Saturday, June 18, 2011

Green Lantern

Superzeroes, Shallow Hals And Mouthwash Mishaps

Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan and Green Lantern in Martin Campbell's "Green Lantern". 
Warner Brothers

Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW
day, June 18, 2011

Martin Campbell, who directed "Casino Royale" just five years ago, may have spun a roulette wheel from that film in a gamble and lost, having to direct "Green Lantern" as a result.  Mr. Campbell could be forgiven if he ever were to retroactively take an Alan Smithee credit on "Green Lantern", the D.C. Comics-based superhero which landed on mega-sized screens and 3D yesterday across the U.S. and Canada.

If some "fans" of the NHL Stanley Cup Final-losing Vancouver Canucks hockey team had hurled tomatoes and other assorted vegetables at the screen during this horrendous film at late Thursday night screenings, it would have been understandable, and infinitely preferred over the extreme and unforgivable damage they did that night.  

I don't know the comic evolution of Green Lantern but I know that in this new film the arrogant and cocky Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a pilot whose father perished while flying on a mission for his country.  Hal is picked by the guardians of justice -- the Green Lantern Corps -- as the "chosen one" to get a ring which gives special powers and save the Earth from the onslaught of the Parallax, a shapeless overgrown mushy entity that threatens to destroy the whole entire world.  Nyah-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!

At this point come the leaps in logic: the Green Lantern Corps don't like or respect humans, so why do they pick a human to lead this charge?  And an arrogant one at that?  Whether this contradiction is in the original comic or not -- and I wholeheartedly plead ignorance to such -- only the five screenwriters on this film -- including a gentleman coincidentally named Michael Green -- may know the answer to this question.  (Why didn't Mr. Green star as the title character?)  Why does some of the "Green Lantern" sound and look as if it was shot on the "As The World Turns" set?

Another thing: Hal has a nemesis Hector (Peter Sarsgaard), whose U.S. senator father onscreen (Tim Robbins) is merely 12 years older than his acting opposite offscreen.  (This bit of wise casting is reminiscent of Angelina Jolie, who was two or three years older than Colin Farrell but played his mother in Oliver Stone's "Alexander" in 2004.)  Note to the uninitiated: Hector is a bad seed.  He will do some bad things.  Hal, who spends half the film flexing washboard muscles, taking off masks and trying out green suits the Riddler desperately wants back, will be on a collision course with Hector.  Hal also gets to try out the line, "By the power of Greyskull...!", which originated, if I'm not mistaken, from the 1980s animated television series "He-Man: Masters Of The Universe".

In other words, there are a litany of things that don't look or feel right about "Green Lantern", a patchwork quilt which reportedly cost more than $150 million, including its poor, retrograde visual effects.

Everyone more or less overacts in "Green Lantern" -- or  makes the actors in context look foolish.  The skills and talents of Angela Bassett, a joy in "Jumping The Broom", Geoffrey Rush, great in the "Pirates" movies, Peter Sarsgaard, always brilliant, and the ever-capable Mark Strong, are wasted.  The over-dramatizations by actors large and small in this indicate that any care in directing the actors may have been fleeting.  That's an especially serious and risky charge to make, but the more exaggerated the performances the more lifeless "Green Lantern" looks and feels.  Drenched in gloomy, dank visages that emphasize the "by blackness of night" portion of the film's tagline, the film looks worse once the 3D glasses come off.  (Yes, this horror show is in 3D, too.)

The screenplay is poorly conceived.  Characters turn on, tune in and drop out.  The backstory leaves no emotional connection for the audience to invest in Hal or feel for him as he takes on the weight of the world on his shoulders.  Hal is synthetic, made from green cheese -- he's not there, and as a result, neither are we.  I had mentally checked out of this film after 25 minutes.  This was triggered, among other things, by a Maverick/Iceman "Top Gun" exercise designed for maximum exploitation and manipulation of several immediate scenes that follow, and it was at that moment that I was afraid I'd be in for a long evening. 

Perhaps more than any other recent Hollywood film, "Green Lantern" symbolizes all that is wrong with not only the superhero action-adventure film genre but the U.S. blockbuster summer movie.  The films typically do not delve deeply enough into character, and by definition are not therefore sufficiently relatable on an emotional level to audiences. 

Any father-son themes or identity issues are cursory here, solely for manufactured effect.  There's little to no moral conflict and/or story.  Character arc is non-existent.  Those moments of growth never figure into a drab, careless enterprise such as this.  Any good acting and story at all is subsumed by often poor, yet expensive special effects.  Mr. Strong's Sinestro looks a lot like Ming The Merciless from "Flash Gordon", and I don't know who begat whom, since "Flash" originated in the 1950s.

And the films are now typically dipped in the offending yolk of 3D -- after the fact in post-production.

These aren't movies to me.  They are industry behemoths.  Cold.  Impersonal.  Remote and alien to a good experience at the movies.  Where Hollywood blockbuster films used to be events that sparkled with life, awe, fantasy and joy, for years now they've by and large been exhausting, expensive and joyless laser shows. 

Or lazy shows.

Indeed, Mr. Campbell's film is lazy, cynical and shallow, a half-baked parody of vastly better superhero films.  As a film critic it is aggravating to see a waste of lots of money being carelessly paraded on the screen, when you know that it could go to better use elsewhere, like say, crates of spearmint mouthwash to get rid of the awful taste of this film.

Despite attending press screenings I will occasionally pay to see some movies for at least three reasons: if I loved something so much I wanted to see it again, if I missed something in the end credits or if I missed the movie altogether and had enthusiasm enough to want to see it.  I paid to see "Green Lantern".  And I wanted my money back.  You love movies.  I love movies.  But not an ounce of warmth in my heart could be mustered to even like this one.

With: Blake Lively, Michael Clarke Duncan, Taika Watiti .

"Green Lantern" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.  The film's running time is one hour and 45 minutes.

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