Thursday, June 16, 2011

Green Lantern probably works
better for the uninitiated

So a dying, purple alien crash-lands on earth and tells you his ring has selected you to be his replacement, to take his lantern and to recite the oath. Then he dies, leaving you with no clue as to what exactly the oath is. What do you do? Well, if you're Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), hot shot, wreckless pilot, you figure out how to activate the ring and it transmits the oath directly to you and then transfers you to the planet Oa where you learn you are now part of an elite corps of intergalactic peacekeepers.

So goes the origin story of Green Lantern, one of the stable of DC Comic characters coming to the big screen for the first time. I'll be up front with you -- I am not a reader of comics. Used to be (I even worked at a comic book store in high school), but as I've gotten older I've found other things to distract me. (But with the DC Comics reboot upon us maybe this is a good time to get back into comics.) As it stands, I barely know the difference between Green Lantern and Green Arrow so I'm probably going to have a different reaction to the movie than the die-hard fans.

And my reaction is that I enjoyed it very much. I was worried about Reynolds' snarky persona, but it was put to great use when he was being the cocky pilot. He lost that swagger, though, after he realized he didn't have the capacity to fulfill the destiny bestowed upon him by the ring (of course, he did but he just didn't know it at first). When needed, Reynolds proves that he can be funny and charming, but emotional, dramatic and heroic. I thought he did a great job. His co-star, Blake Lively … well, she has her moments but I had a hard time buying her as a pilot/businesswoman who is roughly the same age as Hal. Even with dark hair, to me she's still that high school student from Gossip Girl (which I haven't seen since season two). I do love Peter Sarsgaard and whenever he's on screen he's captivating to watch. Unfortunately, he's severly under-used as the alien-infected-human villain and his less-than-threatening character weakens some of the drama that you normally get in a superhero movie.

That being said, I thought this was one of the better origin stories because it completely explained the character of Hal Jordan to this novice without being the least bit boring. The film balances the action and the quiet moments very well; it's not all wham-bang action from beginning to end. One of my favorite moments is when Green Lantern returns to see Carol (Lively) after saving her life and she immediately recognizes him. It was a funny moment and probably one of Lively's best moments in the movie. The scenes on Oa were amazing with a seamless blend of human actors and CGI sets, backgrounds and characters. Everything was bright, colorful and beautiful to behold. It was great hearing Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan as two of the alien Lantern Corps members, and I reall, really like Mark Strong as Sinestro. He's got a great voice and if you watch him closely, you'll notice that he never blinks! Ever!

Also totally awesome, and the source of a lot of controversy amongst the fans, was the Green Lantern suit. It's hard to believe that the entire thing was CGI and that Reynolds was never stuffed into what would have been like a rubber sausage casing. I bet Christian Bale wishes they would CGI his Batman suit on! It was just so cool, and the mask and Reynolds' eye turning white when he's the Green Lantern … it was totally amazing. Now let's talk about the 3D … I am a fan of 3D when it's done right and I hate that Hollywood has this need to convert every 2D movie into 3D now. This is a 3D conversion, but I have to say it is one of the best of the lot. The image was clear, sharp, had nice depth and only an occasional bit of distortion. Nothing leaps off the screen at you, but the depth works really well in the space scenes and on Oa. The Parallax character really could have benefited from real 3D so that it's tendrils could literlly crawl off the screen and into the audience (the CGI work on Parallax was excellent, giving the "creature" a real feeling of weight and texture). If you have the choice of 3D or 2D, I'd say go with the 2D but you won't feel burned by having to pay extra for the 3D if that's the only choice.

I don't know why a lot of early reviews are calling Green Lantern "joyless" because I ended up having a great time watching the movie, and I went in expecting the worst. It's sure to anger the hard-core Green Lantern fans, but if it can get over that hurdle, I think those who like Ryan Reynolds and these kinds of action-packed, special effects extravaganzas will come out of the theater pretty joyful indeed. It's not The Dark Knight or Spider-Man 2 … but it's not Fantastic Four either! A note for parents -- most of the movie is kid friendly, but younger children may be frightened during the Parallax attack on the city which includes scenes of a crowd of people fleeing the monster and being consumed by it, so keep that in mind.  Oh, and don't jump up right as the credits begin to roll, or you'll miss the set-up for the next movie!

Green Lantern is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.

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