Monday, June 20, 2011

At the Movies: Green Lantern

Blockbuster movies of every description are a dime a dozen during the highly desired summer film season. They arrive in mass quantities and tend to be thicker than flies. Not every large budget film is going to recoup its cost – at least at the box office – and fan expectations being what they are these days, every potential audience member isn’t going to enjoy each new Hollywood interpretation of an established property. So it has been with the big-screen debut of DC Comics' "Green Lantern" which despite earning the #1 position at the box-office over the weekend, has failed to earn as much moolah as was generated by earlier releases "Thor" and "X-Men: First Class".

The critics have hammered the film as well, citing some of the acting, clunky screenwriting and clueless direction. These aren’t necessarily wrongheaded remarks, but when these types of comments hit the web heaviest on the geek-centric sites, it definitely hurts early returns. I will avoid spoilers as much as possible, but certain points have to be addressed – so be advised – proceed with caution.

First of all let me say that Green Lantern is a really good comic book movie. It channels the established history and characterizations from the silver age series quite well. Geoff Johns may share a screenwriting credit, along with Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg, but the vast majority of the elements and featured characters were originally created by DC Comics writer John Broome and artist Gil Kane. Make no mistake about this! Any strength of this film is due to the wise decision to stick with the core concept built by those two fine, talented gentlemen who are no longer with us. Johns could lay claim to an interpretation of Parallax, but comic book writer Ron Marz originated even that concept.

I would offer as a constructive criticism that at 105 minutes, the film is simply not long enough to have adequately fit in much of what made it onto the screen, and it is this specific aspect that is ultimately behind most critics’ disappointment. We needed more of the GL Corps, more of Oa, more of the Guardians; most of which was very well done as far as I'm concerned and less of other elements (see below). The special effects are excellent.

Ryan Reynolds was topnotch as the cocky Hal Jordan, Blake Lively won me over as Carol Ferris, Mark Strong is "awesome" as Sinestro and the voice work of Michael Clarke Duncan (Kilowog), Clancy Brown (Parallax) and Geoffrey Rush (Tomar-Re) was really cool with me. The actors who played the supporting roles of Tom Kalmaku (Taika Waititi), Carl Ferris (Jay O. Sanders) and Martin Jordan (Jon Tenney) were also spot on, but three roles were utterly unnecessary to the overall film. Tim Robbins portrayed Sen. Hammond, Angela Bassett portrayed Amanda Waller and Peter Sarsgaard portrayed classic GL villain Hector Hammond (to good effect, but he belonged in a subsequent film) and while none were individually deal breakers, all felt heavily tacked on here. The movie as a whole would have worked far better without these characters being present. The Parallax entity did not need Hector Hammond as motivation to come to Earth, it could have simply followed Abin Sur (exceptionally well, albeit briefly, played by Temuera Morrison) to Earth or arrived just to knock off his chosen successor, Hal Jordan.

IMDB reveals that actor Kevin Kline was considered for the role of Senator Hammond, and if they just had to have this character, Kline would have at least appeared more age appropriate as Hammonds father, and with his perpetual mustache, even that visual cue would have nicely tied him to Sarsgaard's Hector. The original script had contained a cameo by Alan Scott, the first published Green Lantern (Jordan's golden age predecessor, whose powers were magical rather than cosmic). Scott was intended to be the United States President, and near the end would have revealed his own past as a Green Lantern to Jordan, and give him his blessing. Later drafts finally wrote him out of the film, and replaced him with Amanda Waller. At one point Clark Kent/Superman was also included in the script (he had a cameo as one of the candidates considered to receive a power ring), but he was cut out because the filmmakers didn't want to depend on another superhero for a success. These foolish behind the scenes decisions cost us some outstanding fanboy moments. A real shame, if you ask me!

Don't even get me started on the elimination of the classic silver age weakness built into the Green Lantern rings, anything yellow tailguns a Lantern in combat. This was retconned in recent years to be Parallax (a yellow, fear-based creature) being imprisoned within the central power battery on Oa. The film moves the prison to a Geoff Johns derived comic book story element, the planet Ryut, so there you go; he chipped in something. A bit stupid if you ask me, since having the action take place on Oa would have strengthened the "big" picture they were setting up. This negatively impacted the requisite post-credits scene for diehard fans too, and in my opinion this is an instance where they completely blew it. It involves Sinestro and again, all the pieces needed to have effectively arrived at this moment were present within the film, but the actual moment where the necessary motivation SHOULD have occurred, didn’t. Oh well, if there is any missed opportunity for critics to crow about, it is here and it happens after the credits roll anyway. I do hope that Reynolds gets another chance to don the CGI-suit and fly the space ways again. So if you are a fan of the classic Green Lantern, like me, go see the movie. Recommended!


Brownfrown said...

Green Lantern has been one of my favorites since childhood, an i can't wait to see it.
The Brownfrowns

Anonymous said...

I'm with you on this one, Chuck. The film's not without it's flaws, but I loved it. They really brought the silver-age Green Lantern to life. My wife, a non-comic-geek normal person, liked it as well.

James Chatterton

Daniel [] said...

I've been specifically waiting for a review from you, Mr Wells, before gambling on seeing this movie.

No, I'm not going to hold it against you if I don't like it, but I wanted a review from someone who thinks of the Green Lantern of Gardner Fox, of Gil Kane, and of Murphy Anderson.

Anonymous said...

I like/dislike the movie for the same reasons noted in the review.
But here's my word of the day... Formulaic. After years of established formula for Superhero
movies where you "focus group" the movie and get everybody's opinion in advance of what they want and then settle on those items that got the most votes, then you get a movie like Green Lantern. Green Lantern is just like it's predecessors in that there are too many characters, too many subplots too many turds to polish. Everyone that loves Green Lantern will go see the movie and leave with the same feeling as me, that something was missing. I think that what's missing is a story focused on the character as envisioned within the context of the original material and those that created it. Modern interpretations take too much of the mealy-mouthed generalism of today - you've got to appeal to the broadest spectrum - and try to make a movie out of it. Watchmen was a great movie. The latest Batman movies have great character interpretations from great character actors. I could go on for ever...

joe ackerman said...

I thought it was cool. pretty much what I was expecting, really. it was nice to see a halfway decent DC film that isn't Batman. and I only EVER think of Green Lantern as the Broome/Kane Green Lantern.