Monday, June 20, 2011

Movie Review: Green Lantern

Green Lantern ** ½
Directed by: Martin Campbell.
Written by: Greg Berlanti & Michael Green & Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg.
Starring: Ryan Reynolds (Hal Jordan / Green Lantern), Blake Lively (Carol Ferris), Peter Sarsgaard (Hector Hammond), Mark Strong (Sinestro), Temuera Morrison (Abin Sur), Angela Bassett (Dr. Amanda Waller), Tim Robbins (Senator Hammond), Jay O. Sanders (Carl Ferris).

Green Lantern is the fourth superhero movie to hit screens in 2011, and the third in the last six weeks or so, following closely on the heels of Thor and X-Men: First Class. Perhaps if I had not seen those movies so recently, I would enjoyed Green Lantern a little more than I did. Most of the reviews so far have been awful, and while I do think Green Lantern is the weakest of the three summer superhero movies so far, it certainly isn’t a horrible film. In fact, I’d feel much more comfortable talking a kid to see Green Lantern than Thor or X-Men: First Class, which are a little darker, more violent and overall simply more adult. Green Lantern on the other hand is just lightweight fare. It really does feel like a live action Saturday morning cartoon show.

The movie is about Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a test pilot who lives his life on the edge, although sometime he freezes up because his own father, another test pilot, died in a crash in front of his eyes as a child. So it is early in the movie, when Hal is asked to have a simulated battle with robot pilots that his company has made to prove to the army that they are better than humans. Hal wins, of course, but at a price. It’s later that day that he is magically sucked up into a glowing green vortex or some sort and transferred to the docks. A spaceship has crashed there – and inside is an alien named Abin Sur. We know him, because the introduction to the movie explains what Green Lanterns are – a group of intergalactic beings whose job is to protect the universe. They each have a ring and a lantern, that allows them to turn whatever they think of into reality. Abin Sur is going to die, and the ring has selected Hal to be his replacement. And the ring doesn’t make mistakes.

What follows is a fairly standard issue superhero origin story. The irresponsible, womanizing Hal has to learn how to be a hero – he gets transported to the Green Lantern headquarters for training under the eyes of Sinestro (Mark Strong), their leader – but Hal thinks he isn’t right for the job. The only qualification seems to be that you must be fearless – and Hal is far from that. He cannot even seem to tell the woman he loves, Claire Ferris (Blake Lively) that he loves her, and of course, some times he freezes up under pressure. But Hal will be tested sooner than he knows. Hector (Peter Sarsgaard), the scientist son of a Senator (Tim Robbins), was called in to examine Abin Sur’s eventually discovered body – and it appears like something he came into contact with is having strange effects on him. Hector grew up in love with Claire, but always in Hal’s shadow, so of course, he’s just bitter and smart enough to become super villain when the opportunity arrives.

The movie is enjoyable in parts. The day after I saw Green Lantern, I watched an episode of The Avengers on TV with my 6 year old nephew. He was transfixed by it, while I found it mildly amusing. I feel the same way about Green Lantern – I bet my nephew would love it – but for me, it never really gets to takeoff velocity. Part of the problem with an origin story like this is that they have to spend so much time setting it up – and let’s face facts here, Green Lantern’s origin story is pretty lame – and I could have done with much less talk about Will Power vs. Fear. Ryan Reynolds is fine as Hal Jordan, but nothing great. The same could be said for Blake Lively, who has the thankless role as “The Girl”. The best performance clearly belongs to Peter Sarsgaard, who is terrific as the embittered Hector. The problem is that he’s only one villain – the minor one – and the major one is a strange alien who looks like he’s made of poop, which just isn’t all that interesting.

The film was directed by Martin Campbell, who made the terrific Casino Royale a few years ago, and has spent his career directing action movies. He knows what he’s doing, and for the first time in a while, I can actually say the 3-D in this movie works. It works better when Hal is in space, but its fine for most of the time. I’m still not convinced it’s necessary. But overall, I think the movie had to spend so much time setting itself up, that it never really takes the time to tell a real story. Green Lantern isn’t as good as it could have been – but on the basis of what’s here, I’d watch a sequel.

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