Warner Brothers and DC Comics seek to launch a new franchise this weekend in the form of Green Lantern, a special-effects extravaganza starring Ryan Reynolds. Boasting a staggering production and marketing budget of $300 million, the movie is an aggressive and risky move for the new DC Comics film division.
The character lies in the upper-middle tier of DC Comics' lineup. Green Lantern is a popular hero with a long history, but less known to the general public than the likes of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Compared to other recent superhero movies, he's equivalent to Marvel's Iron Man, an unproven character with lots of upside.
But upside needs to be gained through quality, and Green Lantern is unfortunately lacking in this regard. It's not the epic disaster many critics have made it out to be, but it isn't the space epic the studio wanted it to be. I wanted so hard to like the movie - "Green Lantern" was one of my favorite comic books growing up - but the movie fails to live up to its potential in almost every way.
The requisite origins tale, Green Lantern has a lot to cover: introduce the main character and an entire universe of funny looking aliens who wear green energy suits and defend the galaxy from evil. It's clear director Martin Campbell, and even more so the screenwriters, didn't quite know where to take the movie.
Green Lantern never achieves synergy among all its parts. It bounces around and comes off as a jumbled mess at times, even though there are elements to like throughout. Ryan Reynolds is a great choice for Hal Jordan; he's handsome, funny and heroic, a modern day Maverick who doesn't need a fighter jet. Blake Lively is an equally fine choice for Carol Ferris, Hal's love interest. Unfortunately, the film fails to develop their characters in a cohesive, organic way. Hal's flaws seemed forced and unnecessary, and Carol doesn't get to do very much.
The story isn't very complicated, and yet it lacks focus. The movie isn't a jumbled mess, but it sure feels like it at times; character back stories are incomplete, action sequences aren't fleshed out and the movie doesn't progress in a fluid, natural way.
Despite all that, the biggest problem with the movie is the choice of villains: an evil fear-mongering space cloud named Parallax that consumes worlds, not unlike the evil-fear-mongering space cloud that served as the villain in the second Fantastic Four movie, and a literally big-headed mad genius named Hector Hammond. The best villains have time and time again been both physical and mental threats to their respective heroes, so why oh why did the filmmakers select an uninspired black cloud as their primary villain? And a goofy looking madman as the other?
The villains aren't intimidating and not very fleshed out, not exactly the best way to kick off an expensive franchise.
As far as the action goes, Green Lantern has good-but-not-great action sequences, which is a little surprising given Campbell's background (The Mask of Zorro, GoldenEye, Casino Royale and Edge of Darkness). Campbell has proven he can put together exciting and complicated action scenes, but the action in Green Lantern comes and goes without much thought given to setup or detail. Given that the character can literally create anything with his ring, Campbell really had the potential to present something never seen before - but he doesn't.
In line with the action, the special effects are good, but not groundbreaking. Green Lantern has some great-looking shots, but it's hard to see where Warner Brothers spent $200-300 million.
When all is said and done, Green Lantern is not the complete waste of money it had the potential to be. Despite all its flaws, Green Lantern is entertaining and has enough action, adventure and comedy to satisfy general audiences. Campbell and his crew have laid the groundwork for an effective sequel.
With such a big initial price tag, however, Green Lantern feels like a mighty misstep for a franchise that may never get off the ground.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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