22 June 2011

Green Lantern


Green Lantern

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett
Writers: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg
Directed by Martin Campbell
Release: 17 June 2011
Warner Bros., 114 mins., Rated PG-13

Plot: Pilot Hal Jordan (Reynolds) is recruited by the Green Lantern Corps to become a Green Lantern, a space cop bound to protect their Sector, but before he can become the hero he was appointed to be, Hal must face the greatest enemy: fear.

I think it was the midnight screening of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART ONE, a GREEN LANTERN trailer was attached and it was the first time I saw honest-to-God footage of the film, complete with unfinished visual effects. When the trailer ended, I turned to my girlfriend and said, “Looks like another FANTASTIC FOUR.” Someone on the level above said, “but better!” Back in November I completely disagreed with them. The special effects looked downright embarrassing, and nothing from the trailer really caught my attention aside from Blake Lively looking gorgeous like she does. Now, after having seen the film twice, I gotta confess, GREEN LANTERN is leaps and bounds better than I expected, and is quite the enjoyable action/adventure space/superhero film. Of course there are areas that need some patching up, but overall, the experience was a good one.

My experience with the GREEN LANTERN mythology isn’t huge. It consists of picking up Geoff Johns’ SECRET ORIGIN at Barns & Noble while mum spent three hours at TARGET. I ate that book up. Brilliant. Superb script, great characters, great illustrations, great everything. Also watched the direct-to-DVD DC animated movie GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT, which also tells the story of Hal Jordan’s transformation into the Green Lantern, albeit his enemy isn’t Paralax, but instead someone a little more personal. So with that little knowledge of the mythology, and a bit of trepidation, I walked into GREEN LANTERN with hope to at least be entertained. Which, y’know, with Ryan Reynolds as the lead, how can one go wrong? He somehow made his brief three minutes in X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE possibly the best part of the movie. Further proof Ryan is a Jedi.First, the positive. Very, very cool opening. The first four minutes is all set-up: there’s Geoffrey Rush as Tomar-Re providing background voice over concerning the Green Lantern Corps, the power of Will in the Universe and the evil power of Fear that seeks to upset the balance. And then there’s the introduction of the power-hungry antagonist, Paralax. Frightening, ladies and gents, frightening. Although occasionally reminding me of the puff of smoke Galactus in FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER, Paralax is a truly powerful, terrifying villain. It’s evildoing on earth is, albeit brief, just like a horror movie as it causes chaos. This is a power-hungry, fear-loving, giant wibbley blob of pissed off energy that wants to destroy the Green Lantern home planet of Oa into smithereens. So if there’s at least one thing the movie did really well, it’s setting up a badass and genuinely terrifying baddie. To add, the quick battle with Abin Sur and Paralax was awesome. Absolute craziness as Abin Sur fights to get away from the evil entity yearning for revenge. Awesome way to open a movie.

