Movie Review Monday: Green Lantern

Mike Finkelstein was relaxing in his backyard when he was suddenly picked up by a big green ball of energy.  He met an alien, then a bunch of others (one of which sounded a lot like Michael Clarke Duncan), and became a superhero that could create Hot Wheels race tracks.  Oh yeah, and he still had time to see “Green Lantern.”

PLOT: A hot-shot pilot (Hal Jordan) encounters a dying alien who belongs to an intergalactic peace corps known as the Green Lanterns.  When he is chosen to take on the responsibility of being one of the heroes, he has to learn to overcome his fears as he battles an event entity called Parallax, bent on destroying everything in its path.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: We seem to be in somewhat of a golden age of superhero movies.  We have the Marvel Universe putting forth SPIDERMAN, X MEN, and a nine picture deal locking in all the AVENGERS in their own movies, and then an epic crossover film.  We have DC Comics with Christopher Nolan’s BATMAN series, and hopefully something jaw dropping with Zack Snyder’s MAN OF STEEL.  With all of those fighting for your fan boy dollar, there is a new standard for superhero movies that has to be met.

Whoever decided to write GREEN LANTERN did not get that memo.

Notice that I say “Whoever decided to WRITE…”  That wasn’t a mistake…the film’s script is absolutely terrible, and most of the movie’s issues can be drawn back to it.  Let’s take this from the beginning:

When you start a film with what feels like a five minute long narration describing the entire history of the Green Lanterns (it wasn’t that long, but it felt like it), you know you’re in trouble.  Maybe it’d be okay if that were your only narration, but no…in every single scene, there was some monologue explaining some back-story to the audience.  (We get the picture, boys…no need to constantly shove it down our throats.)  I wanted to give the excuse that Green Lantern is not as well known as other superheroes and needed the explanation, but IRON MAN and THOR didn’t have that problem, and they weren’t ridiculously popular either before their films came out (especially the latter).

As for story, absolutely everything is clichéd and “Superhero by-the books.”  For characters, we have the immature bad boy pilot, the ex girlfriend who tries to be strong, but is still in love, and the misunderstood, angry foe corrupted by evil.  We have daddy issues with Hal’s father and his premature death (in an absurd flashback that actually made the audience laugh…not something you want during an ‘emotional’ moment), constant speeches, mostly by Blake Lively, about how irresponsible Hal is (gee… wonder if he’ll become responsible by the end of the film…), and supporting characters, including a random nephew, that go absolutely nowhere and disappear into the nothingness after one or two scenes “furthering” Hal as a character.  At least make it seem like you’re trying!

With all those issues, I feel bad for Ryan Reynolds.  I’m a huge fan of the guy, especially after seeing BURIED (if you haven’t seen it, you must), and here, it’s obvious he’s doing his best with what he has to work with.  He brings his natural charm in every scene he is in, and gets in some great laughs.  Since we’re supposed to feel Hal’s fear, the easy charisma sometimes works against the character, but then you can’t knock it too much, because if it weren’t for him, the film would be on a straight-to-DVD $9.99 rack at your local pharmacy.

Peter Sarsgaard also does a very good job making a one-dimensional character something more.  For someone so good looking, Sarsgaard has been Hollywood’s go-to creepy guy lately, and he does a great job as Hector Hammond.  You could see in his eyes the innocence, then the anger, and then the evil, and Hammond has some of the best one-liners in the film.

Sadly, the rest of the cast couldn’t lift the script up at all, because, to be frank, they had nothing to work with.  Blake Lively proved that she is more than just a pretty face with THE TOWN.  Here, she’s nothing more than a broken record with pursed lips.  Tim Robbins was phoning it in as Senator Hammond, and it felt like he was basically there because to be in a superhero movie is the cool thing to do right now.  And while Taika Waititi did a great job as Hal’s best friend, it almost felt like the character was an afterthought…the result of a note in the drafts that said “need friend comic relief”

Then, there is huge problem number 3 (and the only non-writing issue): the special effects.  I will preface my comments with the fact that I saw this movie in 2D, and I’ll admit that there were scenes that seemed like they could work excellently in 3D.  That doesn’t hide the fact that the first twenty minutes felt like a video game opening.  When your villain looks almost cartoonish, and its destructive powers come straight out of the movie, 9 (yeah, that’s exactly how it feels), there’s no threat.  The flying sequences looked downright fake, and the suit reeks of computer animation with Reynolds’ head on top.  And the sad part is that the special effects were the selling point of this film for a long time!

Martin Campbell is a very capable director.  He’s done some great work with both James Bond and Zorro films, and no matter what you think of Mel Gibson, EDGE OF DARKNESS looked absolutely stunning.  But a Christopher Nolan, he is not.  Nolan knows the comic mythology of Batman and stays true to it.  Campbell had no passion for this universe.  Yes, there were a few amusing moments here and there, and some great little one-liners poking fun at superhero movies in general, but overall, GREEN LANTERN is a mess.  The film seems almost pieced together, with the writers trying to fit in every superhero movie cliché they could think of, to the point that it can’t even find it’s own identity.   And in today’s golden age of superheroes, you need to step up your game if you want to play with the big boys.

GRADE: C

Mike’s LIKES:

1) RYAN REYNOLDS: While he may have not been the perfect character, the only thing that saved this movie from being completely clichéd and horrible was Reynolds’ being Reynolds.  Hysterical and charming as always.

2) PETER SARSGAARD: The only other character besides Reynolds that actually had some substance. Sarsgaard is kind of the go-to guy when it comes to creepy, and here, he pulls that off with some great one-liners.

3) “RUN”: Yeah, best one-liner out of all mentioned in #2

4) JOKING ABOUT SUPERHERO STEREOTYPES: It’s always funny when you’re able to poke fun at yourself.  Here, they did a few times, my favorite being the comment on the damn small masks that do anything but “protect your identity”

5) HALS BEST FRIEND: Taika Waititi did a good job for what he had to work with: the one-dimensional best friend role that barely came up, unless a sarcastic moment was needed.  I still laughed.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) BLAKE LIVELY: This really hurt me, because Lively actually proved that she was so much more than a pretty face with THE TOWN, and then just regressed into everything she shouldn’t be for this part.  One dimensional, and nothing to really feel for, but I also blame that a lot on the script.

2) HORRIBLE WRITING/CLICHED SPEECHES: You can only have horrible dialogue and constant speeches about Hal’s irresponsibility forced down your throat for so long.  Mix that with too much jumping around and characters that you’re supposed to feel for, even though they disappear after one scene, and you have a B-level by-the-books superhero flick.

3) TIM ROBBINS: I’m sorry, but Tim Robbins seemed so out of place here.  It was like “that older generation actor trying to be cool, so he jumps into a comic book movie”.

4) FAKE SPECIAL EFFECTS: When it feels like you’re watching a video game back story for the first twenty minutes, no level of 3D could help.

5) CONSTANT BACK STORY/EXPLANATION: Maybe it’s because the Green Lantern mythology isn’t as well known as other superheroes’ and the writers felt they needed to explain it to the audience, but how many narrations and speeches does it take?!  When you have to stop major characters to look at the audience and go “here’s what’s going on…”, we check out.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) Sam Worthington and Chris Pine were in consideration for the role of Hal Jordan. Bradley Cooper, Justin Timberlake and Jared Leto actually screen-tested for the role.

2) Around June 2006, Robert Smigel had completed a script of the film, which was a comedy-adventure to star Jack Black. The studio dropped the script due to extreme negative feedback from fans.

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