Yeah, well, it's safe to say that there has been something of a reversal of fortune in the last couple of decades when it comes to Marvel and DC Properties, considering that Marvel's flicks have been getting cooler and cooler, while DC's have turned fallen into the filmic silly putty, man. Even 2008's Superhero flick The Dark Knight (currently the third highest grossing film of ALL TIME) delved into camp territory and delivered a villain as close to its Graphic Novel counterpart as I am to Bill Fucking Moyers!
And now it's time to give Green Lantern "The Business"! How is it? Could Warner Bros. actually be taking the film and its source material seriously, what with the casting of major stars in the supporting cast and the hiring of a director that relaunched James Bond not once, but twice? The same director who relaunched Zorro, not once but twice? How is it? Could this actually be a shining emerald beacon of class, quality and coolness? Well... picture this:
Imagine you're a James Bond fan and you're waiting impatiently for his latest debut in movie theatres. When the moment finally comes, instead of walking out, shooting at the camera's POV as the lens shakes and falls, 007 staggers out snickering and throws a creme pie at the camera, then falls down on his back, rolling around and snorting at how incredibly funny he, and only he, thinks it is. Or... how about you've been a huge Zorro fan for as long as you can remember and when his new movie hits theatres, instead of dashing out romantically and carving his legendary "Z", he instead bounds onto the set, nearly doubled over in self-satisfied, breathless laughter, draws a crude sketch of a fat chick's butt and says something about "Yo Momma" as he limps off screen, spasming as his giggle box turns over!
Yeah, man... that's just about tantamount to the casting of Ryan Reynolds as the most famous Green Lantern, Hal Jordan! Instead of working with the rest of the cast and crew to diversify his resume with a more serious take on a character his physique and (to a lesser degree) his look qualifies him for, the gang at Warners instead pulls Hal Jordan and the rest of the Green Lantern Corps into the very territory of Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place!
But what of the contributions of director Martin Campbell, the awesome helmsman behind Goldeneye (which resurrected James Bond in 1995 with a new actor after a series of cheesy flicks) and Casino Royale (which resurrected James Bond in 2006 with a new actor after a series of cheesy flicks), not to mention The Mask of Zorro (which reintroduced Zorro to a cynical moviegoing public in 1998) and The Legend of Zorro (which reintroduced Zorro to a cynical moviegoing public in 2005)? Isn't he uniquely qualified to balance the comedy and action to bring about an incredible Science Fiction flick? Yeah, one would think so, wouldn't one? Instead, we get the grilled Green Cheese sandwich appropriately known as Green Lantern!
That's not to say it's all bad... in fact, it's got more than its fair share of potential (though oft-squandered). We've got our big introduction to the cool Corps, the Smurfy Guardians of the Universe and the rest of the amazing planet Oa! Let me tell you, the roster we see of the Green Lantern Corps is fantastic and an awesome who's who for fans of the comics... even if it looks a little bit silly to a casual movie-goer. You've got mentoring legends like Sinestro (accurately portrayed by Mark Strong), wizened thinkers like Tomar-Re (voiced by Geoffrey Rush), bad ass drill sergeants like Kilowog (voiced by the perfect choice for the role, Michael Clarke Duncan) and brave, accomplished warriors like Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison, proving that no galactic force of peace-keepers can be created for the movies without his ass)!
Each is granted an incredible Power Ring that allows them to create anything they can imagine out of green energy. But when the monstrous entity known as Parallax (well-voiced by Clancy Brown) is unleashed upon an unsuspecting universe of hapless denizens, the Ring is forced to seek out a New Green Lantern of Sector 2814 (that being... ours) and for some reason beyond sanity it chooses Ryan Reynolds' Hal Jordan. Guess the Power Ring has never seen Van Wilder!
Interesting enough, Hal's home town of Coast City is just packed with more people who are tired of his "cute" shenanigans, including, but not limited to his long suffering ex-girlfriend Carol Ferris (Blake Lively, who is a veritable Star Sapphire of hotness) and his resident "little buddy", Thomas "Pieface" Kalmaku (Taika Waititi).
