Sunday, 25 September 2011

Film Review: Green Lantern

A dying purple alien crash lands on Earth, his powerful ring recruiting test pilot Hal Jordan (Reynolds) to become a member of the Green Lantern Corps - a group of green intergalactic space cops. When the planet faces imminent destruction at the hands of a cosmic cloud named Parallax fuelled by the power of fear, Hal must first learn some harsh life lessons before he can save the universe.

Green Lantern is a boringly familiar origins tale of a callow, cocky young delinquent with daddy issues who is bestowed an inordinate amount of power but must first learn that with great power comes great responsibility before he can defeat the baddy at the end. Bla bla bla, nothing new here then. Hector Hammond (Sarsgaard) provides our obligatory mirror nemesis, infused with the power of fear which morphs him into Parallax's minion on Earth. However, Hector seems more of a sparing partner than a genuine threat, scarcely eliciting inspiration like a good antagonist should. This is instead left to Parallax himself, a giant amorphous CGI cloud resembling a squid which is bent on eating the universe. And yet for such a planet ending menace, which also eliminates scores of more experienced Green Lantern Corps members with ease, rookie Hal's prompt dispatch of it within five-minutes right at the end just shows how much of an afterthought the bad guys were. This is perhaps what's most disappointing, that the parts which should be exciting in a super hero movie feel rushed.

Instead we're invited to watch Hal schlepping around with super powers, the action expendable so we can witness his jejune antics in the name of character development. However, even this doesn't translate very well. Rather than showing progression from a man child suffering hypengyophobia to upstanding cosmic saviour via rooted character exploration we merely experience a sudden personality shift. And yet this whole film is so self-indulgent in Reynold's 'character' that the supporting cast don't even register, dipping in and out at will. Hal's love interest, Carol (Lively), for example is there to alternate between castigating and fawning over Hal when the mood suits. Mark Strong's Sinestro, honcho of the Corps, is perhaps the most interesting character but is likewise reasonably inconsequential. It's not so much that the actors are necessarily bad, but rather their roles suffer at the hands of a tepid script.

Like Marvel's renovation of its second-tier stars (Iron Man, Thor), Green Lantern follows in similar vain as the first of DC's reboots. But let's be honest for a second here, DC characters have never been as awesome as their Marvel counterparts. Christopher Nolan's Batman re-imagining however changed all that by giving the Dark Knight a gritty realism with a super cool sheen. If DC are feeling left out by the barrage of Marvel facelifts then perhaps they would have been better off using the same tone precedented by Nolan's Batman which might have achieved a similar 'eureka' here. Unfortunately though Green Lantern abjectly displays a comparable aesthetic and comportment to Iron Man and Spiderman, sacrificing ponderable philosophies present in the Dark Knight for a glitzier, altogether cartoonier affair. It remains interesting to see whether the Superman reboot will be more Batman or more Lantern, but with Nolan rumoured to be producing on the Man of Steel it looks like DC might get back on track. Certainly then it doesn't seem DC are gearing up to a Justice League movie in the same way Marvel have created a uniform universe in preparation for The Avengers. For now at least Green Lantern looks set to be starting its own franchise, with allusions at the end of the film for a return of a more sinister Sinestro.

All said and done however, I actually enjoyed Green Lantern more than the majority of critics would have you believe. While the above sounds like a complete chastisement of the film, it does have its perks. The CGI effects are lovely and the ring's power to bring forth "anything you can imagine" is used to good effect with some pretty originative creations. The main problem is that the origins story is usually so difficult to nail, but this is not half as terrible as some far worse efforts in recent years (step up, Ghost Rider, Elektra and Daredevil, your time has come). Yes, it's deeply flawed, more often boring than not, but there are definite flashes of brilliance in places. However, Marvel have it pegged, setting the bar with much more satisfying origins stories in the form of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. I look to Green Lantern's sequel with curiosity.