16 June 2011

Movie Review: The Green Lantern

Summertime is the cinematic season for big budget superhero action flicks.  This year, Warner Brothers reportedly spent $300 million to bring  The Green Lantern to the silver screen. Between the Beltways, there is the notion that some enterprises are too big to fail. Alas, that does not apply to bloated blockbusters from Tinseltown.

From the opening credits, a Green Lantern viewer can tell that the filmmakers dumped a lot of money into special effects.  The action packed space opera start of the film is much more effective when 3-D glasses are supplied for a 3-D film.  While the glasses made seeing the cataclysmic cosmic battle clearer, the affectated exposition of the history of the Green Lanterns called to mind the intellectual onanism of the Architect scene in The Matrix Reloaded.  Combined this alluvia of information with scenes of aliens who strut and fret their time on the screen and heard no more is confusing to all but the comic book cognoscenti.

Since there have been a half dozen humans who have donned the Green Lantern’s garb in the DC Comic’s 70 year franchise, comic book purists should not complain that screen writers Michael Green and Greg Berlanti chose the Silver Age Green Lantern Hal Jordan (originating in 1959) as the superhero and they drew inspiration from the Secret Origin and Emerald Dawn storylines for the script.

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a second generation test pilot who is scarred by a tragic childhood who witnessed his father crash and burn.  Hal is a maverick flier and fearless in the cockpit but when he’s down to Earth, he is undisciplined and undedicated.  When Abin Sur, one of the 3,600 Green Lantern protectors of the universe crash lands on Earth, the extra-terrestrial alien’s ring chooses Hal Jordan as its successor.  Jordan must come to terms with the new responsibilities that accompany his new powers. Eventually, this human Green Lantern embarks on a mission to defeat Parallax, which feeds on fear, and save the universe.

Green Lantern Director Martin Campbell included several thrilling action sequences, but the disjointed storytelling did not allow the audience to develop emotional investment with characters to enhance empathy.  The opening cosmic battle  was spectacular, but the epic battle with unidentified aliens seemed inconsequential without a closer connection to the protagonist.  In 1977, George Lucas started the original Star Wars with a two minute crawl that gave background to the epic space opera along with a triumphant musical theme.  In the first reel of the Green Lantern, there was little connection with the protagonist and no musical cues from James Newton Howard’s original score to draw us into the storyline.

The script should have been reworked because of the conflicting portrayal of Hal Jordan. The daredevil pilot is shown to have a concerned extended family but they disappear after one sequence.  Jordan’s chosen family comes from his employer Ferris Aircraft, with his on-again-off-again girlfriend pilot/boss Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) and his nerdy sidkick Thomas (Taika Waititi). While Carol Ferris visualy cuts quite a figure, the script gives Lively few memorable lines and her commanding initial presence devolves into coquettish cheerleader in the end.

Although Parallox is an unwieldy alien enemy, his human minion Hector Hammond was deftly portrayed by Peter Sarsgaard.

There were a few instances of subtle humor worked into the film.  When Jordan was trying to divine the Green Lantern oath, Buzz Lightyear would have been proud.  The Green Lantern initiation evoked memories of many boot camp moments. But the script jumped around and did not flesh out “the good guys” or give reasons to care.

There were a few action scenes that were best experienced on the big screen, especially the aerial dogfight. the first act of heroism by Jordan as the Green Lantern and the expensive opening sequence.  What was disappointing was the quick dispatch of the ending.  It seemed too simple but think of it what you will.

The Green Lantern’s special effects were wonderful but the plot did not seem cohesive, the audience could not deeply connect with the hero, there were not iconic scenes or quotable lines and the ending does not blow you away.  While it will probably gross more than Brenda Starr, don’t count on a franchise. On the other hand, at least it’s not Aquaman.

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