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REVIEW: 'Green Lantern' Glides, Doesn't Fly

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) grits his teeth to show how he battles his own fear. Oh, and that alien monster back there.

‘Green Lantern’: A Superhero Movie™ that should have soared instead merely glides at low altitude.


By CARLOS PEDRAZA

I think the best way to start this review is to confess my overweening mancrush on Greg Berlanti. Here he is, writing and producing a huge-budget superhero/scifi movie — the same guy behind one of my favorite TV family dramas (Everwood), the inestimable Dawson’s Creek (don’t be haters, people), the recently canceled No Ordinary Family and the brilliant WB classic, Jack & Bobby.

The guy’s résumé resists every effort at pigeon-holing. Clearly, he’s one of us — a doorq (dork, for you traditionalists).

And yet, here we have Green Lantern. Wracked by production challenges, possibly lamed by marketing missteps, this big-budget treatment of one of DC Comics’ most venerable characters suffers from what appears to be a kitchen-sink and formulaic approach to packaging a Summer Super-Hero Movie™.

What went wrong, Greg, my love?

DEEPER PROBLEMS You can read all the other reviews that rightly criticize the film’s over-reliance on visual effects, its thin writing and its uneven pacing. But I fear the problem with Green Lantern goes deeper than that. Somehow, the story it should have been, the character Hal Jordan (gamely portrayed by an earnest Ryan Reynolds) should have been, never successfully escaped Greg Berlanti’s wondrous heart.

And don’t think I haven’t forgotten you, Geoff Johns! Here’s a guy — a genius who has made a career of breathing new life into tired comic book franchises — whose job is discovering the humanity in these iconic characters and bringing them into re-imagined full-fledged life. Look at what he did with the Justice Society and the Legion of Super-Heroes in the tired closing  seasons of Smallville. He’s one of Green Lantern’s producers.

What went wrong, Wonder-Geoff?

Maybe it’s director Martin Campbell’s doing. His big movies are Zorro flicks and a couple of James Bond romps (including the reboot in 2006, Casino Royale, with Daniel Craig). His work on Green Lantern has a by-the-numbers feel to it:

Go all exposition-y on us in the opening by recounting the history of the Green Lantern Corps (yawn), then switch to an action sequence that establishes both how cool and tragic test pilot Hal Jordan is — he sleeps with beautiful women! He defeats undefeatable combat robot-planes! He banters with beautiful Carol Ferris (an ill-used Blake Lively)! But he’s also paralyzed by fear at what appear to be not-too-critical moments.

That’s a problem when you’re supposed to be a Green Lantern, whose job description is Fearless.

Hector Hammond is the bad guy. You can tell 'cuz he's all misshapen.OFF THE RAILS And that’s where this film goes off the rails. Nothing really feels authentic; each event, each character, is just slotted into the prefabricated Super-Hero Movie™ formula. Not the source of Hal’s paralyzing fear, not the essentially wasted performance by Peter Saarsgard as pathetic villain Hector Hammond, and not Carol’s ability to turn her man’s fear into courage with but a stroke of his cheek.

The sequences where we meet some of the other Green Lanterns, and the fabulously dressed Guardians of the Universe (Seriously? Three-story tall red robes?), on the Lanterns’ home planet of Oa, provide a nice showcase for some of the other actors (Mark Strong does a nice job as the No. 1 Lantern, Sinestro) and for the film’s visual effects.

Finally, Hal ends up surmounting his fear by just reeeeeally gritting his teeth and letting the movie’s other villain, the fear-mongering yet completely non-horrifying Parallax, have it in the face. Hal has to put up with the other Lanterns’ picking on him for being “only human,” yet he never really demonstrates what makes humans so different, so ultimately able to transcend their apparent weakness. He just talks about it (yawn). There’s such a lack of connection between him and the people he’s trying to protect that the story ends up feeling rote and antiseptic.

OUTVOTED? Maybe the problem was the apparent written-by-committee approach. Maybe Berlanti and Johns were simply outvoted at the preproduction meetings. They had to be, if the completely unmotivated after-the-credits revelation (and grasping attempt at sequel-dom) is any indication.

Was Green Lantern a bad movie? No. It’s got some things that are fun to watch while you munch your popcorn. But for decades, DC Comics and its Warner Brothers owners have squandered the value of their characters, and this movie does little to redeem that legacy.

———

Carlos Pedraza is a writer and producer whose feature film, Judas Kiss, is currently playing film festivals internationally. He is a former writer-producer for Star Trek: Hidden Frontier and Star Trek: Phase II. You can follow him on Twitter and on his regular blog, the Cosmic Sitcom™.

1 Comment

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  1. Moeskido says
    June 16, 2011, 10:47 am

    This review unfortunately describes how I’ve felt watching a good number of genre movies in the past decade, not to mention superhero adaptations. Art by committee.

    Reply

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