Sunday, August 14, 2011

Green Lantern - 2011

"Green Lantern" - 2011
Dir. by Martin Campbell - 1 hr. 54 min.

Official Trailer

By Clayton Hollifield

It's not often that a movie completely blows it right off the bat.  And by that, I mean within the first five minutes of the film, "Green Lantern" was completely ruined.  Before we even get to nerdy points of contention like casting, how the costume looks, or how close to the source material the film remains, "Green Lantern" was a piece of burnt toast.  Sure, there are other things along the way that are laughable, violate basic storytelling laws, or are just plain stupid, but to screw the pooch so immediately and vigorously is a rare feat.

I'm not going to recap the plot in detail.  Buy a "Green Lantern" comic (or hit up your library and borrow a book) if you want to know.  Basically, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a pilot who finds a dying alien, who then bestows a ring and green lantern on Jordan.  This turns him into a superhero.  So now you're up to speed.

Back to the problem at hand.  This movie blows both the "journey of a hero" story and sucks all of the joy out of a sci-fi spectacle at the same time.  The opening scene is set on a cosmic scale, explaining who the Green Lantern Corp are, and how the whole thing works.  Well, mystery solved.  Opening the film in this way serves two purposes, neither of them positive ones.  First, it eliminates the sense of wonder that comes when a sci-fi story goes from everyday to cosmic.  "Green Lantern" saves nothing for the wedding night.  One of the principle joys of these kinds of film is the gradual discovery and understanding of a world larger and more spectacular (hopefully) than our own.  But that only work if you keep your legs together, to further the metaphor.  Instead, this film becomes a piece of meat splayed out, served on a platter.  Secondly, when Hal Jordan goes through the inevitable "whoa" phase, he looks like a nimrod because the entire audience is already three paces ahead of him.  Jeez, Hal, we already saw O'a.  Catch up already.

As for the journey of the hero story, the writers (there are four of them credited) apparently thought it would be a good idea to, whenever Hal Jordan aspires to do something more than sit around and be reliable, have women and children start crying.  I wish I could say this happened only once, but I remember a minimum of three times this happened.  That's a hell of a heroic message: anything other than couch surfing will make every one you know weep (and call you a child, which happens at least as frequently).  I began to think that the true heroic tale of this story was not Green Lantern vs. Parallax, but Hal Jordan rising about his awful, manipulative friends and family to make anything out of himself at all.  All the people around Jordan drill him constantly about being irresponsible and a child, which leads to another point: show, don't tell.

"Show, don't tell" is a basic storytelling maxim.  It means that whenever possible, it's better to have things like character traits be explained by actions or scenes than to do it in dialogue.  And when you're dealing with a huge budget, sci-fi, special effects extravaganza like "Green Lantern," you'd think that might be the one area that they'd knock out of the park.  Instead, we get things like Hal's family and friends alternating between berating him and crying over him, extended expository sequences explaining O'a (the home planet of the Green Lantern Corp), how the ring/lantern combo works, and training sequences.  Just way too much talking, and not nearly enough spot on character work.

That's kind of understandable though, since most of the actors don't really do much with what they've got to work with.  Ryan Reynolds was fine, but his love interest, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), was awful.  She's part of the berating/crying crew, and was a Smurfette to boot (the only other significant female role belonged to Angela Bassett, but she didn't interact with many of the other characters).  To me, when there's only one woman around in a sea of men, her relationship with the star doesn't mean much.  It means that he's the alpha male and she was simply what was available.  If that's not what a filmmaker is trying to imply, then you need more female characters around to turn Carol from the town pump into someone worth pursuing.  It's understandable that Hector Hammond (played by Peter Sarsgaard) would be jealous over Carol and Hal's relationship; short of mail-ordering a bride from Russia, the village's allotment of women has officially been claimed.  It annoys me to no end to have to point this sort of thing out, but it's just another point on a checklist of reasons why this movie was really, really bad.  There are hoes in many area codes, so why not throw a few of them a payday to patch up a plot hole?

I could get into how this movie shamelessly and ineffectively rips off the Star Wars saga at every opportunity, but why beat a dead horse?  For exercise, I suppose.  The special effects were kind of underwhelming.  They bluntly state in the film that the ring can do literally anything that Jordan can imagine, but he doesn't appear to have much of an imagination.  DC Comics is now responsible for two of the worst films I've seen in recent years (this and "Jonah Hex").  Even though the run time wasn't excessive, I got fidgety and bored at several points.  This is the sort of thing that I have a soft spot for, but a bad movie is a bad movie.

1 / 5 - Theatre

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