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Thursday, June 23, 2011


"In brightest day, in blandest night..."

So I saw the long-anticipated GREEN LANTERN last night and I did not hate it it, probably because I went to it with zero expectations after the lambasting it got from all sides, which is not to say that I thought it was good. In fact I can't even bring myself to get at all worked up about it because it was so bland and lifeless that it is not worth getting worked up about. It just existed there on the screen in a state of cinematic lethargy that in no way engaged the audience. When it comes to movies, I enjoy having some kind of passionate response to them, but in this case my apathy supersedes any sense of apoplexy.

The film's plot modernizes the familiar tale of how test pilot Hal Jordan (a miscast Ryan Reynolds) is chosen by a dying alien to replace him as a member of the Green Lantern Corps, an inter-galactic peace-keeping organization comprised of 3500 sentient and wildly diverse alien races, and thrown into that hero's journey are the threat of world-destroying fear entity Parallax and the bitter, gigundo-headed telepath/telekinetic Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), plus Hal's sorta-tense relationship with his boss and former-lover, Carol Ferris (a miscast Blake Lively). There are aerial bits involving fighter planes, Hal figuring out how to properly wield his ring, the seeds of an antagonistic rivalry with fellow Green Lantern Sinestro (Mark Strong, who was definitely not miscast), the exotic setting of the GL homeworld, Oa, and all manner of spandex goings-on to be had.

Mark Strong as Sinestro, the one thing I really dug about the film.

All of those elements could have — and frankly should have — meshed to create a dazzling sci-fi/superhero hybrid full of excitement and romance, but there was not one moment of genuine thrills to be had in the entire film. Ironically, by trying to hew so close to its source (though admittedly in a modernized fashion), the whole shebang became hidebound to the point of being moribund. From what I hear, the film is not doing well at the box office and that saddens me greatly, both as a lifelong Green Lantern booster, but also because the film sets up a sequel that would lead into the Sinestro Corps War, my favorite GL story arc from recent years. With the drubbing the film is taking on both the critical and money-making fronts, that potentially awesome sequel looks unlikely to happen.

As for the film's visual effects, the eye was presented with a ton of potentially neat stuff to absorb, but even with its budget clearly visible onscreen, it all amounted to a huge "so what?" Everything that took place before the introduction of Hal Jordan looked like one of those short "films" that serve as the opening for a video game — the CGI animation on Abin Sur (the GL who passes his ring on to Hal) as he was escaping Parallax was truly appalling — and one of my biggest problems with the film was an over-reliance on CGI to the point where nothing looked even remotely organic. To me it was simply an over-long toy commercial — everyone and everything on Oa looked like a well-populated action figure playset, and I didn't even give a shit about either Tomar Re or Kilowog, two of my favorite alien GL's, being present — that did not make me care about anyone in the film, with the notable exception of Sinestro. And I believe the film would have been a lot stronger if they had excised the completely superfluous Hector Hammond B-plot in the scripting stage and just concentrated on Hal learning the ropes of the GL gig. And I don't know about you, but I would have definitely shown a hell of a lot more emotion and sense of wonder than Hal did at suddenly having my life turned completely upside down as I was given the powers of a science-fiction demi-god and tasked with protecting a whole sector of outer space and getting to regularly interact with fantastic beings, many of whom don't even bear the slightest humanoid aspect.

To sum up, I did not hate GREEN LANTERN but to me it just kind of lay there on the screen like a dead cat on the side of the road.
Dull and a sad squandering of so much to build a franchise from. It was pretty to look at, but overall I found it to be the cinematic equivalent to cotton candy, a potentially satisfying treat that offers no substance. I have definitely seen far worse superhero films, but I cannot recommend this to anyone other than Green Lantern completists who are compelled to see it out of sheer obsessive fandom. If this and last year's JONAH HEX debacle (which I admittedly refused to put myself through) are examples of how DC plans to approach adapting its catalog of characters, things do not look promising...

(NOTE: In my opinion, FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER still stands as the nadir of the current wave of superhero movies for a slew of reasons, but mostly because they got everything about the FF wrong (with Ben being the lone exception), a factor that also made the first one unendurable.)


Unknown said...

I also didn't like Blake Lively as Carol. She was too young. I felt like I needed a bath in hand sanitizer after their scenes. I hated the CGI and costume designs too.

But I did love the movie for the sheer fun factor. I think for a movie that is clearly targeted for younger audiences (they really would could have eliminated the jumping out of bed with random blonde) they did fine. I think the plot was much better suited for the target than X-Men FC.

Glenn Greenberg said...

I agree with everything you wrote, which should be no surprise to you or anyone else who read my advance review last week.

The filmmakers somehow forgot a very important rule in storytelling:


And I didn't give a damn about any of the characters in this movie, with the possible exception of Sinestro.

And as I've mentioned, the CGI was appallingly unconvincing at times, especially in the beginning, when all that was required was realistic looking shots of planets in outer space. Hell, the much-lower budgeted Star Trek movies from the 80s got that right, every time!

As for the future of movies based on DC Comics characters, I've got faith in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES since Christopher Nolan is still at the helm, but I'm becoming more and more concerned about SUPERMAN: MAN OF STEEL, despite the excellent casting.

Will said...

more and more I've come to the conclusion that using the old "hero's journey" template is a sign of sheer hackery.

Edward Lazellari said...

Wait, the FF was miscast? You mean Sue Storm really isn't a blonde Mexican? Now it makes sense.

Bunche (pop culture ronin) said...

Will, I am soooooo with you.