Saturday, June 18, 2011
Green Lantern is a superhero movie that dares to be fun and exciting and return the comic book hero to a time when it was about good versus evil. The movie reminded me of what I love about comics, a feeling that has taken a beating with some of the torturously dark films of recent years.
Now this was more like it. I found Green Lantern to be more in the spirit of superheroes than almost any movie I've yet seen. I've gotten quite used to the idea that when I see a superhero movie, it's going to be the movie version, ie a version of a character made acceptable to regular movie viewers, at best meeting the fan half way. The thing is, often this almost seems to be how fans want it, there is a sense of embarrassment over the fantastical excesses of the four-colour universe. Because of this I'd come to believe a superhero movie is just never going to be as enjoyable, as limitless-feeling, as reading a comic.
This is one of the first comic movies I can remember that so fully embraces its comics roots, sparing just about nothing and thus becoming a fantasy and science fiction film as well as a superhero movie. It's really only hampered by being an origin movie, and because of that there are not going to be huge dramatic surprises, as we see a hero gain power, and a villain gain power, and then a clash, although even that contains some interesting twists. To those who see Green Lantern as derivative, what they don't realize is how many things actually derive from GL, from the style of his costume, which preceded Spider-man, to the Green Lantern Corps, which, as a powerful universal peace force, was surely an influence on the Jedi of Star Wars - though admittedly the Lensmen series of books was an influence on the Green Lantern Corps.
Some of the CGI is being criticized, but I really have yet to see a film where CGI isn't apparent, including the highly praised Avatar, which I stopped watching after about forty minutes due to the leaden heavy-handedness of its story. Certainly the big boss villain of this film, the giant evil cloud with a head called Parallax, in some shots reminds me a bit of Malebolgia from the original 1997 Spawn movie, but at least his mouth movements are in unison with his words ( I think Malebolgia was supposed to be uttering thoughts telepathically but that was never apparent). There is at least a wonderful malevolence to the Parallax monster, its sense of being evil incarnate palpable but without it being overdone. I've read some compare its look to giant fecal matter, but if someone's stool looked remotely like that, they would be well advised to see a doctor immediately.
To me an important element of this film was the way in which the viewer is reminded that superheroes fight for the good of humanity, believing it worth saving. After a slew of comic book type movies with a sort of juvenile jadedness, actually daring to return to the roots of what a superhero story is about is a powerful message, one I believe audiences will respond to. It doesn't have a bunch of "cool" or "hip" dialogue. There is nothing - ugh - "badass" in sight. So many comics I've read in the last ten years seem to create dramatic situations simply so the hero can utter a tough guy line. While this movie has some drama, and gives its characters lives, it never loses its focus on being a superhero film about powers and saving the world. There are no long-winded dramatic scenes to try to convince us this is all "real", an element of many comics and comic movies that to me always takes away from the reality, the fact it's being taken so deadly seriously seeming to make it all the sillier.
Ryan Reynolds really surprised me. Going in, I always liked the way he could pull off smart-guy roles, such as in Blade Trinity, but here I was pleasantly surprised by his capacity for sweetness and sincerity, especially in the scene where he pleads with the nicely rendered Guardians for the chance to try to save earth - a scene that strongly evoked similar confrontations from the comics where Hal Jordan has to tell his immortal bosses that they don't know everything.
There is little about the dialogue that doesn't work for me. Many comic fans feel embarrassed by romantic dialogue, but the truth is that relationships work that way. I loved some of the scenes of Hal and Blake Lively's Carol speaking, set against a wistful, dreamy sunrise background, and there is much amusement in how she deals with his new powers and dual identity.
Mark Strong was incredibly charismatic as the still (at this point) heroic Sinestro, and I greatly appreciate that the actor reportedly fought to ensure that Sin would not be revamped with a goatee and a pony tail, as if an alien would be aware of the fashions on earth and thus feel embarrassed to have a non-hip mustache. Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond looked like a classic movie monster as he begins to mutate. His tweaked origin I felt was integrated more satisfyingly into the the larger story than in many superhero movies with multiple villains.
I love the other members of the Corps who appear, Abin Sur and Tomar Re both projecting a sense of nobility, and Kilowog appearing suitably menacing and ominous. Unlike some reviewers, I'm glad that the Corps is not part of the final action scenes, because for me the movie was about Hal. But I greatly enjoyed the scenes where Hal is part of a giant Corps assembly, and we can see many of the members who have been part of the comic mythos since the Silver Age.
The action in the movie is big and fun, with many amusing green energy constructs, and in the end, Hal's way of defeating his opponent is pure classic comic book. I left the film when it was over with a sense of excitement about the endless possibilities of superhero stories.