Friday, April 6, 2012

Bored of the Rings

Green Lantern: written by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg. Based on characters created by John Broome, Julius Schwartz, Gil Kane, Steve Engelhart, Joe Staton, and others; directed by Martin Campbell; starring Ryan Reynolds (Hal Jordan), Peter Sarsgaard (Hector Hammond), Blake Lively (Carol Ferris), Mark Strong (Sinestro), and Tim Robbins (Senator Hammond) (2011): Had DC's Silver Age comic-book superhero Green Lantern been cursed with a first appearance this convoluted and yet strangely bland, we wouldn't have been cursed with this movie at all. The filmmakers decided to shovel bits and pieces of 55 years of Green Lantern continuity into a 110-minute film while liberally borrowing the aesthetic of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy in an inappropriate way (the home of cosmic good guys The Guardians of the Universe looks strikingly like Mordor, for example, which constitutes something of a mixed signal).

The Green Lanterns are space-faring policemen gifted with green rings that can make anything the bearer thinks of, so long as his, her or its will power is strong enough. An angry yellow cloud -- perhaps the cloud Grampa Simpson was yelling at -- threatens the universe. New GL recruit Hal Jordan of Earth turns out to be the only Green Lantern plucky enough to defeat the cloud, actually a fear-eating being named Parallax.

There`s a lot of flying around and space vistas and scenes that look like video-game cut scenes, and surprisingly little superheroing. The overstuffed, undercooked plot doesn`t give Hal any room to fly around saving people from things more mundane than a talking, planet-sized cloud. Instead, we get endless exposition about things that are, frankly, often very silly once removed from their comic-book context.

One of the problems is that this isn`t Lord of the Rings -- which is to say, the Green Lantern mythology isn`t a coherent one shaped by one mind, but rather an accretion of ideas from six decades and counting.

Comic-book writers often hold onto inherently stupid ideas because those stupid ideas are part of a character`s continuity, and thus sacrosanct (and, possibly, copyrighted). Here, one such long-standing bit of nonsense -- the idea that 3600 Green Lanterns patrol a universe divided into 3600 sectors by the Guardians, one GL per sector -- gets trotted out again. I don`t even want to begin calculating how many solar systems that would encompass for each GL. Trillions. They must accumulate a lot of frequent flyer miles.

Another bit of nonsense -- the cloud`s name is Parallax -- also gets trotted out. Why is a giant cloud named Parallax? Well, there`s a convoluted explanation that unfolded over decades in the comic book; here it`s just tossed out, another clunker. That fascist GL Sinestro is named, um, Sinestro was fine for a comic book aimed at children in which names can be glaringly descriptive of character. In something ostensibly aimed at adults, it's stupid.

And don`t get me started on the age gaps among the actors playing supposed childhood playmates Hal, Carol Ferris, and Hector Hammond. There's a 17-year spread, a detail that wouldn't be as much of a problem if the actors (Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, and Peter Sarsgard, respectively) didn't pretty much look as mismatched as their actual ages. So it goes. Not recommended.

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