Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Green Lantern Review: Brightest Day, or Darkest Night?


Comic Book movies have been around for a very long time, but 2000’s X-men is what caused them to flood the market. Bryan Singer showed us that super heroes could be portrayed in a realistic setting. Eventually, the trend of attempting realistic super heroes peaked with the gritty Dark Knight saga from Christopher Nolan. Although I love Nolan’s take on Batman, I feel that it strays too far from its comic book roots, whereas Burton’s take on Batman wasn’t ashamed to admit it was based on a comic book. Neither were the Superman or Spiderman films. And with Marvel more concerned with portraying their heroes realistically, it would seem that real comic book movies were diminishing. This is the number one reason Green Lantern is so refreshing.

The story begins with an imminent danger approaching our galaxy, The Parallax, which is essentially, the personification of fear. The Parallax itself feeds off of the fear of others to enhance its own power. The only beings capable enough to stop this evil are the Green Lanterns, an intergalactic team of space cops powered by their special rings that hold the ability to transform ideas of your own imagination into reality. Getting this so far? It’s a lot to take in that’s for sure. In any case, the only Lantern that has ever been able to subdue the colossal monstrosity has recently been killed. With his death, his ring is passed on to another worthy combatant. That combatant is Hal Jordan, the cocky test pilot. Green Lanterns are warriors without fear, but Hal Jordan is anything but fearless.

Green Lantern is a fun super hero adventure that does what most comic book movies try not to do: embrace the fact that it’s based on a comic book. That’s not to say that its Batman and Robin, but I liken the feel and vibe to be somewhere in between Spiderman and Iron Man. It’s not as cheesy as the Spiderman movies, but it’s not as reality based as Iron Man. The story doesn’t waste time with dramatic angst like many do these days, and it doesn’t treat the source material like it’s something that it’s not. It’s kind of like watching a cartoon. I don’t mean that in a bad way either. The story certainly has some meat on it. Hal is a deeply troubled character, having witnessed his father’s gruesome death as a child. He is paralyzed by fear, but no one would ever guess because he masks his fear with humor, sarcasm, and boat loads of bravado. Ask him a sensitive question however, and he takes off with barley a good bye. Anxiety breaks down into two separate forms, fight and flight. Flight is absolutely Hal’s variant. He tries to quit his job, he dumps his girlfriend with things get too serious, hell he quits being a Green Lantern not two days into it! I identify a lot with Hal’s behavior. It reminds me a lot of myself back in high school when I suffered from similar anxiety.

Hal isn’t the only one crippled by fear. Hector Hammond, a friend of Hal’s (seemingly. They never really touch on this fact) is also a deeply fearful person. Hal may run from his problems, Hector just locks up and hides in dark corners. Hector himself runs into the aforementioned alien that recruits Hal, but Hector’s reaction is a bit different. Contaminated by the alien, Hector begins to mutate and transform into a hateful and twisted creature. His brain begins to grow to an unbearable size and he develops telekinesis and telepathy. One thing that this movie does very well is demonstrate why telekinesis is such a cool power. Hector is a damn near perfect villain for this movie. Being old childhood friends with Hal and Carol gives him some street cred for this role, but also the fact that he and Hal suffer from such similar problems. They are two of kind. They just evolved along different paths. One walked a path of justice, the other of evil. Sadly, the limited role Hector plays in the film mires what would have been an amazing conflict, and the history the two characters have is downplayed severely.

Parallax, the more ethereal antagonist, is a bit of a letdown. Though the idea and execution of the character is great, the build up to the final confrontation is lacking. The filmmakers opted to play the being as more illusive and mysterious than as powerful destructive force. The creature is supposed to feed off of our fears, and yet, the being is remarkably not scary. They have a few opportunities to showcase why this creature is to be feared, but the sequences are rushed and barely touch on the sheer potency of its power. One such sequence involves Sinestro, leader of the Green Lantern Corps leading a battalion of his best and most powerful Lanterns to face the Parallax head on. The scene lasts less than 5 seconds before it cuts away to Sinestro speaking with the Guardians (if Sinestro is the general, the guardian are like the president) about what transpired. They tell us what happened and did not show us. This is such a big no-no for me I can’t even describe. The biggest failure of this move was this scene. One Green Lantern is wrecking ball powerhouse of might. Showing an entire team of veteran Lanterns being owned by the Parallax would have been the absolute best way of selling the audience on the power of this thing. Not only that, but the Parallax just shows up when it’s time to fight Hal Jordan. There’s no buildup of tension, no slow simmer until the great pay off. Another problem here is that the end fight with the Parallax is rushed. Not only that, but Hall spends most of his time running away from the thing rather than staying and fighting. The movie is supposed to be about Hal standing up against fear instead of running away, so seeing Hal run from The Parallax is somewhat of a thematic betrayal. In truth, Hal is luring The Parallax away from Earth, but they should have duked it out until they got to where they needed to be.

Despite these relatively large flaws, the movie still manages to entertain. All of the characters are well done and the acting is great. Mark Strong is particularly amazing as Sinestro, while the voice acting talents of Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan are put to good use here a Tomar Re and Killowogg respectively. In fact, all three of these guys do such a great job as the characters they play, it’s nothing but shameful they had such limited screen time. But this movie is about Hal Jordan, so I can forgive. Ryan Reynolds plays a much more serious version of Hal than the trailers would lead us to believe, a fact that I am personally very thankful for. Though I was initially apprehensive about Reynolds as the Emerald Knight, He managed to impress me here. Could they have found someone better? Possibly, but Reynolds fits the role like a glove. The effects are spectacular and the action doesn’t fail to please.

All in all, Green Lantern may not be as good as it could have been, but that does not make it a bad movie. The only thing the movie suffers from is a script that really should have had at least one more draft. The narrative flow suffered here and the villains were not used to their fullest potential. That said Green Lantern is a fun, action packed film that doesn’t forego character development in favor of action. Most importantly, Green Lantern remembers one thing that too many super hero movies seem all too eager to forget: it’s based on a comic book.

I give Green Lantern an 7 out of 10. We are Corps!!!!

Pros

Hal is a very real character suffering from very real problems

Deep and imaginative world to explore with tons of potential for the future

Characters are great all around

Acting is awesome (special props to Mark Strong)

Comic Book movie through and through

Action packed and exciting

Greta effects

Oa is a cool location. Our time there is far too short.

Killowoggs training scene!

Brilliant method of extinguishing the big bad

After credits scene=full on nerdgasm

Cons

Villains aren’t utilized to their full potential

Narrative flow needs work

Poor editing

Romance between Hal and Carol was unconvincing to me

Final confrontation is rushed

The scene when the Green Lanterns attack Parallax was horrifically executed. WTF!

Wish there could have been more Sinestro, Killowogg ,Tomar Re, and Oa in general.

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