Monday, June 20, 2011

Green Lantern--My Review

I really wanted to wait a couple of days to digest this movie before trying to say something about it that hasn't been said, but there have been so many reviews, in so many places, that are just all over the map, that I fear that I have little new to contribute.  But I'll try my best.  So here goes:

Right off the top, I will tell you that I would give this movie a solid B.  Is it perfect?  No.  But it is great fun, and I do honestly believe that it was given short shrift by too many reviewers.  I wonder if many of them simply felt that it was time for a bad review after so many pleasant surprises this summer, with great films including Super 8, X-Men: First Class, and Thor.

As for Green Lantern:  One of my peeves with films in general today is the reliance on stables of writers, and multiple focus groups, and revision after revision after revision of a script.  I think film by committee is always going to be subpar.  One reason why Super 8 works so well is that it is the vision of one individual, J.J. Abrams.  This doesn't always translate into success; the mess that was Sucker Punch is proof enough of that.  But when a movie really, really works, it is almost always the vision of one or two individuals.  Green Lantern is a classic case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.  Words and scenes that work brilliantly on the comics page did not translate well into live action.  Green Lantern was, in my opinion, overwritten.  It tried too hard to blend the updating of the character (as done recently in the comics pages by Geoff Johns) with a more classic 1960's take on the character, and some cribbing from the Iron Man origin portion in the bargain.  So in trying to be too much it wound up being too little.

I also hate movies that make changes for the sake of making changes, as though this somehow translates into someone's personal artistic vision.  There is nothing wrong with the original costume for the character (the Hal Jordan version, not the Alan Scott) and there is nothing wrong with the original design of the Lantern power battery.  While putting Wolverine in yellow spandex would have been a disaster, I feel like a Green Lantern costume closer to the original would have been more successful.  Also, there was no need to change the origin story to the extent that they did -- they should have had Hal brought to Abin Sur's crash by the ring while he was in a flight simulator.  The idea of the simulator training machine actually taking flight is a fantastic one, and it was thrown away.  I also feel that adding all the doubt into Hal's character was a misstep; the ring chooses Hal because he is capable of overcoming great fear.  And I believe it was a mistake to change Hector Hammond's origin so drastically.  He could still have been connected to Parallax in some way -- his burgeoning telepathic power would have been enough to do it -- and he could still have been mutated by a combination of meteors, as in the original comics, albeit meteors that came down with Abin Sur's craft.  Or even meteors that BROUGHT down Abin Sur's craft.  Parallax could have been responsible.  I also saw no need to change Parallax's origin.  It is NOT a renegade Guardian; it is the universe's living embodiment of Fear.  Willpower has one as well, called Ion.  Finally, the design of Parallax itself was a disaster.  Parallax should look more like a cross between a hungry locust and the Alien from Alien, not a cloud of smoke with tentacles.  Something more like this design:

But now the good news:  Although the script was talky, and there was not enough time spent on the alien Lanterns, in space, or on planet Oa, what there was of those things was just brilliant.  Mark Strong's portrayal of Sinestro was absolutely spot on, and bodes well for a sequel, if there is one.  I thought the CGI special effects were extremely well done, and gave a good sense of how the Ring works.  I thought that Ryan Reynolds' version of Hal Jordan was great, when he wasn't fighting the clunkier parts of the script.  He did a fantastic job of portraying an average guy who is called upon to step up and, not only be all that he can be, but also find his own hidden depths to be even more.  Blake Lively's Carol Ferris was terrific, and she had great on-screen chemistry with Reynolds.  Geoffrey Rush gave phenomenal voice talent to Tomar Re, an alien Lantern who is entirely computer-generated, and really made him come alive for me.  It was how I always imagined Tomar Re would be.  And Peter Sarsgaard was fantastic, just child-molester-creepy fantastic, as villain Hector Hammond.

The movie was a lot of fun.  It was a good, solid summer popcorn movie.  I thought so, and so did both the adults and the kids in the audience.  Those who stayed for the credits cheered at the little Easter Egg button at the end.  The folks with whom I did brief impromptu interviews all said they liked the movie and would recommend it to their friends, and many planned on seeing it again.  I know I plan to as well.

So there you have it.  If you had any doubts or reservations, put them aside and go check out Green Lantern.  I honestly believe you will be pleasantly surprised.  I think the action scenes are epic enough that you should see it at least once in the theater, even if you skip the 3-D, instead of waiting for the DVD to come from NetFlix.  So this weekend, skip Cars 2 -- you know it's going to be around until Labor Day! -- and give Green Lantern a look!

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