Friday, 21 October 2011

Reviews@24 Panels: GREEN LANTERN (2011)

[James weighs in with his thoughts on Martin Campbell's Green LanternThis review is based on the extended cut, so adjust expectations accordingly.]
For the last decade, Marvel Comics (and by extension, Marvel Studios) have really embraced adaptations of comic books. We’ve seen adaptations from the top-tier, like the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises, down to bottom rung with 2005′s Man-Thing. Essentially, the cinemas have been ruled by Marvel; 2011 alone saw three films from Marvel (X-Men: First ClassThor, and Captain America: First Avenger). DC, on the other hand, have yet to make such a significant impact on the big screen. Sure, Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) have earned the most critical acclaim of comic book films, but they’ve had trouble successfully translating other characters to the big screen (see Catwoman [2004], Jonah Hex [2010]). And, sadly, it looks like this trend continues with Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern.

After being mortally wounded by the evil Parallax (a neat looking space-cloud that feeds on fear), the legendary Green Lantern Abin Sur (Tamuera Morrison) encounters cocky test pilot Hal Jordon (Ryan Reynolds), who is charged with taking his place as part of the intergalactic peace-keeping force known as the Green Lantern Corps. Oh, but wait, there’s more. As a child, Hal saw his father – also a test pilot – explode during a flight gone wrong. There’s more to the story, too, like how Hal is a restless, vaguely-douchey guy that lives life on the edge because of his daddy issues and thinks he can’t hack it as a space cop. There’s also his long-time on-again-off-again romance with childhood friend Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). But then Peter Sarsgaard also shows up as Hector Hammond, yet another childhood friend of Hal’s who happens to harbour feelings for Carol as well. Hector is also jealous of Hal because his father (played by Tim Robbins) likes Hal better. So when Hector is infected by Parallax and turns evil, all of these issues come to the forefront and are dealt with in glistening CGI fashion. Plus! There’s other stuff with Hal training to be a Green Lantern, and de facto Lantern leader Sinestro’s (Mark Strong) plan to stop Parallax once and for all (and that’s not to mention a first act cluttered with clumsy exposition).

Phew, that’s a lot to cover in two hours and one movie. One of the film’s problems is that it just has too much going on. I mean, this film covers enough ground for at least two films: There’s the origin, Hal’s training, two villains, dealing with daddy issues, giving up the superhero game, some romance, and so on. Director Campbell, whose credits include two of the best Bond films (1995′s GoldenEye, 2006′s Casino Royale), goes through all of this so half-heartedly it’s hard to get excited about any of it, particularly when the film cribs so heavily from Top Gun (1986). (The only thing missing is a sweaty, Kenny Loggins-fueled beach volleyball scene.) The opening scenes, specifically, are pretty awful. When Hal’s father tragically blows up, it’s unfortunately quite laughable, given the clichés leading up to it, and the speed at which is plays out. To make matters worse, a mere ten minutes later, the adult Hal relives the majority of that sequence during a flashback while on a test flight. The script, which has four credited writers, is at times painfully simplistic, pandering, and unoriginal; it’s all quite poorly, and mechanically, executed.

Reynolds fares well as Hal Jordan (though I would’ve liked to see him play The Flash), but no one else really make a positive impression. Lively doesn’t have the charisma, nor is her character given much to do, Strong has a nice presence, but his scenes are wasted as nothing more than set up for the sequel, and Sarsgaard spends much of the running time screaming and mutating like Jeffery Jones in Howard the Duck (1986).

Yet, the special effects are decent enough to please the eye (though the blu-ray transfer looks a little dark), and I really enjoyed seeing a superhero movie delve into exploring the galaxy a little; the planet Oa looks great, as do the many alien Green Lanterns. I did also enjoyed some of the film’s quieter moments – we get a brief glimpse of Hal’s family – but there’s not enough of them to provide Green Lantern with any nuance. Ultimately, the film is unable to make a mark and distinguish itself like other DC films such as Batman Begins or Superman Returns (2006), instead, Green Lantern more closely resembles – stylistically and thematically – forgettable Marvel fare like Fantastic Four (2005). Given that this film sets up a sequel, I’m optimistic something great can come of Green Lantern.

Green Lantern (2011, USA, Theatrical cut: 114 mins; Extended cut: 123 mins). Directed by Martin Campbell. Written by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Tim Robbins.

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