Green Lantern

a film by Martin Campbell

Now I can not judge how closely this film sticks to the continuity and chronology and mythology of the DC comic upon which it is adapted, for though I have read comics (much of my misbegotten youth was "wasted" on such things) and still do occasionally peruse the reprinted classics of my childhood, I am more of a Marvel guy than a DC guy. Those in the know (aka, fellow comic nerds) know what I mean by such a comment. I cut my comic teeth on titles such as The Avengers, Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, Thor, The Eternals, Black Panther, The Defenders, Silver Surfer, The Fantastic Four and of course The X-Men - all Marvel titles. I never really got into the DC branch of the genre, such as Superman, Batman and/or our subject for today, The Green Lantern. This being said, I can not very well say how well director Martin Campbell's big screen version does in following its original source material. Judging from others in the crowd at the advance screening I attended (presumably those aforementioned DC guys) it did not do a very good job at all. Shame really, since the movie had such potential.

From my viewpoint, judging the film on pure entertainment value, Green Lantern isn't the best, but it most certainly isn't the worst either. Ryan Reynolds does a more than fine job as Hal Jordan, cocksure fighter pilot turned into the titular green-glowing superhero, and Peter Sarsgaard as Hal's childhood friend and rival, himself turned into a giant-brained supervillian, is quite enjoyable as well (as Sarsgaard usually is) but the rest of the cast seems either bored with their little amount to do here or, in the case of love interest and fellow fighter pilot turned desk jockey with a body to kill for (and one character attempts just that very thing) Blake Lively, way way way out of their element. But the real problem with Campbell's Green Lantern (and let's face it, the director was most likely besieged on all sides by producers and DC execs to do this or that or the other thing - never able to fully make this his picture) is how un-awe-inspiring the whole thing is. With the great potential inherent in the character and the visual possibilities nearly endless, one would think a much more exciting movie could be made. Alas, this is not the case.

As basic backstory, here are the facts. Some several billion years ago, beings known merely as the Guardians harnessed the power of will (which not just incidentally is seen as the colour green) and created a corps of warriors known as the Green Lantern Corps, each possessing a mystical ring that could bring anything the bearer thought of to a solidified reality. With hundreds of thousands of these warriors across the universe, the Green Lantern Corps were the intergalactic police force against all types of evil. The major evil force was an enemy known as Parallax who could harness the power of fear (yellow in its appearance) and use it against his enemies. One of the mightiest of the Lanterns, Abin Sur, had managed to imprison Paralax on a far deserted world. Our story begins when Parallax escapes and mortally wounds Abin Sur, who then makes his way to Earth and with his dying breath gives his ring over to Hal Jordan - the human that the ring itself chose. But of course, in proper narrative storytelling (be it comic or film), the immature, irresponsible Hal is far from ready to become the hero he is meant to be.

So far so good, right? We are invariably set for a hell of a balls-out intergalactic war where pretty much anything one can conjure up in one's mind is possible. In other words, a visual spectacular like no one has ever seen. With CGI in overload (one of those few times where more CGI would be the correct call for action) Green Lantern is set to blow our proverbial socks off. But alas, once the end credits roll, our socks are still on and we are left with a collective sigh of disappointment. This great potential for visual storytelling is lost in what ends up amounting to not much more than mere mediocrity. Sure, Reynolds is good as the untested hero (the actor, much like an unwanted but feel-good fungus, has grown on me lo these past few years) and that was a big concern in fanboy circles, but the movie around him just fails to awe. Green Lantern's biggest fault is its lack of the spectacular. To compare this movie to another film out currently, their is more awe-inspiring special effects in Terence Malick's The Tree of Life than in Green Lantern. Just think, an arthouse film has outdone a Hollywood summer blockbuster in the use of audacious special effect imagery. What is the world coming to? [06/17/11]