A big part of GREEN LANTERN is its special effects: the Green Lantern suits, the planet Oa, the thousands of alien Lanterns, aerial shot, Paralax, digital characters, plus loads of things I can’t think of, etc. Hell, there’s so much that in April Warner Bros. threw in another $9 million to finish the SPFX in time for release. Well, I can positively say the effects are definitely improved over the embarrassing early trailers. The best way to sum up the special effects is by saying they’re ambitious. Not only were the CGI workers tasked with designing thousands of alien species, a planet to house these Lanterns, a cloudy, jelly-like antagonist, two ginormous firey Rings of Power (which would totally kick Sauron’s ass), but they faced a creative idea that would be difficult to realistically render: a ever lively suit that looked and feels attached to the skin. A protective outlayer that forms over the ring wearers body. Bloody brilliant idea, and one hell of ambitious project. So each time Reynolds is onscreen in his Lantern outfit, a team of animators were clicking away at each frame to make it look realistic and organic and constantly moving with power. They didn’t succeed in the realism part – especially in regards to the groan-worthy green mask of bad CGI – but given the most likely momentous task, I can give them some slack. Now if only they worked at Lucasfilm and were given permission to continually tweak the effects until DVD/Blu-Ray day.
For every comic book movie franchise the origin story needs to be told, and then if that film is successful, the writers can work on forwarding the narrative. Aside from a few instances, like SPIDER-MAN or BATMAN BEGINS where their origin story is just as impactful and important to their everyday lives as it is in the beginning, origins do seem to be glossed over to get to the “meaty” stuff. Y’know, the stuff summer blockbusters are made of: digital characters, explosions, pretty girls, extravagant climax. Point is, GREEN LANTERN is all about origin, it’s all about Hal Jordan’s journey to acceptance. Not his acceptance of alien life, cos that seems to happen quite quickly and without much in the way of effort, but acceptance in the responsibility of who and what a Green Lantern is. In the case of Hal Jordan, the entire movie is about facing fear and overcoming in. Hell, they went out of their way to include an entity that thrives on fear and devours the fear of any being that is just a teeny bit afraid. To have a superhero movie where the main character is absolutely not cut out for the job, who is overcome with a feeling that represents what a Green Lantern should not be, to see that journey onscreen – that, personally, is a wonderful thing. GREEN LANTERN doesn’t handle it as subtly, delicately, or emotionally as I would have liked, instead becoming a overbearing theme hammered into our heads a hundred times over and failing in any true powerful dramatic resonance. Not to sound too begrudging towards the movie. For what the movie sets out to do, to say, to explore, it deserves lots of props.

Same thing goes with the world that GREEN LANTERN inhabits, and this is where this franchise/series is most unique and spectacular. There are entire galaxies of aliens that are members of the Green Lantern Corps, whole worlds to explore and set stories in. Yes, the film is primarily about the first human Lantern and his literal out-of-this-world experience, but the magnitude of what can be explored here is exciting. I feel like a giddy school kid who just heard about AVATAR. Speaking of that film, now would probably be a proper time to make a small comment. Now, I didn’t see GREEN LANTERN in 3D, so I can’t comment on how this new and dying format is utilized, but if there is any film in the universe that can achieve the same visual success of AVATAR and benefit from it just as greatly if not more, it would be this movie. Imagine the Green Lantern home planet of Oa properly brought to life is glorious three dimensions, to see these brand new, original-designed worlds/universes packed with brilliantly rendered and thought up beings. This is a superhero world that allows us to explore space and alien races, presenting audiences with the best of opportunities to see exciting entities or planets that would make any filmgoer feel like one of those kids in the 1970’s being awe-struck by the Death Star rumbling overheard in the cinema. Personally, if done properly, GREEN LANTERN and 3D could be the MOST AMAZING THING EVER.

It’s exactly this world of extraordinary things that sets Green Lantern apart from other big-time superhero characters, like IRON MAN, BATMAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, or X-MEN. With THOR there are definitely amazing sights to be seen, no doubt, but Green Lantern allows the creators mind to be nearly limitless with their designs, their creature/character desires. Not to forget mentioning the bazillion story opportunities this universe presents.Anyways, back on point: the finished product, GREEN LANTERN the movie. In regards to negatives, or at least less positive things, I still have a nagging feeling that Ryan Reynolds is miscast as Hal Jordan. No disrespect to Mr. Reynolds – I love him dearly, and he’s a tremendously talented actor. He’s just not Hal Jordan, but he’s a perfect Deadpool (my rant concerning the same actors playing different superheroes will have to be left for another day). Can I offer a better replacement? Not exactly. The first name that pops to mind is, of course, Mr. Nathan Fillion, who could nicely portray the character, both his fear and his heroism. Reynolds can deliver the funny lines like nobody’s business, but in regards to battling his inner fear, being a superhero, and even looking good in the (digital) outfit – nah, don’t see it. But my nitpick of casting aside, Ryan absolutely does the best he can, and it’s abundantly apparent, so kudos, sir. As for Blake Lively, well, my main gripe with her is more the inclusion of yet another love interest in a superhero movie and less her acting. Blake is fine, nothing bad nor nothing great, she’s just there looking mighty pretty with one or two scenes that are actually nicely written. I like the different dynamic of the relationship between Carol and Hal, instead of Hal pinning for Carol they both have common ground and are sort of circling each other. So I liked that bit, but I’m getting a little tired of the seemingly mandatory romance that’s seeped its way through all these superhero films. Why can’t the female character just be similar to Buffy Summers: strong, confidant, and integral to the action and definitely NOT the damsel in distress? Give us that.

