In brightest day, in bitterest disappointment ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In brightest day, in bitterest disappointment

Green Lantern
My rating:

TMBF is a DC fanboy. It's not like I've read a lot of their comics, barring the occasional tradepaperback collection of highly-acclaimed storylines (that I'll only purchase once their acclaim has been well-established, i.e. long after their initial publication). But I do hungrily devour news on the latest developments in the DC universe, more so than I do Marvel. It's partly because I find their principal superheroes so much more iconic; Superman for being the embodiment of altruistic good, Wonder Woman for being the principal feminist heroine, Batman for being the goddamn Batman, etc. Which is why I had such high hopes for Green Lantern; I have only a passing familiarity with the character from the comics, but I wanted to see more DC comics adaptations. I'd be much more excited about a unified Justice League movie continuity than I currently am for an Avengers one. I really wanted this movie to be good.

And that's what makes Green Lantern my sorest disappointment of the summer of 2011. Don't think there'll be another contender for that title.

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a cocky test pilot in a contentious, yet romantically-charged, relationship with his boss Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), who runs her father's Air Force contractor company. Hal's life changes forever when an alien being named Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) crashlands on Earth and gives him a Green Lantern ring - a ring that has chosen him to join the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic force of peacekeepers founded by an immortal race called the Guardians. The ring gives him the ability to create anything he can imagine, powered by his will. Summoned to their home planet of Oa, Hal undergoes rigourous training under Corps members Tomar Re (Geoffrey Rush) and Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan), as well as the scathing eye of Sinestro (Mark Strong), leader of the Corps. But there is trouble brewing on Earth as well. Xenobiologist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is summoned to examine Abin Sur's body, and during the autopsy he is "infected" by the creature that killed the alien - a being known as Parallax, the embodiment of fear, that has sworn to destroy the Guardians and the Corps.

Goddamit, I really wanted this movie to be good. Its trailers earned scathing comments from folks who thought the CGI looked dodgy, who hated Ryan Reynolds, or who just didn't get the concept of Green Lanterns. Through it all, I kept my hopes up. I think Reynolds is a better actor than people who only remember him from Van Wilder give him credit for (it also helps that he's a huge comics fanboy). And I always counted on the movie's secret weapon in Martin Campbell, who has always been a reliable director of stylish yet gritty action-thrillers; I thought he'd be a terrific choice to make a comicbook superhero movie. I don't know what went wrong along the way. Maybe it's because of the four credited screenwriters (and who knows how many uncredited rewrites and touch-ups), or maybe it's because some moron executive at Warner Brothers got final cut.

In any case, the final product simply never comes together as a movie. Its theme is of overcoming fear, which is what Hal must do - which is apparently why the ring chose him. It seems these billion-year-old Guardians and their greatest champion Sinestro are not aware that true courage comes not from the absence of fear, but from facing one's fears. This is new?? This is the deeply profound lesson that humanity has to teach an ancient immortal race and their badass band of warriors? This is the stuff of '80s-era Saturday morning cartoons, not a live-action adaptation - presumably meant for adults as well as kids - of a beloved comicbook. This is insultingly shallow for a genre whose bar has been set by Iron Man and Thor and X-Men: First Class, which, yes, are Marvel movies. Aiyoo, DC, what laa??

And because of that ridiculous bit of Humans Are Special, Hal's entire character arc just never works. Despite Reynolds' valiant attempts to avoid the fratboy doucheyness of Van Wilder, his character remains an unlikable moron. The screenplay seems to think introducing him in a scene in which he runs out on some floozy in his bed is supposed to make him charming. And that having him crash a multi-million dollar jetfighter because he happened to think of his dead father at the time is a good way to introduce his backstory. And that having him fight off a bunch of guys who are beating him up because he got them fired is supposed to make us sympathize with him. Then he spends the entire midsection whining about how the Corps training is too tough, that he's not cut out to be a Green Lantern, yet somehow they let him leave Oa while he still has the ring...

...oh God, this movie is a mess. The whole Hector Hammond subplot seems to have come from an entirely different movie, one in which he, Hal and Carol were apparently friends since childhood - and one in which he didn't get unceremoniously booted out in the late second act by the real villain. Angela Bassett shows up as Amanda Waller, a well-known minor DCU character, and the movie does absolutely nothing with her. Several scene transitions are awkward and jarring. All of which are evidence of boneheaded editing, but I don't know if Campbell - or the writers - can get off the hook just yet. The plot rips off bits from Top Gun, in Hal's aforementioned character arc, and from the original 1978 Superman, in several uncannily similar scenes. (Did his first big superheroic reveal have to occur at another helicopter crash?) All this points to a shameful paucity of imagination, as if the filmmakers saw "jet pilot-turned-superhero" and figured just mashing those two movies together ought to do.

But I'm giving it 2-½ stars. Which means it isn't all bad, and probably doesn't deserve its 26% RottenTomatoes rating. I don't think Reynolds was at all miscast, just miswritten. I'm probably the only reviewer who liked Blake Lively; I thought her chemistry with Reynolds was great. So was Mark Strong, who had the unenviable task of having to make a red-skinned, devil-eared, pencil-mustachioed character - named Sinestro - a good guy, and pulled it off. And so was Peter Sarsgaard, who actually found a real depth of humanity to a badly underwritten character. I was fine with its visual effects and design, even the glowing green bodysuit, and I thought the scenes featuring the ring constructs were quite effective at showcasing the uniqueness of Green Lantern's powers. (Although there really should've been more of 'em, a lot more.) And Campbell's direction comes through in the action scenes, all of which are nicely shot and well-paced.

So yes, it is merely a mediocre film, not a truly bad one - like some I could name. But when we've already seen so many great examples of how to translate comicbook superheroes to screen, Green Lantern's failures stick out like a sore thumb. And it's especially galling that it's DC's first big attempt to challenge Marvel's dominance in the movies, but only ended up proving that neither they nor Warner Brothers have the slightest clue how to handle some of the most iconic properties in modern pop culture. Sigh... the disappointment, it is oh. So. Bitter. If it is true that this film got butchered by the studio - and if DC and WB have any shits left to give - they'll re-release it with Campbell's original cut. They'd bloody well better. They owe it to us.

NEXT REVIEW: 3, 2, 1 Cinta
Expectations: 37:1 kepala hotak engkau


son of the land said...

I really wanted this movie to be good too. Green Lantern is one of my favourites, even though I'm more of a Marvel fanboy =). I was even willing to forgive it for the costume which I didn't like at all.
Animated versions of GL are way better than this (ironically, DC fare better than Marvel in the animation department).

BTW, nice review.