Saturday, August 13, 2011

"Green Lantern"

Let's continue the comic trend. Green Lantern has received some pretty bad press lately. Green Lantern is by no means my favourite comic character; I prefer Batman and the Flash, because I like a little detective mystery in my comic stories and there's just something about long action sequences involving dudes beating each other up in space which I don't find amazingly appealling. Green Lantern has his place but the scale and scope and the aliens often come across as a bit ludicrous to me. You may be surprised to know that the film does the balance reasonably well between the more grounded stuff and the action. Is it any good, though? That's a more difficult question to answer.
Green Lantern is an average superhero film. There hasn't been a theatrically released DC film which features a major non-Batman superhero since 2006's Superman Returns, another underrated picture, and I feel like they and Warner Bros. are maybe lacking the practice which Marvel has been getting by releasing spades of superhero films on a semi-regular basis featuring pretty much all of their major characters. I believe this makes it understandable, then, that Green Lantern is a slightly awkward offering.
I think the main problem is that they bit off more than they could chew in terms of storyline. Here we have three major plot strands: Hal Jordan becoming the first human Green Lantern, the Green Lantern Corps fighting Parallax, and the rise of classic Green Lantern villain Hector Hammond. They try to merge the Parallax and Hector Hammond storylines but I'm not sure how effectively it's done and I think all three stories suffer from not being able to get enough individual attention.
Ryan Reynolds does a good job as Hal and he's one of the strong points of the film. His comedy side occasionally contributes to the difficulty with which the film can be taken seriously but he makes the jokes work and he also does his best bringing across the idea of Hal as more of an insecure compensating jerk who needs to get his life together as well as become a hero. Frankly he's a little let down by supporting characters; while Blake Lively's clearly very pretty her Carol Ferris is performed in what I could only find to be a wooden and unconvincing way. The story would have benefited from more involvement with Tom Kalmaku. Perhaps Hal's daddy issues are overplayed but his rise from laurel-riding slacker to Green Lantern is paced effectively.
What, then, of the Corps? On the plus side we're not given the routine Sinestro betrayal story but again I feel like we either saw too much or not enough of the Corps. Their storyline becomes part of an awkward middle ground and I feel like it would have been more effective if we'd focused more on Hal and had the storyline of the Corps as more a piece of backstory. I assume they wanted to ground the story strongly in the real world so the space scenes could have easily been toned done just to explain Hal's powers, perhaps not even introduced until the end or in a sequel. Otherwise the narrative can seem abstracted between the Corps' activity and Hal's own story. If they'd cut Parallax, they could have focused more on Hammond and the Earth-based plot which might have improved things. It feels like Hammond is introduced a bit late and turning him at the end into a stooge for Parallax is a little disappointing.
Honestly I'm not sure what else to say about it. It didn't blow me away but it didn't inspire the great loathing and antipathy it seems to have aroused in professional critics either. Maybe as neither a Green Lantern fan nor a serious film buff I never had as much at stake in Green Lantern but as far as I'm concerned it's an adequate but unspectacular piece of pulp cinema.

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