Cineworld Glasgow, 24.06.11

Martin Campbell seems to have created a niché market for himself as a director expert in launching, or rather re-launching, known popular characters.  Twice he has introduced the world to a new James Bond, first with Pierce Brosnan in 1995’s Goldeneye, and then with Daniel Craig in 2006’s Casino Royale – both with great success. In between he brought the South American freedom fighter Zorro to a new audience as Antonio Banderas in The Mask of Zorro (1998).  Alongside this success though he has also given us the disastrous Vertical Limit (2000), and then subsequently buried the Zorro franchise with the lazy The Legend of Zorro (2005).  All of which probably goes to prove that as with most, if not all, film directors, they are only as good as the source material they are working from.  With his proven ability to launch well-known characters onto the big screen, Campbell must have seemed an ideal fit for the latest attempt to launch a superhero franchise.

The source material for Green Lantern is (yet another) long-running, established American popular comic, this time from the stable of DC Comics.  Although seen in animated series on television, this is the first attempt to bring this particular superhero to the big screen, and it quickly becomes clear as to why that is.  This is high-concept sci-fi, with a capital ‘H’.  There is no grounding in gritty realism here, or attempts to link the world of fighter pilot Hal Jordan to the real world.  Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is chosen by the green ring to protect Earth after the death of previous ring bearer Amin Sur (Temura Morrison).  He becomes part of the Green Lanterns, a police force for the universe. The lantern and ring give him special powers which enable him to bring to life anything from his imagination in order to help him fight evil. Meanwhile, Parallax, an evil force powered by fear and embodied in a massive black cloud threatens the universe and Earth, and it is left to Hal to defend his planet. 

It is all, frankly, bonkers, and by trying to cram so much of the years worth of comic history into a less-than-two hour film, leads to some massive leaps and shortcuts.  The opening prologue rushes through the Green Lantern Corp. history and the story of Amin Sur and Parallax so quickly that it paints broad brushstrokes and the real menace of Parallax (and why it becomes evil) are skipped over.  Similarly, Hal’s initial rejection, then acceptance, of the responsibility bestowed upon him by the Green Lantern – not to mention his quick comprehension and mastering of its powers – are all achieved in the blink of an eye.  Characters such as love interest Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) are given little time to make an impact. Peter Sarsgaard registers as scientist-come-Frankenstein Monster baddie, Hector Hammond, although he is so pathetic that his actual threat to Hal seems minimal.  There are other mis-steps in plot, such as Parallax, a massive, large city sized, black cloud with enormous tentacles entering the Earth’s atmosphere, and threatening to engulf an entire city, seemingly completely undetected by any authorities.  Perhaps budget constraints account for this, and the fact that although Hal can make real anything he imagines, he keeps things very small-scale when it comes to battling enemies.  It’s also alarming that the universal Green Lanterns give up pretty hopelessly against Parallax and simply leave Hal to battle it on his own, although of course the rookie soon dispatches Parallax, where his more experienced and powerful colleagues gave up.

Daft as this all is, the film does have some good points.  Ryan Reynolds finds it almost too easy to inject his easy-going, lazy charm into the laid back Hal, and is also suitably earnest when it comes to serious hero time.  Sarsgaard has fun as Hector and Mark Strong is nicely ambiguous as Green Lantern Sinestro (the post-credits set-up for a sequel temptingly gives hope of a better second film, if given the green light).  While the pace does seem to bog down occasionally as all the comic book origin story plot points are hit, there is enough charm and inventiveness in the set pieces to hold the interest.  Indeed, the biggest complement for Green Lantern in the already crowded superhero canon is that, as a film, it doesn’t hold back or distill elements of the comic, but embraces the silly costumes, monstrous make-up, bizarre aliens, lack of logic, and runs with it, which gives it just enough momentum to stand out in the crowded market place.

With a bit of care and attention to the plot, the makings of a decent sequel are there, it’s just a shame that it hasn’t all come together in this film.  And in the already world of far too many comic hero movies, unfortunatley, Green Lantern doesn’t add anything the audience hasn’t seen before.

Film Rating – 2.5 out of 5.

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