Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Case for Lantern Light

It was going to be a tall order for Green Lantern to be as good a movie as X-Men First Class, so I went in hoping for something more akin to Thor, and I was right to lower my expectations.

Green Lantern and Thor have quite a few things in common: lots of extra terrestrial action and CGI baddies, and a lot of comic history sorted and resorted and then boiled down into a movie-length film.  Green Lantern also has some pretty good (and pretty pretty) people in the leads, with Ryan Reynolds cockily charming as Hal Jordan, Peter Sarsgaard creepily malevolent as Hector, Mark Strong all strongly purple as the lead Lantern Sinestro, and Taika Waititi does his afro proud as Tom.  Tim Robbins is there, playing a Senator so in bed with the military industrial complex that there is no doubt that this man has completely sold his soul to big business.  I thought Blake Lively was stunning but as a character was almost an absent void as Carol Ferris, which was a shame considering she was almost the only woman in the entire movie (Angela Bassett also appears as Amanda Waller but is disappointingly under used) - but then, the story isn't about her.

No, the story is cobbled together from lots of cinematic clich├ęs (and there are some spoilers in here, so avoid this paragraph if you like).  There's the scene where Hal goes all Topper Harley in his plane ("Pull up, Millivanillichilliwilli!"); there's the visit to his nephew's party and the estranged extended family whom we never see or hear mention of again; there's a fight scene with work colleagues he managed to annoy that is apparently completely forgotten the next day at a mega gala for the company winning a government contract that is a pale version of an Iron Man-style product launch; there's the dramatic "humanity is awesome if you give it a chance" speech that plays to a bored crowd (the cinema audience, as the Guardians of Galaxy look interested); and then there's the Hal saves the day scene and gets congratulated for it by his comrades who seem to have been hovering nearby and never actually assisted him at any stage of his deathly confrontation even though it would probably have been a really good thing if they had done so.

And so, as the scenes are pretty much separate entities, the transition between them can be a bit confusing, and the storyline wanders.  It's a bit long, and could have done with a bit (lot?) of trimming in some of the scenes mentioned above.  But it all looks magnificent, even if we didn't see it in 3D.  And the charm machine that is Ryan Reynolds keeps everything bolted together, though he is no Robert Downey Junior and so does not completely run away with the show, allowing Peter and Taika to make their own presences felt, however briefly they may appear on screen.

The film all comes together in a pretty package with amazing special effects and a few moments of humour.  Sure, the villain and its (his?) dispatch are rather stupid; the "Lost Sector" is a really idiotic name for a region so many people seem to visit (unless it was name after Edgar Lost, the first person to go there); and the Green Lantern oath and the Corps gatherings are set in large warehouses full of cheese.  And whenever the soundtrack got going, I kept waiting for it to burst into John Williams' Superman theme, so similar (or "inspired") it seemed.  But, that said, the film is very much an easy, visually and auditory entertaining, movie that sticks pretty much to the comic origins of its inspiration, so the need to engage one's brain and really get in to the film are not really necessary.

Verdict:  Green Lantern is passable and likeable in much the same way as Thor.  Easy on the eyes and the brain, it's a special effects extravaganza worth seeing on the big screen, though I am not sure if repeat viewings would really be necessary.  35 watts out of 60.

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