern's costume was massively over-confident about their tech. The costume just about works, in some shots, but why animate the mask? Did you know they spent an extra $9 million in post-production, just to get the mask looking as barely passable as it is now? It's bonkers to waste that kind of money for so shoddy a pay-off.

Nathan Fillion was a fan favourite for the role of Hal Jordan, but there's nothing in the script that replacing Ryan Reynolds could have fixed. It's not without reason that people are now making jokes about Blake Lively's surname, and Mark Strong's Sinestro is so underused, and so similar in appearance to a sunburnt David Niven, that the obligatory post-credits stinger is a thing of staggering obviousness. Just don't hold your breath waiting for the sequel that's anticipated by that scene.

The only performer who really stands out with the script at hand is Peter Sarsgaard as secondary villain Dr. Hector Hammond. In any other film, he'd probably be the weakest link, but when allowed to go off-the-chain campy, with hysterical screaming and laboured delivery to boot, he enlivens the whole affair. The only really consistent thing about the whole film is how much I laughed every time the guy did his scream. Hammond himself is an interesting kind of villain, underserved by the busy script- he's a pitiable creature, but this ain't no character study.

In so many ways, this script goes wrong where Thor's went right. Granted, Thor is a much easier character to set up in terms of motivation and origin, but it's no excuse for how much of a chore this is. The plot is inconsequential in comparison to the world-building, and hell, it's a script that makes allowance for a "Moss from The IT Crowd" character, a role which I presume was politely declined by Richard Ayoade himself. The one insightful bit of dialogue is a subversion of certain hero's girlfriend tropes, but the chemistry between Reynolds and Lively is so weak that they might as well have computerised it along with everything else.

All of which is not to say that Green Lantern is the travesty that many critics have made it out to be. It's a monumental stretch to call it the worst film of 2011 so far, but its principal failing is that Thor raised the bar for these "tough sell" comic book properties in cinema, and the cynical world-building on show here looks like Shyamalan's The Last Airbender by comparison. The special effects may not be entirely up to scratch, but it's the second rate script and the tired tropes that really nail it down as a mediocre effort. 

Green Lantern is now showing, in 2D and 3D, at cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Green Lantern, why not share your comments below?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The mythology is nonsensical and the plot takes forever to get going. But once it does, the movie takes advantage of a strong cast and a director who knows what he’s doing. Good Review! Check out mine when you can!