Sunday, June 19, 2011

Green Lantern (dir. Martin Campbell)

You may be surprised to learn this based on the reviews thus far, but Green Lantern is not the worst thing that's ever happened. It's not very good, either, but...come now people.

In particular, I'm sort of surprised that Thor, which had many of the same problems (often-unconvincing special effects, poor storytelling with almost no logic present ever, a terrible romantic subplot), got a huge pass from critics while this got absolutely trounced. I guess some bloated CGI diversions are acceptable, while others are not.

I even sort of liked Green Lantern in parts. Ryan Reynolds is certainly very good as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, the action, though sadly not as frequent as one would like, is top-notch, and the special effects are actually kind of wonderful. It helps that most of them are supposed to look fake (the power of the Green Lantern is, after all, creating objects out of light, which is exactly what CGI is), but I digress. The biggest thing the film has going for it is absolutely Reynolds, who grounds a film that otherwise is desperate to run away with him in tow. The screenplay is, indeed, a complete mess, the exact result people are desperate for when they bemoan the idea of more than one person writing a film, and the second act in particular is so scattershot, and so frequently unmotivated, that the heavier beats didn't land at all. Peter Sarsgaard plays the film's villain (well, one of them anyway), Hector Hammond, and although his performance is delightfully silly, the film takes his arc waaayyy too seriously, and takes it into some dark territory that is totally ill-fitting with the rather light tone of Hal Jordan's journey.

The other villain is Parallax, which, without rehashing too much of the film's convoluted backstory, is essentially an entity that feeds on fear, and the source of Hal's final confrontation. And this scene in particular gets everything right about the big summer superhero movie. I mean, their battle ends in space. Next to the sun. There are no two ways around that - that is awesome. Really, my chief problem with the film is that there isn't enough that. Green Lantern, as a character, is built for cinema - constructs that appear at the speed of thought aren't nearly as compelling on the comic book page, so every second it can revel in the joy of that creation is a second well spent.

Of course, it would help if the other seconds strung together at all. The prevailing theory is that this was cut down from a much longer cut, and that wouldn't surprise me in the least. There is a LOT of exposition packed into a 105-minute film, and in the process, they've unsurprisingly decided to load up on information-loaded speeches and cut down on character development. Hal is not only the best-formed character in the cast, he's the only one who comes across like a fully-formed person. And I'm fine with stock, one-dimensional characters in big bright CGI movies, but whereas something like Speed Racer embraced its silliness head-on, this is trying to present an actual story with actual people, and it just doesn't fly. So to speak.

Warner Brothers has said they want to replace their nearly-completed Harry Potter franchise with an emphasis on DC superheroes, which is a smart and very overdue move. But they need to realize what made the Potter franchise so successful - strong characters in fantastic situations. The DC characters are sort of famously simple, with much of the nuance added to them decades after their creation, but they still have decades upon which to draw. I hope after this, they use that history to its fullest.

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