Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Well, ‘Green Lantern’ Pretty Much Sucks

Given Green Lantern’s dismal reviews and disappointing $53.2 million opening weekend, it seems almost cruel to add yet another bad review to the pile. The movie has already been savaged by everyone from top-tier film critics to obsessive comic book fans to casual filmgoers on Twitter, so people who haven’t seen it yet have been given fair warning to stay away.

But you know what? Screw it. I paid $16 to see this hot garbage in 3D, and I want to vent.

I’m not going to lie and say I’m a lifelong fan of the Green Lantern comic books. In fact, I’ll go on record in saying my experience with the character doesn’t extend far beyond Geoff Johns’ work over the last seven years or so. Still, by following the character from Rebirth to the “Sinestro Corps. War” storyline to Blackest Night and beyond, I gained a new appreciation for how expansive the DC Universe actually was. When I heard there’d be a Green Lantern feature film with Johns attached as a producer, I was thrilled. After all, I thought, the Green Lantern mythos is essentially Star Wars with superheroes, how could anyone screw that up? Someone must have mistaken that rhetorical question for a dare.

So Green Lantern, helmed by Casino Royale director Martin Campbell, is a loose retelling of Hal Jordan’s origin story. Well, that’s not entirely true. Star Ryan Reynolds is in full-on Van Wilder mode here, so the character more closely resembles the boastful and arrogant Guy Gardner. All that said, the filmmakers tells us this prick of a fighter pilot is Hal, so I guess we’ll take their word for it.

Anyhow, a dying purple alien (Temuera Morrison) bestows his green power ring to Hal, granting him amazing and otherworldly abilities based on his incredible will (the Green Lanterns’ power is based on willpower). Even though Hal is afraid of just about everything throughout the film, the ring chose him based on his ability to overcome fear. Go figure.
Now a member of the legendary Green Lantern Corps., Hal is transported to Oa, where he meets the fish-faced Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush), receives a few minutes of training from drill sergeant Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan) and clashes briefly with a Green Lantern leader named Sinestro (Mark Strong). Because this film isn’t interested in making Hal interesting or heroic, he quits the Corps. almost immediately and heads back to Earth, claiming the ring was wrong in choosing him. While you might think this weakens Hal’s character arc, keep in mind that the visual effects team on Green Lantern apparently put a lot of time and money into making Oa look as desolate and depressing as possible. You almost can’t blame Hal for wanting to leave.

But anchoring Hal to Earth is his childhood sweetheart-turned-steely aircraft executive Carol Ferris, played by Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively. Don’t let the last name fool you – she’s not the least bit enthusiastic about this material. However, she’s an ideal damsel in distress after scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is infected by an alien entity called Parallax and begins using his newfound abilities to lash out at everyone that wronged him, including his senator father (Tim Robbins) and Carol, who once spurred his romantic advances in favor of Hal. The character transition comes off as awkward, especially since we’re not really given the opportunity to care about him before his transformation into a cackling psychic supernerd. Nevertheless Sarsgaard looks like he’s having a lot of fun in this role, so at least someone was enjoying themselves on set during filming.

And let’s get to Parallax, the malicious force that thrives off the yellow-hued power of fear – a counterpoint to the Green Lantern Corps.’ mastery of will. It’s been featured pretty heavily in the comic book series, and even possessed Hal to turn him into one of the most diabolical villains in the history of the DC Universe. But alas, Parallax is reduced to a snarling, poorly rendered yellow blob with tentacles that goes out like a chump when Hal ultimately decides to become a hero during the film’s tensionless climax.

If I’m being harsh and dismissive toward Green Lantern, it’s because this movie could have been a lot better than it turned out. This film should have been the beginning of a superheroic space opera, and instead we’re subjected to a dull, lifeless, rushed and remarkably mundane iteration of the character’s origin story. After Marvel Studios’ Thor, Green Lantern just makes Warner Bros. look bad.

Oh, and if you stick around through the credits, you get a brief extra scene teasing a sequel. When Iron Man and Thor did this, I cheered. Here, however, hinting at a sequel is more presumptuous than titillating.

If you’re in the mood for superheroes at the cinema, save your green for Captain America.

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