Friday, June 17, 2011
In Blackest Night: a GREEN LANTERN review
Okay, what is a super hero movie? Seemingly ordinary fellow with discernible potential is given great powers in order to strike a balance in the karmic forces of the universe (or specifically, their universe). Hero is reluctant to accept this task, as it comes with a certain amount of sacrifice. The encouragement from trustworthy supporting characters or foreboding circumstances forcing hero to act (or both) push the hero into action, and it is in battle he realizes that he has what it takes to overcome the threat of a central antagonist.
GREEN LANTERN has none of that.
If you choose to go see GREEN LANTERN this weekend, you are most likely doing it as some sort of gamble. Because you don’t know who Green Lantern is. Even comic book geeks who wear his symbol on their shirts don’t know who he is. I read comics all the time as a lad, and kind of still do. I couldn’t tell you my favorite Green Lantern story because I never really read it. Over the past few years, Green Lantern has gained a newfound popularity with comic book readers because of several label wide story arcs that featured a whole manner of colored lanterns.
It took Blue Lanterns and Red Lanterns and Orange Lanterns to finally get people to pay attention to it, so it really isn’t fair to say that the character is popular right now. Shirts with funny symbols are popular right now. So, let me give you a brief history on the kind of thing you might decide to watch this weekend.
Hal Jordan is a sassy test pilot with a tendency for reckless behavior. When a dying alien crash-lands on Earth, he seeks out Hal and bestows upon him, a ring of great power. His ring. With this alien’s death, he has bequeathed the duties and powers of the Green Lantern onto Hal. A replacement for his neck of the universe. The Green Lanterns are basically space cops, stationed all around outer space and Hal has been chosen to protect our solar system. The ring he is given gives him the power to dream up anything and make it come true via ring power. Great! The possibilities are endless! So, let’s get into the movie. I'm not sure what I'm about to post should be called spoilers since you've seen this movie in the trailers already. There isn't much more to it.
First off, Hollywood has been trying to make Ryan Reynolds happen for over a decade. They’ve tried making him a comedy star, but he’s not exactly funny. They’ve tried to make him a romantic lead, but he’s not exactly charming. And now they’re trying again with making him an action star in possibly his biggest role yet. But he’s not exactly exciting. The idea of Ryan Reynolds sounds good on paper. Look at that, name! Flashy! And I swear I’ve heard him say something funny once. Right? But the awful truth is. After many a year trying to make him fit in, it’s just not working. He’s just off. He’s enough so that you think that, any minute now, he’s going to do something worth putting him in a movie for but it just never happens. He even LOOKS a little off. Sure, he’s handsome but he’s noooooot quiiiiite Clooney or Pitt or Damon. Or any member of Ocean’s Eleven for that matter. For some reason, Hollywood keeps giving this guy another shot. But this time, he may have to cash out. He beat out Justin Timberlake (duh) and Bradley Cooper (snuh?) for this role, and while I am confidant that Cooper may have brought something to this role, he probably dodged a bullet. Now, I’m gonna try to recall the plot, right now. I just got home from seeing it, but I feel I’m forgetting more and more by the second.
The movie starts explaining why the Green Lanterns exist, and how old they are. We are told that their greatest weakness is the yellow energy of fear, which has manifested into this big face cloud called Parallax. Parallax joins the elite club of movie “bad juice” types like the mood slime in GHOSTBUSTERS II and the suicide wind from THE HAPPENING. It’s just bad, people! Concentrated badness. This alien named Abin Sur tries to stop it but gets injured and tries to seek out a replacement for himself before he dies. On Earth, guy named Hal Jordan is in bed with a hot lady and OH, NO! He’s late for something important! He says something dismissive to her and leaves. Everybody at Ferris Aircraft is waiting for him. He’s a test pilot, you see. It’s an important day. They’re bidding for an important contract and HAL IS LATE. Renegades never seem to have much respect for anybody’s schedule. Everyone is mad at him, but how can they stay mad for long? This is a guy named Hal Jordan we’re talking about. Blake Lively plays the love interest, Carol Ferris, daughter of the guy who owns the aircraft company. She’s a test pilot too and their job today is to beat these unbeatable drones. Hal manages to do it while sacrificing his partner and destroying his plane. Here is where they want to emulate Kirk’s victory over the Kobyashi Maru test in STAR TREK. Hal will do WHATEVER it takes to win. The perfect quality needed in a Starfleet captain. I mean, test pilot. What? Whatever, the government is still rewarding the contract to Ferris even though Hal’s a dick that doesn’t know how to work with others or treat the equipment with respect. We just nailed him as a sociopath. Quick, give him a god ring.
