Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
If there was even an outside chance of you caring about this movie based on your already established love of the comic book source material or even just the progressively more interesting trailers that have been released over the last few months, then you've already likely read a half-dozen or more reviews of this film that have warned you to stay far, far away from GREEN LANTERN. I have not read any reviews of this film, but I've seen the headlines, so I'm aware of somewhat-justified piling on this film has received. But let me warn you about some terminology that you may stumble upon variation of while reading any positive reaction to this film.
"It's not perfect." No shit. Here's a newsflash: no film is perfect. This is an empty statement that critics and people use to mean "This movie is equal to or less than 50 percent shit."
"It good for what it is." Wait a second. If the movie is shit, are you saying it's good shit? In certain circles, this may be considered the ultimate slam on any movie. What I think this also empty statement is that the film isn't designated High Art, so it should be given a pass for its shortcomings on elements like plot and character development. My response: Bullshit. Every movie should strive to be great, and just because a film is designated a summer blockbuster or somehow feeding into the pop culture doesn't mean it gets to skate by in areas that wouldn't have cost any extra money to get right.
"I didn't hate it." Gee, aren't you generous. Guess what folks, you aren't supposed to hate it. This statement is not a compliment. The mission of the filmmakers was not to construct a movie that you didn't hate. You either liked it or you didn't. This statement reminds me of another favorite, "My expectations were low, therefore [something positive]." Again, not really a rousing endorsement. Just because a film met or didn't meet your expectations isn't really a gauge of its quality. Ideally, you walk into every film with neutral expectations (which is not the same as no expectations); let the film guide you through its good and bad moments on its own merits. I realize we all bring a certain level of expectational baggage into every film, but at least allow a movie to be something different than what you thought. Just because a movie is different from what you thought it would be doesn't mean it's bad; it's just unexpected, which is often quite fun.
All of this is preamble to saying GREEN LANTERN falls apart on its own merits, and no amount of enthusiasm I may have had going into it changes that. But here's the thing: I was the perfect audience to see GREEN LANTERN and judge it rationally. I know next to nothing about the character and his universe. I've always believed with any superhero movie that if you can attract audiences beyond the hardcore fanbase, then you've probably got yourself a solid movie. So I was primed and ready for my crash course in test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), the Green Lantern Corps, yellow energy, blah blah blah. Instead what I got was a skimming of the surface, paint-by-number superhero movie I've seen in ages. It falls victim to all of the problems origin-story movies tend to have, relating to too much introduction and not enough compelling plot.
And the real crime is that the elements for something so much better are all there. My favorite scenes in the film involve the Corps storyline, which involves the galactic police force bracing itself for an attack by an age-old enemy known as Parallax, a planet-swallowing force that feeds on fear (voiced by Clancy Brown, not that you can tell). When the Corps member known as Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), who originally imprisoned Parallax, is mortally wounded, his Green Lantern ring takes him to earth where the ring is passed on to the maverick pilot Jordan, the first earthling to ever be in the Corps., led by Sinestro (Mark Strong). Side note: I'm sorry, but the dude's name is Sinestro. Are we supposed to be shocked when he becomes a turncoat in a sequence tucked away in the credits?
I was genuinely impressed with the landscape of the Corps world Oa, and the sheer number of alien creatures created for these sequences (I believe 3,600 was the number of Green Lantern Corps members). I also dug the scenes involving the Guardians, big-headed dudes who advise the Lanterns in times of trouble. But the filmmakers, led by director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), seem to want to force us to focus on Hal Jordan on Earth, dazzling humans with his groovy powers and wooing his old girlfriend, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively).
The film also wastes our time with cartoonish performances by the likes of Peter Sarsgaard as scientist Hector Hammond, who is infected by this yellow energy that gives him telepathic powers; Tim Robbins as his disappointed senator father, who also happens to be tied in with military projects carried out by Carol's industrialist father (Jay O. Sanders); and Angela Bassett as DC Comics ever-present Dr. Amanda Waller (in a perfect DC movie world, I believe Waller would be the closest thing to the binding force Nick Fury is in the Marvelverse). But so much of what these characters bring to the table feels like distraction. I'm sorry, but when you know a massive force is about to eat Earth, the rumblings of a few semi-powerful humans pales in comparison.
And because everyone insists on spending so much time on boring old Earth, the most interesting other-worldly elements fly by so quickly, it's as if they never happened. They certain don't stay on Oa long enough for any of the great computer-design work to really register. But what's far more troubling is Reynolds' performance. I've always dug Reynolds' charm as an actor. He's a funny, smarmy performer, and while I've enjoyed watching him do work that steps outside this comfort zone, that's what he does better than most. As cocky as Hal Jordan is, he's not Reynolds' level of cocky; he never fully commits to being full-on wiseass. I'm not even saying he should be; I'm just saying, there are elements of wiseass in the performance, and they don't rise to the level Reynolds is capable of. That being said, when he is fighting with his fellow Corps members against Parallax, he takes his performance in the opposite direction, almost too seriously--laughably so. As a result, the film has troubling settling on a tone, which normally isn't an issue for me, but GREEN LANTERN needs a fixed tone.
One more thing. Having seen how the filmmakers handle the organic nature of the Green Lantern suit--how it appears and disappears from Jordan's body in the blink of an eye, how it pulsates with green energy--I get why Reynolds didn't actually wear the suit or mask while shooting. But here's the thing, I have to imagine as an actor, wearing the suit makes a difference. I've heard every actor to play Superman say as much. You put on the suit and you become the character. There is some spark missing form Reynolds' performance that I firmly believe comes from not seeing himself in the mirror, in the suit. And by the way, the mask always looks fake.
As some of my peers have indicated, GREEN LANTERN does make a valiant attempt to rally in the final act to justify a sequel. I don't think this film makes a case for another chapter, especially in all likelihood the makers would be tempted to pile even more characters onto whatever plot they came up with. And odds are, now that they have disposed of the character introductions, the sequel would be the better movie, but that prospect doesn't make me any more interested in seeing it. Even a well-intentioned disappointment is still disappointing, maybe more so.
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