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Summer Full o' Superheroes pt. 5 - Green Lantern

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Nathan Strum

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Five down... one to go.

 

I only had a couple of Green Lantern comics as a kid. I knew he had a power ring that was recharged by sticking it into a lantern, and that he could fly and shoot energy blasts with it... and that was about it. It was only later as I began collecting comics that I peripherally learned more - that he was only one of thousands of Green Lanterns patrolling the galaxy, and that they make giant green things ("constructs") like dinosaurs, fists, and sledgehammers out of their rings. (I mostly read Marvel, so I never got into GL.)

 

The movie takes great pains to educate the uninitiated at the outset, explaining the history of the Green Lantern Corps, how the universe was divided up into 3600 different sectors, how each Green Lantern was the protector of their own sector, about how the rings are powered by the lanterns, that the lanterns are powered by some big glowing thing in the middle of the planet Oa which is in turn powered by the willpower of everything living thing in the universe, that - for some reason - the power of will is colored green (and fear, naturally, is yellow), and about how one famous Green Lantern alien guy was the only one in the universe who was able to beat some other evil alien zillions of years ago, and how this other now-completely-forgotten-about alien broke out of a ridiculously poorly constructed and completely unguarded prison, and starts to cause all of this ruckus, threatening the entire universe, and...

 

Bored yet? Yeah... well, that's just the first few minutes of the film. Information overload.

 

The Green Lantern movie was in development for years. And maybe it should've stayed there for a little while longer. The problem is, the backstory is so convoluted, that the beginning of the movie where it all gets spelled out just drags on and on and on. And it really isn't necessary. It could have been trimmed way down, since a lot of it gets repeated in dialogue between characters again later in the film anyway. Get to the point, and get on with the film. We don't need to know everything about the Green Lantern Corps. Just introduce them as an intergalactic police force or something, and move on.

 

Once the movie finally gets started, it's an okay film. Not awful, but not good, either. The main character - Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is likable enough, but incredibly bland. He spends most of the movie with the exact same expression on his face, and only rarely shows much emotion. They can't seem to pin down what his character is, either. He's supposed to be an irresponsible loser, but a highly respected irresponsible loser who is a test pilot at the highest level. It's never really spelled out how he supposedly never followed through with what is obviously already a successful career. He also has a confusing relationship with his ex-girlfriend/boss/fellow-test-pilot too, which I never really got a handle on. At first, I thought there were several different female characters at work there, but about 2/3 of the way into the film I realized it was all the same person. I think. I'm still not quite sure.

 

That brings up one of the big problems of the film - the characters just seem flat. They apparently don't know what they're supposed to be feeling at any given moment, and then will suddenly change direction without any real apparent motivation or thought. One moment Hal doesn't want to be a Green Lantern, and then the next he's completely changed his mind. One moment his ex-girfriend/boss/fellow-test-pilot is calling him out for being a loser, then then next she's making puppy-dog eyes at him. And it's not just them - every character in the film seems ill-defined or confused.

 

Another issue with the film is that it can't seem to decide if it's serious or a comedy. On one hand, the Earth is in danger of being destroyed, and on the other, Hal uses his power ring to make a giant Hot Wheels track to save a helicopter from crashing. This aspect of Green Lantern's power just came off as silly. The "constructs" he makes are generally pretty stupid. Sure, it's supposed to be an extension of the wearer's imagination, but doesn't he have a better imagination than to make giant springs appear underneath a truck to fling it into the air? Or to make a machine gun (which he does twice, no less)? Can't he just pick up the truck with his energy ring? What about making some sort of super-advanced energy weapon? Or a giant monster to combat the evil alien? And to pull himself through outer-space, he makes a couple of airplanes. Not rockets? Not spaceships? For something with such huge potential, it never really pays off. It all comes across as very cartoonish, and I couldn't help but think of "The Mask" or "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" while watching it.

 

There are some massive collapses of logic in the film, too. Such as when Sinestro (who is a good guy in this film) decides to attack Parallax (the evil alien), he takes only about a half-dozen Green Lanterns with him. Against a threat that he believes can destroy the entire Corps? Why didn't they all go? It's not like it takes them more than a couple of minutes to get anywhere in the galaxy anyway. And why did the alien Green Lantern at the beginning of the film need a spaceship to get around, when the Green Lanterns can all fly through space? And when Hal Jordan quits being a Green Lantern - why did they let him keep the ring? And how often does the ring need recharging? If the ring needs recharging, why not just take the lantern with him? For a hero named "Green Lantern", his lantern spent the whole film sitting on a coffee table. The supposedly "fearless" Green Lantern Corps and their leaders seemed most concerned with saving their own planet, rather than the rest of the universe which they were supposedly sworn to protect. And nobody in the film ever once seemed taken by surprise by any of what was going on. Purple alien? Sure. Power ring? No problem. Magic lantern? Got it. Superhero who can fly through space to other planets, battle intergalactic enemies and make Hot Wheels tracks out of green energy? Nothing odd about that. Everyone just blankly accepts everything as perfectly normal. Even Hal's "secret identity" is immediately seen-through by his best friend and his ex-girlfriend/boss/fellow-test-pilot. But it's not that big of a shock to them. None of it is.

 

The special effects were merely okay. I suppose ten years ago they might have been state-of-the-art, but that still doesn't mean they would have been good. Parallax was (as others have described) a giant floating cloud of poo, with a face. The constructs just didn't look impressive enough. The CG aliens looked okay, but weren't anything special. The planet Oa just felt like a bunch of random green cliffs, and didn't really feel like a planet where people actually lived or did anything - it just looked like a special effect. The CG Green Lantern suit was more distracting than anything, and worked best when the "energy" flowing through it was diminished so it looked more like an actual suit (and the pattern on Sinestro's suit kept reminding me of Spider-Man's).

 

Another issue which didn't help the whole movie going experience, was that the digital projection I was watching just wasn't high-enough resolution. I could clearly see individual pixels on screen (as if I was sitting too close to an LCD monitor), which made small or distant objects just turn into blobs of pixels. Whatever detail might have been there was wasted. Given that this was a 2D screening in a multiplex where a 3D screening was also happening, it's likely that this was an improperly set-up 3D projector running the film in 2D, causing the resolution to be halved. Whatever happened, the point is, if the movie was better, I shouldn't have been more interested in counting pixels than paying attention to what was happening on screen.

 

Green Lantern is more science-fantasy than anything (and I use the term "science" laughably). It's hard to buy into any of it as serious when the film can't seem to make up its mind whether it wants to be serious or not. The characters are flat and the actors might as well have been sleepwalking through the whole thing. The premise is also so fantastic (and not in a good way) that it's hard to get into. You have this ring that can do anything, but nobody ever really does anything all that amazing with it. It's often too cartoonish and silly. Maybe that's how the comic books are too, but translating something so bizarre to movies needed a different touch. It worked with Thor, so it can be done. But you can skip Green Lantern. You won't miss anything by waiting for it to show up on TV.

 

4/10

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