Amanda Waller’s character – rather important in the DC universe – is less than important here. Hell, exercise her entirely; she seemed present just to make her name drop excite some fans. Peter Sarsgaard did a great job as Dr. Hector Hammond, but that doesn’t mean I was particularly pleased with the character, and I don’t think the movie greatly benefited from including him. Although, it did lend a interesting dynamic between Hector and Hal, and Hector and his father. Sinestro’s interest in the power of the Yellow Ring of Fear could have at least been hinted at, or at least his desire to try it out selfishly. When it happens, it sort of comes out of nowhere after he gives an inspiring speech about believing in the power of Will again. The resurrection and eventual demise of Paralax seems a bit lazy and not well thought out, but again, Paralax was cool, so I’m willing to forgive it. And finally, damnit, that digital suit. Ugh.

Superhero soundtracks have been a hit and miss thing lately. Patrick Doyle started the summer off with a reasonably average score for THOR, hitting all the needs of the film without really standing out in its own right. Henry Jackmen’s X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, score, however, was nothing short is fantastic. James Newton Howard’s GREEN LANTERN composition is somewhere in-between: great in some areas, serviceable in others. Listening to the soundtrack release, Newton’s score is good, but not something that lends itself to multiple exposures, unlike Jackmen’s brilliant, say, “First Class” theme. Disappointing, but serviceable to the movie as a need-be basis.

Directing and editing is creative and precise, so major kudos to director Martin Campbell (who directed one of my favorite childhood films, THE MASK OF ZORRO) and the cutting room team who made an easily rewatchable and entertaining film. Superhero movies have been blessed thus far this summer with some great visionary directors such as Kenneth Brannagh, Matthew Vaughn, and now Campbell. Let’s hope Joe is just as creative with his CAPTAIN AMERICA film out next month. Visually, the film is quite beautiful. Look at the screencaps for proof. Editing, the next best thing, is just as good. So, on a technical level, no problems here. GREEN LANTERN was the summer movie I was most intrigued to see the finished product. The trailers looked horrible, Ryan Reynolds felt miscast, the special effects were embarrassing but ambitious, and my enthusiasm level was not raised in the slightest. But here we are, and lo and behold, GREEN LANTERN is a fun ride, and I confess I wouldn’t be opposed to a sequel. I’d be there. With an entire universe of infinite possibilities, this franchise could honestly be something with longevity. A beautiful superhero space opera, the Galactic cops versus the naughties of the world – sounds awesome. Who’s with me?

There's loads to be said about GREEN LANTERN. Nitpicking to an extreme, I'll give you that; complaints about the special effects which still look unfinished; comic continuity, what have you. And there's the positive's still left unsaid. Thing is about GREEN LANTERN, there's a lot of love in every frame of the film, and to truly give it justice, I would have to see it another two or three times and analyze the hell out of it. LANTERN is a good movie. I enjoyed it. Reynolds was good. The fights were cool. The CGI was passable. Do I have some problems? Sure. But don't let that stop you from giving it a check, and preferably in the theaters. It's a mega movie with some awesome sights and ideas, and deserves to be seen on the big screen.

Rating: 7.5/10 = Funny, visually impressive, and beaming with a vast and wonderful mythology and characters that demand to be explored, GREEN LANTERN is better than expected (and the critics would like you to believe) but still has some faults that unfortunately are noticeable. Still, give me the sequel.

3 comments:

Fitz said...

I'm glad there is someone else on my blogroll who also thought this was fun. Not great, but fun.

Some of the vile coming toward this project seems absurd.

dtmmr said...

The mythology is nonsensical and the plot takes forever to get going. But once it does, the movie takes advantage of a strong cast and a director who knows what he’s doing. Good Review! Check out mine when you can!

profile said...

i have saw green lantern movie last week and i say that it has good effect rather than the captain america. its nice that they have show the movie in late of 2011. :)

Sig: Andrew | surgical instruments