Friday, June 17, 2011
Green Lantern (Movie Review)
Over 20 years ago I read my first Green Lantern comic and knew immediately that he would forever be my favorite superhero. Since then I've been waiting for Hollywood to take interest in him enough to make a big screen, big budget movie, and at last it has arrived.
Because I'm such a huge fan of Green Lantern, writing this review has been a significant challenge. I tried not to go too easy on the film because I love the source material so much. I've tried not to be too hard on it for the ways in which it didn't meet my hopes and expectations. In the end I did the best I can to be objective, but I obviously make no guarantees. ;-)
A race of ancient beings called The Guardians have taken it upon themselves to protect and preserve order in the universe. To this end they have divided the universe into 3600 sectors and given a powerful ring to one representative in each sector, inducting them into The Green Lantern Corps. The rings can create from solid energy anything the user imagines, and these "constructs" are as powerful as the will of the user. The chief requirement for entrance to the corps is fearlessness.
While fighting off an ancient and powerful entity, one Green Lantern is mortally wounded, and passes his ring on to human test pilot Hal Jordan, who finds himself a fish out of water in a strange new world. Hal must learn what it means to be a Green Lantern and rise to the challenge of protecting those he cares about and his entire world from the most powerful threat the Green Lantern Corps has ever faced.
The script feels a bit unfocused at times and the humor is also a bit forced on a few occasions. During the end credits, when a laundry list of writers are credited for the script, you can see how things may have become a little "scattered" with so many cooks in the kitchen.
The action is visually imaginative and explosive from the very beginning. The pacing is almost perfect throughout, balancing adventure with character driven moments. Ryan Reynolds has a quick whit that keeps the movie fun without spoiling the serious moments or taking things too far. Reynolds handles the intimate character moments as well as he does the one-liners, and though he may feel a bit different from the Hal Jordan of the comics, the core of his character is consistent with what fans have enjoyed reading for years.
Peter Sarsgaard is a wonderfully pathetic and creepy Hector Hammond. This is a villain who has very different motives than any comic villain I've seen on screen. Hammond already feels alienated, and the powers he gains only enhance this feeling in him, driving him to lash out for very personal reasons and in very personal ways.
While Blake Lively as Carol Ferris is fine as Hal's love interest and moral support, I would have liked her to be a much firmer, stronger character, as Carol Ferris is in the comics. Not just for consistency with the comics, but because the chemistry may have been stronger between her and Hal if she were able to match his bravado more equally. I also thought chemistry was lacking between Hal and his "best friend" Tom Kalmaku, who seemed friendly, but not like a guy who had really spent a lot of "buddy time" with Hal.
Mark Strong is both commanding and subtly layered in his portrayal of the Green Lantern Sinestro. He makes for a wonderful obstacle for Hal to overcome as he finds his place in the corps. (As an aside, stay and watch for a scene with him during the ending credits.)
Of course one of the big stars in a movie like this is the visual effects. The variety of ring constructs in this movie is wide and they are often used in dazzling rapid succession. I'm extremely pleased that the best moments of this movie were never shown in the trailers or TV spots that I saw. It's also fun just to watch constructs come together as they form from separated green energy particles that pull together and assemble into the ring-bearer's selected object. There are a lot of cool things to see when it comes to the constructs alone.
Oa is a mysterious and beautiful world that feels ancient and even fantastical despite the alien sci-fi trappings. The visual design of the Guardians is true in essence to the comics, but employs some design changes that add a sense of myth and wonder, giving the Guardians and their world a sense of history and making both ripe for further exploration. Oa represents a new realm for audiences to explore and become fascinated with and stayed with me well after leaving the theater.
My early fears about the visual effects used to create Green Lantern's costume were quickly put to rest. The costume works very well, along with the motion capture technique used to put it on screen. Rarely did Hal's movements in the costume seem animated and the effect offers a new way to approach superhero costumes that is uniquely appropriate to this particular character concept.
I wish I could say the same for my fears about the CGI for the various alien races. While the various CG created alien Green Lanterns and the Guardians look as good as any CG aliens in the recent Star Wars prequels, to me that is not a compliment but rather a way in which Hollywood continues to fall short. A combination of CG and puppet animation, like that used in Hellboy 2, would have been much more satisfying.
On the whole, this movie delivers for those expecting a big summer special effects bonanza. I'm thrilled that Warner Brothers took a chance and invested the kind of money needed for this project to be made the way it needed to be made.
Audiences may have mixed feelings about the climax of the movie, which I won't spoil. I saw what I interpreted as a significant plot hole, but my wife also provided a counter argument that I had to grudgingly leave room for. Some may find the ending to be anti-climactic, wanting more of the Green Lantern Corps than we're given. Others may be content for this movie to be primarily Hal Jordan's time to shine. I sit somewhere in the middle, and found the ending cool and satisfying, but not all it could have been.
The central theme of this movie is fear, and the need to overcome it in order to do what is noble, courageous and right. Hal is forced to not just face his fears, but admit they exist in the first place, as he has been living in denial of them. The same, Hal says, is true of the Guardians, whom he accuses of denying the existence of their fears. In this I think there are two themes that could potentially be discussed after watching this movie.
The first is fear itself, and what it takes to overcome fear. The Green Lantern Corps members and the Guardians would answer with "will". But will has to have a source of strength as well. Psyching yourself up can only go so far.
The will to persevere is fueled by belief in something. Christians who accept torture in countries hostile to their beliefs do so because they believe this life is only a dot on the line of eternity, and that living for what comes after this life is infinitely more important that living for the comforts and pleasures that can be experienced temporarily right now.
The second potential, though less likely, discussion topic may be truth. In order for Hal and the Guardians to face their fears, they first have to stop kidding themselves and admit that their fears exist. We so often fail to grow in this life because we hold onto views of ourselves that are false. We try to convince not just others, but ourselves that we have it all together, when in fact we are broken and need repairing. This mentality prevents many non-Christians from turning to Christ for forgiveness and many Christians from turning to him or those around them for help in areas where they are weak or dealing with sin.
While the theme of fear is very present, the way in which it is treated is not as emotionally involving for audience members as it is an obstacle for the characters, so the likelihood of it triggering discussion after the movie is still pretty low.
This is a fun, adventurous movie that most fans of action/sci-fi effects movies should see. It's not without some noticeable flaws, but the experience as a whole amounts to a great superhero movie.
I would add that the extended edition on Blu-ray is the preferred version of this flick. The extra story is devoted to character backgrounds, giving viewers more reason to invest in Hal and his journey.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.
Listen to this review this weekend at- spiritblade.net/podcast