To begin talking about Green Lantern, the man robbed of his personal pronoun by a pan-galactic evil, I have to talk about the end. There’s no way around it I’m afraid. Not the generic conclusion for these sorts of movies; you know the one, the hero flies off into the distance, either under his own power or with assistance, and there’s a close up of his girlfriend, gooey eyed, looking ahead to all those occasions on which she’ll be imperilled and he’ll be there to save her. No, we care not a jot for that ending but the post-credits teaser.
As this is DC not Marvel, there’s no Nick Fury, but one character, inexplicably, acts contrary to the moral code hitherto shown, and does something designed to set up the movie’s sequel, despite there being no obvious reason to do so in the wake of the titular hero’s efforts. In fact one could argue that the post-credits sequel tease makes a mockery of the film’s climax with its force of will conquers fear message.
This is a typical scene, in that it’s symptomatic of the plot’s lack of shade and internal logic. There’s no build up to it, no hint of the corruption within the character that might explain his actions, and that lack of definition drives the picture. Nothing matters.
In terms of story construction there have been worse offenders than Green Lantern, but few movies in recent years have had such a odd sense of anonymity; it almost delights in its lack of definition. There’s a plot certainly, or an impression of one – a beginning and an end, and all the scenes in between occur in the correct order, but it’s a progression of indistinct and tonally incompatible scenes that seem to have been written by different people, then assembled in the right order like a game of super-hero consequences.
Had the screenwriters spoken to each other than they might have had a story conference about the film’s tone; this movie is a schizoid. There’s the breezy and good natured origin story, anchored by a charming and likable Ryan Reynolds that plays like the child of Top Gun and The Last Starfighter, but running alongside it is Peter Sarsgaard’s Hector Hammond horror arc, in which the son of Bob Roberts (Tim Robbins parodying himself) undergoes a foreboding transformation, complete with bulging cranium and oodles of blood curdling screaming. Is this the same movie? It doesn’t feel like it and the contrast jars.
The credits tell you this is directed by Martin Campbell but there’s little evidence of the same. In part this is because a good portion of Green Lantern has been built in a computer. It’s a maelstrom of pixels, edging out the live action part of the film, and it’s furious; wall to wall colour and noise. For me this was unfortunate, because this gives half the movie the feel of a cartoon, not at home to photorealism, that informs the confected feel that unites it with Reynolds Earth bound histrionics.
When the movie stays on Earth, and we’re in Reynolds company, it’s pleasant enough, provided you don’t look too hard. Graham Linehan should sue as Hal Jordan’s geeky pal is the American reincarnation of Moss from the I.T crowd, while Blake Lively, as Reynold’s love interest, is anything but, never more than ornamental eye candy for the target demographic.
Perhaps the movie’s fatal flaw is embedded in its premise, I suspect one of the reasons that filmmakers may have paused when thinking about an adaptation in the past. Green Lanterns, in contrast with their super hero brethren, can do anything. That’s right, they only need imagine it and will appear. This, you might think, mirrors a problem that’s arisen in the CGI age, whereby filmmakers are no longer constrained in what they can show on screen. In days of yore, such economies spawned great invention and gave genre movies focus. Now, when unchecked, the screen is stuffed with wall to wall incident – a sense of largesse. Lanterns, like CG animators, can conjure anything they can think of, but when a character internalises such a gift, it begs the question; why make life difficult for yourself?
Of course we expect Jordan to battle with his alien foe and make a real fight of it, else where would be the jeopardy, where would be the tension? But given the movie’s premise there’s no internal logic to such a decision. Parallax may look fierce, a skeletal face, enveloped in black gunk and tendrils, but if you can imagine anything and it will appear, why not think of something useful, like a void gun that removes everything it’s fired at from existence, or a giant pair of breasts to distract it long enough to fire your void gun? Instead, Jordan wastes time with machine guns, pairs of fighter jets and other woefully inadequate weapons. In keeping the movie going, the hero falls victim to the same lack of imagination that has blighted his creators. There’s a winner alright, it’s just a pity that victor is Marvel.
Green Lantern is in cinemas from tomorrow.
This article was first posted on June 17, 2011