Naturally when extra-terrestrial influences suddenly appear on Earth to both protect and infect the planet, you're going to arouse the interest of senators like Robert Hammond (somehow played by player Tim Robbins) and scientists like Dr. Amanda Waller (even less explicably played by Angela Bassett) and Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard, whom I'm not sure whether to be surprised or not by).
And there's the thing... we've got Jango Fett, Tina (with no Ike in site), The Player and even Donnie Darko's brother-in-law, all helmed by that Double-Oh-Zorro guy? Why... why... why... by Georgia, with a cast like this one led by a director like Martin Campbell, we should have a brilliant and artistic military Space Opera, right?
Well, occasionally that actually happens and we see something quite cool. Unfortunately, these moments of Lantern Gold are packed in amid an overstuffed story with a series of incomprehensible plot points and a roll-call of underdeveloped, primarily CGI characters that look great but vie against each other for camera space and soundtrack blurbs.
While it's a treat to see some of the many accurate, though mashed-together, milestones from the Green Lantern Mythos that has been growing since July of 1940 it's hard to imagine too many casual observers taking the film seriously. Screenwriters Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg work hard to amalgamate the decades of mythology, while adding just a bit of humor, but so much exposition of a decidedly Alien cast and history promises to come off as just a bit silly to new viewers (and even some veteran fans).
That silliness is amplified by Campbell's insistence on playing up the humor elsewhere in the script, and not always to a great deal of success. Much as he did in films like Blade Trinity and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Reynolds relies upon much more of his comic timing (such that it is) than his potential for superheroics. Reynolds, as the once super-serious Jordan, most often tosses out quips best suited for his goofy turns in flicks like The Proposal, followed by one of his trademark eye rolls or funny looks, then a pause for laughter that rarely ever comes. Sure many in the audience will think Reynolds is "Cute" and it's quite clear that Campbell thinks Reynolds is "Cute" and sure as Salmon is Pink, REYNOLDS thinks Reynolds is "Cute", but kids, this is a film about Green Lantern, the heroic favorite son of a space army of adventurers, much more like Star Trek's Starfleet than even The Justice League! If there was ever a time for Ryan Reynolds to be "Cute", this movie is sure as hell NOT IT!!!
Yeah, the film can be fun and with cool looking (if overly-used) special effects and a big score by James Newton Howard, there is something worth seeing and hearing in this big budget Super Hero film... but there just isn't enough balance between the serious and the silly, the spacy and the spicy, the super and the stupid. Sure we get lots of expository soliloquies telling us how much this matters, but it's probably way over the heads of those who don't have a whole row of longboxes of comics back at their houses (and, I admit, I'm one of those guys that does). What we get onscreen, however, can't quite decide what it is, between fast-paced action film, outer space saga and corn-ball, slapstick comedy with funny faces throughout.
Comic Book-based movies have struggled for legitimacy ever since X-Men tentatively tested the waters back in 2000, desperately distancing themselves from such recent critical and box-office farces like Batman & Robin! The reason these films have become ubiquitous of late is not just because they're "Sure Things" (I can point out a number of high-profile flops) but because they've taken the medium seriously and balanced fan-pleasing with new viewer interest. If Hollywood keeps assuming they're on the right track and giving us expensive, silly movies like Green Lantern, this once-growing genre could start to shrink and die under the yellow rays of something much scarier than this film's villain. There is just barely enough good quality in this film to push it over Three Stars out of Five, and that's me with some serious generosity thrown in. I appreciate the time-jumping, yet well-intentioned combining of Green Lantern benchmarks. I'm impressed with the supporting cast and the care and class that was given to making fan-favorites like Kilowog, Sinestro and Tomar-Re look both realistic and accurate to the comics and I'm thrilled with some of the hints at future storylines. But with the sacrifice of a coherent narrative and a believable denouement, I've got to wonder if Warner Bros' power rings fully charged, man.
See you in the next Qwardian-powered Reel, True Believers.
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