Monday, November 14, 2011

Green Lantern

Directed by Martin Campbell.
2011. Rated PG-13, 114 minutes.
Ryan Reynolds
Blake Lively
Mark Strong
Peter Sarsgaard
Tim Robbins
Angela Bassett
Jay O. Sanders
Temuera Morrison
Clancy Brown
Michael Clarke Duncan

Abin Sur (Morrison) is the most celebrated member of the intergalactic police force known as The Green Lanterns. When he is fatally wounded by all-powerful villain Parallax (voiced by Clancy Brown) he manages to make it to the nearest inhabited planet before perishing. Of course, that planet is Earth. Once landing, Abin Sur commands his magical ring to go forth and choose his successor in the Green Lantern corps. It chooses loose cannon, ultra sarcastic playboy test pilot Hal Jordan (Reynolds).

Shortly, Hal is whisked away to the planet Oa (pronounced like Noah, but without the ‘n’). This is HQ for all the lanterns and he’s there to get some quick training. That means he gets an explanation on how the ring works and what it does. For the uninformed, the ring can instantly form anything he thinks of. It also allows him to fly and breathe in outer space. We’re never actually told this last bit, but roll with it. Hal doubts that he’s worthy, goes back home, saves a few lives and really gets thrust into the action when Parallax comes looking to make a snack out of Earth’s inhabitants. Meanwhile, Dr. Hector Hammond (Sarsgaard) suddenly develops telepathic and telekinetic powers and goes crazy after examining Abin Sur’s body. A piece of Parallax lodged in the dead alien’s chest infects the doc. In short, Dr. Hammond becomes the tune-up villain for our hero before the big smog (Parallax) comes to Earth.

Although it’s an origin story, Green Lantern is not one of those slow movers where we have to wait an hour before the action starts. It’s a fast-paced affair that gleefully zips along in a relentless attempt to make each action sequence a bigger spectacle than the last. It seems to be trying to make you say “Ooh, he just made a machine gun! There’s a giant racetrack! Ooh, the giant cloud of dust is zapping people!” And so on. By the way, I haven’t even mentioned the steadily increasing size of Dr. Hammond’s head.

For kids and others who just want to see lots of superhero stuff, this is a fun ride. “Stuff” happens all the time. For more discerning viewers, particularly overly critical fanboys, it will be a neon green tinted mess. Sure, lots of stuff keeps happening but much of it makes little or no sense. It feels like they just keep throwing things against the wall to see what sticks. Instead of developing the story, it rushes to the next action scene. This, combined with a tone that’s way too reminiscent of the Fantastic Four movies and a hero that acts more like Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark than the comic book version of Jordan gives the whole film a very cheesy feel. I’m not necessarily calling for “dark and gritty” like fanboys tend to do when criticizing the movies based on their favorite characters. However, if memory serves The Green Lantern comic books was more serious in approach. That helped offset some of the inherent silliness of a hero that forms a bunch of green things with his magic ring, has a serious problem with yellow and follows the command of a group of rather large-headed blue guys.

The silliness extends to our villain and the movie’s concept of the size of the galaxy. Creatures that can eliminate entire planets of people are difficult to translate to the screen. They gave a valiant effort but weren’t consistent with what Parallax could or couldn’t do. This is mostly a problem because he flat refuses a couple opportunities to kill our hero. Judging by the ending, our villain isn’t too bright, either. This little bit of ridiculousness involves the sun. I’ll just leave it at that. Still, in comparison to The Fantastic Four again, this movie does a better job with a similar bad guy. We get a far better representation of Parallax than the second FF flick has of Galactus. As far as the galaxy goes, I just find it funny that while no one beams anywhere like in Star Trek, anyone can get anywhere in a matter of minutes. It’s like Earth and Oa are next door neighbors.

I could go on for days about the problems with this movie. There are lots to choose from. However, it does one thing well. It gives us super hero action. It also does it at a pretty rapid rate. If this is enough for you, then you’ll enjoy GL. Be honest with yourself about your feelings for those Fantastic Four flicks. Better than I, that will likely help you decide if you think this is part of the brightest day or blackest night.

MY SCORE: 5/10

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