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Green Lantern 3D (2011)

June 17, 2011

written by: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, & Michael Goldenberg
produced by: Donald De Line & Greg Berlanti
directed by: Martin Campbell
rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action)
114 min.
U.S. release date: June 17, 2011
With its miscast lead and awful-looking CGI spacesuits, my low expectations upon arriving to the screening for “Green Lantern” were justifiable. The trailers and clips provided very little hope that a live-action adaptation would deliver the right tone and epic scale needed for this fan-favorite DC comics character. It also didn’t help that, only months ago, the studio threw more cash toward what was promised to be dazzling special effects, sending the movie’s total budget into deep space. As much as I root for comic book movies to do well, I can also intuitively know when a movie is just not going to live up to the potential of its epic source material. 

The movie begins in outer space, where we hear Geoffrey Rush (sounding quite bored) tell us of the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic space cops who police various sectors of space. Their only weapon is a powerful emerald ring, battery charged by a green lantern (hence, the name), which allows them to create anything their mind can imagine. If a Lantern choses to combat evil with a sword and shield, then a glowing green sword and shield appear out of nowhere, ready for battle. It also gives them the ability to fly, enables them to understand a variety of languages, and downloads a plethora of information to the bearer. Clearly, it’s important that the ring is a worthy hand. 

If a Lantern is near-death, their ring searches across space for a new owner, which is what happens to Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison, aka Jango Fett), after battling the ghoulish, planet-devouring entity known as Parallax (is that you, Clancy Brown?), a being fueled by fear. Fatally wounded, he survives long enough to escape, crash-landing on Earth. It is there that the ring chooses a worthy replacement in Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a gifted yet irresponsibly reckless test pilot. Employed by Ferris Aircraft, Hal flies alongside Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), a take-no-risks pilot and former flame, who has taken on the role of Vice President of her families company. 

Jordan is crippled by insecurity and doubt (yet too macho to admit it), stemming from the childhood trauma of witnessing his father (John Tenney), a celebrated pilot, go down in flames. Although, it’s mentioned that the ring always chooses the right being for the role, it’s difficult to see the commitment-phobe Jordan as a worthy candidate. That’s one major deviation from the character portrayed in the comics, in which Hal was known as a fearless leader, but here we have a cocky beefcake who hides behind off-putting wisecracks. 

The ring shoots him off to space, where he arrives on the planet Oa, a home for Green Lanterns made by little blue prune-faced men called Guardians. They’re kind of like the Jedi Council, in that they just sit around (in this case, float) and spew out vague direction to any Lantern seeking guidance. Hal is introduced to this strange place by Tomar Re (voiced by Geoffrey Rush), a bird-faced humanoid and trained in combat by Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan), a giant porcine-looking brute, assigned to train newbies. 

These otherworldly scenes are crucial sequences that should sell viewers on computer-generated environments and its alien inhabitants. Sadly, Oa and the Lanterns come across as dull and lifeless, except for the pink-skinned, Sinestro (the reliable Mark Strong), an intensely stoic leader of the Lanterns. He sees Hal, the first human selected to wear a ring, as a pathetic choice, and it is on this planet where it is confirmed that Reynolds is an awful choice to play Hal Jordan. Part of it is the script, but when we see Reynolds doing somersaults in the air and hollering“Whoo-hoo!”, it is just so entirely uncharacteristic for the role, that it is downright wrong. 

I know such criticism is coming from one who knows the comic Hal Jordan pretty well, but I’m not alone. I can attest that there were plenty of others in the audience who felt like the silly tone and comedic beats, was just too much to swallow. I get why Reynolds was chosen, he’s got the superhero body and irreverent attitude, but that’s what we get in almost every role of his. What we wind up getting is Ryan Reynolds in a superhero costume, instead of Hal Jordan. There’s no getting around it. Unfortunately, his portrayal never improves or adds any originality or believability. 

Yes, even though the movie is immersed in spacey mumbo jumbo, our hero still has to display logical and believable behavior. And it would really help if he didn’t look like a complete dork when he smiles in his costume. I know, it seems nitpicky, but each time he cracked a cheeseball grin, I felt myself sinking in my seat. It also doesn’t help that the Lantern uniforms are ridiculous. Now, I realize what they are supposed to be, (alien energy suits) but because they are all CGI, the human actors wearing them (Reynolds and Strong), look like floating heads playing computerized paper dolls.

GREEN LANTERN Peter Sarsgaard

Speaking of heads, the one character that almost saves this disappointing movie, is Dr. Hector Hammond (deliciously played by Peter Sarsgaard), a smarmy, socially inept brainiac. The son of Senator Hammond (Tim Robbins, mugging his way through a non-role), Hammond grew up infatuated by Carol and envious of Hal. So, when he comes into contact with an infectious yellow alien substance, giving him powerful telekinesis and the ability to read minds, let’s just say it goes to his head. Even before the character’s transformation into a swollen Elephant Man, Sarsgaard delights in quietly delivering his lines, in an awkward sing-song fashion. You can tell this guy already has a loose nut and that Sarsgaard is having a blast with it, and he winds up out-acting anyone he has a scene with. 

Even the wonderful Angela Bassett, playing Dr. Amanda Waller (a valuable character from the comics that gets underused here), pales in her scenes with Sarsgaard. He’s the most fun to watch (and maybe Strong too, except for the suit), not because Hammond is supposed to be humorous (and he is), but because he commits to such an over-the-top role, without any reservations.

By the time Hal gets his mess together and fully commits to his role as a Green Lantern, I had all but lost interest in the character. Much of that has to do with the script. How is it that, with four writers, none of them could write Hal Jordan? It seems they were just dead-set on developing a “Ryan Reynolds: Superhero” script, than anything else. The result is a bland and smug lead, who isn’t worthy of the role or the ring. 

None of that matters to viewers who have no clue who Hal Jordan is. They’re likely to have fun here, what with all the colorful special effects that seem cool, for a video game, that is. I suppose many won’t mind the predictable romance (don’t blame Lively, she showed some acting chops in last year’s “The Town”) with its limp dialogue. Those elements are unsatisfying, but not too surprising for a summer blockbuster flick. 

What is most startling is how untraceable director Martin Campbell is here. This is a guy who gave us some of the best Bond films in years (“Goldeneye” and “Casino Royale”), yet no distinctive style or approach is accounted for. Like another “Green” movie from the beginning of the year with useless 3D, “Green Lantern” is more loyal to formula than character, and because of that it, it exudes laziness, making it seem like any director could’ve made it. 

Green Lantern has never been as well-known as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, but he’s always been a superhero with a cool concept, whose limitations have usually only been that of the ring-slinger’s imagination. Unfortunately, the filmmakers imaginations are quite limited here, replacing high stakes drama and excitement with soulless and dull spectacle. None of that will prevent a couple more movies from being cranked out, now that this glowing green machine has started and all those commercial tie-ins are everywhere. 

If you have enough will power, you can glean some fun out of “Green Lantern”, but its simplicity confirms that the Marvel movies will rule the box office this summer. That’s okay though DC, because Christopher Nolan will save your spandex once again next summer.    

RATING: **  
4 Comments leave one →
  1. windi noel permalink
    July 15, 2011 8:56 pm

    Ok, I like Ryan Reynolds, and the first preview I saw looked pretty good. Then I saw the suit, and hated it. I knew I could never sit through the movie being able to tell the suit was CGI. It would have driven me crazy. I guess it’s a good thing, because I have not met anyone yet that liked the movie! At least not anyone that appreciates those types of movies, if that makes sense! 🙂


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