So, Hal’s actions have really no barring over the government contract. We just know that’s he’s crazy at this point. We then bring the movie to a grinding halt by having Hal attend his nephew’s birthday party. Hal Jordan’s dad died in a test pilot accident. His family likes to remind him of this a lot. Can Hal ever live up to his amazing (?) father’s legacy? Well, he’s alive. So, yes he can. Abin Sur shows up and gives Hal the ring. This is played out with zero sense of wonder or profundity. The first time he does the oath and powers up the ring, he stops everything to have a drink with Blake Lively. Which, if you ask me, is the true test of any man. Be a super hero, or get drunk with Blake Lively? I would love to hear the results of this poll. The answers will shock me. Meanwhile, the government contract dude has a son played by John Malkovich played by Peter Sarsgaard. He is called in to give the autopsy on Abin Sur because the government done found him dead in a swamp. He gets infected with the Parallax super fear that killed Abin Sur and starts to get a little NUTTY! We have no sort of context on what kind of person this character (Hector Hammond) is before he’s given a super brain other than he likes to put Tabasco sauce on his snacks. I feel in superhero movies, showing what a character is like before being thrust with greatness is crucial towards showing their motivations. The entire point of the character is who he was before and how it affects him now. NO TIME FOR THAT NOW, HIS HEAD IS GETTING BIG AND ENTERTAINING. The ring has been on Hal and charged up for the entire time he has been drinking with Lively, but decides to start working when a couple of drunks start messing with Hal. The first time we see Hal use his Green Lantern powers, it’s on a couple of DRUNK TOWNIES using a big green fist. Pretty amazing imagination on the filmmaker’s part. At this point, Hal is beamed up to Oa, the planet headquarters of the Green Lantern Corps. Here, Hal is taught what the audience has pretty much already figured out for themselves by a bird fish head alien who is also a Green Lantern. Okay, this might be fun. Seeing Hal train and all. Kilowag is a big alien Green Lantern who trains the rest of the Lanterns. But not today. Now, he’s just going to beat the shit out of Hal and call it training. Sinestro, one of the wisest and honored Green Lanterns also does this. Now, Sinesto doesn’t really have much to do and doesn’t really belong in this story. But he becomes Hal Jordan’s Arch Nemesis in the comics. And they want to establish that he was a good guy first in this movie, so that it will be some sort of a shocking notion that he’s the villain when they never make the second movie. They pretty much only set up that he exists, and that they didn’t have enough sense to make him not goofy looking.
Hal takes the training too hard and decides to quit. But the Lanterns never get the ring back. He flies back to Earth and shows off to Blake Lively that he gets to wear a CGI suit. She’s very impressed. A little too impressed. He never really does anything to show her what he can do. Or the audience. Or anybody. Everybody’s just really excited to be in the movie. At a big party celebrating the Ferris contract, Hector Hammond gets mad at his dad and uses psychic powers to damage his helicopter. Green Lantern decides it isn't enough to just stop the helicopter, but to put it on a Hot Wheels track, complete with toy car, and zip the helicopter around the party for a little bit. What a hero. Making a helicopter land. That is some exciting stuff.
Hammond returns to the lab where he examined the alien body because he isn’t feeling too well. His head is swelling and he’s starting to look goofy. He attacks all of his handlers when they defy him and Green Lantern shows up out of nowhere and they have a no-battle. Green Lantern leaves and even after killing a bunch of people in a government lab, Hammond makes it home to his apartment to have more night terrors. Back on Oa, Sinestro has convinced the blue yoda bosses that he must make a ring from yellow energy to combat Parallax and because they seem to not care about anything that happens in this movie at all, they let him. When Sinestro first told them that Parllax was coming, their response was “Damn. It’s all over, I guess”. Hal shows up and says “I unquit. Please help me because Parallax is in Peter Sarsgaard and he’s gonna eat my planet” and they say “do it yourself” even though the Lanterns' prime concern is Parallax and they need to stop him. They have the same problem and will not work together to solve it. Sad.
Hammond kidnaps Blake Lively because the movie decided that they all knew each other as kids and he’s jealous of Hal and her because sometimes they fuck. He stashes her in the super brilliant, highly elaborate death trap of “hanging in the air with his mind” with a syringe to her neck. His plan is to make her like him. It works two ways. She will be super brilliant and psychic like him and she’ll be so ugly and goofy looking that Hal wouldn’t want her anyway. That second thing is a real thing and probably the one Hammond cared about the most. Green Lantern shows up and fools Hammond into losing and then Hammond gets eaten by Parallax. Parallax is gonna eat the town next and Green Lantern shoots green at him until he decides to throw Parallax into the sun. Using the exact same green fist as he fought the drunk townies with. And the other Green Lanterns just watch and clap at the end when he’s done. Team work! Blake tells Hal that she’s very impressed that his mask disappears and reappears like an action figure in hot and cold water RIGHT AFTER HE THREW AN ALIEN CLOUD INTO THE SUN. Blake, she’s not so bright. The movie ends with a completely arbitrary scene of Sinestro putting on the yellow ring for no reason. The crowd ate it up. The posters are entirely made up of Hal Jordan and his fellow alien Green Lanterns and they were barely in it and refused to fight with him.
Hal Jordan’s presence in this movie is completely unnecessary as none of his actions affect the story or characters. Hell, there are literally 500 other Green Lanterns in this movie. All that could have done what he did, and probably much better. It’s a perfect mix of bad premise, bad filmmakers, bad actors and bad visual everything. The perfect mistake. Does it really make sense to make a movie about a super hero who has tons of other counterparts that can do the exact thing he can do? I just watched those Green Lantern cartoons that they made recently. And you can either make a Green Lantern movie where he’s protecting Earth or working together with the other Lanterns on some big space adventure. In this movie, the two don’t mix at all. It’s like two different horrible movies for the price of one ticket. This movie has zero energy or momentum or thought or effort or anything in it. It’s dead on arrival. Lifeless and pointless. I rarely do this, but I would recommend you avoid it all together. It’s not even worth being curious about. If I had to compare it to another superhero movie, I would compare it to 1990’s CAPTAIN AMERICA movie where they had a pointless villain and no money to do anything worthwhile so they just kind of stand around a lot. The difference being that this movie DID have money. Ryan Reynolds stood around A LOT in that CGI suit of his. Just burning off 200 million dollars. Every frame of the movie where he is in costume looks like a fan photoshop. Green Lantern hardly does a thing in this movie. It’s shocking. It's probably the worst superhero movie ever made with actual resources behind it. At least BATMAN & ROBIN had a Max Headroom version of Alfred. Okay, I’ve put more thought into this than any of the moviemakers did. Time to stop the madness.
GREEN LANTERN gets * out of ****
If that Jim Carrey penguin movie ends up being better than this, time will stand still.