Friday, February 3, 2012

"Green Lantern" (2011)

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively and Peter Sarsgaard
Written by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg
Directed by Martin Campbell
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language, space diarrhea
Running Time: 114 Minutes

I'll be up front and say that I was probably predisposed to hating this film.  I don't like Green Lantern; I don't find him a compelling character, and his mythology is just a bunch of overly complicated nonsense.  It's a hodge-podge mashup of weird sci-fi concepts and mysticism that just comes off as laughably lame instead of clever or cool.

And this film does nothing to change my perceptions in that regard.

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a brash, uncontrollable test pilot for  Ferris Aircraft.  His friends find him unreliable, his former girlfriend Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) accuses him of costing the company a major contract and putting much of its workforce at risk.  One evening, Jordan is scooped up by a weird green energy force and brought before the dying alien warrior Abin Sur (Temeura Morrison) who has crash-landed on Earth after a battle in space with the villainous alien force called Parallax (voiced by Clancy Brown).  Abin Sur tells Jordan that he has been chosen to be a part of the Green Lantern Corps, a group of powerful alien peacekeepers, and gives Jordan his green ring of power, and dies.

Soon after, Jordan's childhood friend Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is brought in by the government to perform an autopsy on Abin Sur's body, and he becomes infected by a piece of Parallax.  Through Hammond, Parallax discovers that Jordan is in possession of Abin Sur's ring, and decides to make its way to Earth and consume it, giving the power it needs to then travel to Oa and take on the Guardians of the Green Lantern Corps - apparently the greatest power in the universe.

Jordan must pull it together, overcome his fear(s) to become a true warrior for good and save Carol and the planet Earth from certain destruction at the yellow space-poop tendrils of Parallax.

God, I couldn't even write up a serious plot description without starting to get snarky.  The Green Lantern origin story is a bunch of hokum to begin with.  Making it worse is the fact that the script for this movie is full of vague notions and huge logic gaps.  Coupled with the weakness of the premise, that means "Green Lantern" is about as lame a superhero movie as you're going to get.

Firstly, the movie is flat-out boring.  It's nearly two hours long, but Jordan only has three scenes where he gets to be a superhero. The rest of the movie is a whole lot of talk about fear, which gets old fast.  Jordan spends about two minutes training with the other Green Lanterns on Oa before he just heads home and mopes around for a bit until Carol tells him to man up and then he fights the giant space-diarrhea for a few minutes and the movie is over.

And this is putting aside the absurdity of the premise that allows only 3600 Green Lanterns to guard over the entire universe.  Thousands of galaxies each, they're responsible for.  Stupid.  Worse, the ring can conjure up anything Jordan can imagine - the problem, of course, being that Jordan isn't a very imaginative fellow, and he spends his time making things like swords and guns.  At one point he makes a catapult.  And in the worst superhero reveal scene ever, he catches a crashing helicopter by... um... building a race car around it and having it drive around a floating green track in the air.  Not only is this childish in the extreme, but it's also pointless since he's doing it to save both the riders of the helicopter and the innocent bystanders but puts both in further danger by concocting this absurd method of stopping the crash.

Superman knew enough to just catch the damn thing and put it down somewhere safe.  Spider-Man knew enough to make a big net.  Hell, even Batman has stopped falling helicopters in safer manner than Green-freaking-Lantern.

There's a great cast gathered here, including small parts for Angela Bassett as Amanda Waller and Tim Robbins as Senator Hammond, Hector's father.  Even smaller are the roles of other Green Lanterns, Killowog (Michael Clarke Duncan), Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush) and Sinestro (Mark Strong), all of whom get a couple of scenes each and barely matter in the plot at all.  All of these fine actors are wasted on this dull script that meanders about doing not much of anything for so much of its runtime.

Ryan Reynolds looks like he's enjoying himself, and he gets all of the best lines.  Whether that's as written, or Reynolds is adlibbing, I'm not sure, but the only times this film comes alive is when Reynolds is just being the energetic smart-ass he so often plays in his films.  His romantic subplot with Blake Lively's character is dull as dirt, full of redundant scenes where he talks about how he quits everything - including their relationship.

Aside from Reynolds' performance, the only thing that really works at all in this film is the special effects.  The various alien creatures look great... for the thirty seconds any of them are ever on screen.  The Guardians' world of Oa looks fantastic, what you can see of it. Here's my last problem with the movie.  The image is so dark.  The photography is dark and murky, nearly ruining what should be a bright, colorful superhero film.  Every scene, whether it's in full daylight or not, seems to take place in a state of perpetual twilight.  On Oa, this looks great.  On Earth, it's obnoxious and distracting.

If the writers and director Martin Campbell had managed to craft a fun, clever superhero film out of this absurd premise, I'd have been willing to give it some slack.  Instead, "Green Lantern" is a boring $200 million mess.