Wednesday, June 22, 2011

TGD Movie Review: The Green Lantern

My sons mentioned in passing yesterday morning that they might be interested in seeing Green Lantern. A few short hours later, before they could change their minds, we were all at the theater, escaping the humidity and watching the tale of the Emerald Sentry of Justice on the big screen. As luck would have it, my wife and I also escaped all other responsibility for a late night screening of Super 8, marking perhaps the first time since I was a teenager that I went to see two movies in one day. But that review will have to wait for tomorrow.

In a summer of superhero movies dominated by Marvel (Thor, X-Men: First Class and the upcoming Captain America) DC threw its hat in the ring with their next best hero to Batman. As with Thor, I was a little concerned that the massive cosmic scope of the setting might be tough to translate into a movie. As with Thor, they actually did a good job on that aspect of the film. Unlike Thor, it fell short of its potential in some other areas. Allow me to elaborate...

The Plus Side: There's a pretty complex story behind the existence of the Green Lantern Corps. It's the story of an entire universe, really, one that could take up an entire movie in itself. But DC needed to get to one particular Green Lantern: Hall Jordan. That called for some narration by a deep voice as we saw a few scenes out in deep space. To their credit, the filmmakers did a fine job giving the audience a grasp of the depth and seriousness of what was going on without boring them to death before the meat of the movie started. I dare say that they did this even more succinctly than the makers of Thor.

With that hurdle crossed, we needed to meet both our hero and our threat to the universe.

Ryan Reynolds played a likable enough Hal Jordan. We got a sense of his cockiness without being made to think he was a complete douche. He obviously cared about his family and rushed to the aid of Abin Sur, not yet knowing what he was or that he was to be his predecessor. We were also allowed to see that beneath his exterior lay insecurity that would obviously later play a part in the moral of the story. Early in the movie, these character details were conveyed well.

As for the villain, the film did a good job of introducing you to the large-scale entity of fear known as Parallax. If you were to compare this to the way Marvel portrayed Gallactus in the second Fantastic Four movie you'd be ready to hand Green Lantern this year's Oscar. You were afraid of Parallax and fully aware of the size and reach of its powers without thinking it completely ridiculous.

But what about the action? Being able to generate solid light from a ring in the form of anything one can imagine in their mind would look pretty comic book-ish on screen, wouldn't it? Wouldn't it remove any believability you established during your base story from the movie? Yes and no. A superhero movie looking like a comic book at times is alright in my mind. In fact, it can be ideal. How else could you show a thousand different Green Lanterns on screen? How else would you show light projecting from Hal Jordan's ring in the form of a fighter jet? If the imagery looks cartoonish, then it becomes silly and the threat to the universe being beaten by such a cheesy superhero makes you mad. But the movie made this work. It balanced imagination, special effects and a touch of humor in a way that allowed you to see the glowing green projections of Hal's mind without being snapped out of the story.

Because of this, when a fight scene began, I bought in. I would lean forward in my seat and be prepared to see something awesome and often did. I would also want it to last longer than it did, in fact, and that brings us to our next section.

The Down Side: There was plenty of action, especially for an origin story. The problem was the story development. It wasn't even that those sections were done particularly poorly and slow moving (though some of them were), it was that the movie interrupted itself at some of its best moments with the way it awkwardly transitioned from action to story development.

The result was like being told a classic story you felt you could sink your teeth into by someone who didn't remember the details in how to tell it. It was like listening to your six-year-old explain Moby Dick. There was a sense that the director kept saying, "Oh, I almost forgot to tell you," throughout the film. The slow moving portions stopped serving a definable purpose after the first half-hour, unlike the original Iron Man, where you were interested in getting to know Tony Stark outside of the suit.

I realize that the action sequences in these films are infinitely more expensive than the rest of the scenes and further respect when a director does not want to use too many green screen scenes. That all said, I appreciate it even more when a director doesn't think that every action scene needs to be over the top and adds a few scenes of moderate action instead of dragging out the slow scenes to fill the time.

That was the major downfall of Green Lantern. There is a story there that you want like. It's a classic good versus evil, hero learning to believe in himself tale, but the film removes you from it every time you start to really get into it. If they could have done the entire movie the way they did the first twenty minutes to half hour of the film, it would have been great. On the contrary, the audience is made to feel like they just sat through a two and a half hour film when it was really just barely over 100 minutes.

The Wrap-Up: If you go to see Green Lantern expecting greatness, you will be disappointed. If you want to see some cool special effects and some superhero action in a light summer movie, you'll have fun. Parallax is just scary enough to frighten some smaller kids, but it still isn't blood and guts type of scary. There is a valuable moral to the story and if you look at the slow moving sections of the film as an opportunity to hit the bathroom or refill your concessions, you can make the best of it. The ending is pretty satisfying. I would recommend the 3D as the effects were worth it and also that you stick around for a scene after the credits.

TGD Rating: 3/5 of a star. It's just over half a star (one full star being our highest possible rating, which is a very appropriate rating system for outer space themed movies, might I add) which would get to the point that I would wish I hadn't wasted my time. It was fun enough that I don"t regret seeing it in 3D on the big screen, but I wish that my second favorite DC character had been given a better movie at the same time.

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