What if you opened a superhero franchise and nobody cared?
I’m now beginning to catch up with some of the summer film offerings which I missed at the multiplex. The latest Blu-Ray to slip into the tray of my PS3 is this summer’s “Green Lantern”, the latest effort by Warner Brothers to leverage their catalogue of DC Comics heroes and kick-start multiple superhero film franchises to rival those enjoyed by Marvel.
Starring professional snarker Ryan Reynolds and his ridiculous abs, “Green Lantern” follows the heroic adventures of cocky test pilot Hal ,whose daddy issues and commitment phobia are momentarily forgotten when a mysterious alien crash-lands on Earth and bestows on him the ring of the Green Lantern Corps.
The Green Lanterns patrol the galaxy and act as a kind of peace-keeping force, fighting evil wherever it appears and finding their home on the planet Oa, under the supervision of the Guardians, a mysterious race who created their world, formed the Lantern Corps and harnessed the power of Will, which is the most powerful source of the energy in the universe.
We’ve got cosmic scale, sci-fi action and a leading man whose wit is as quick as his fists and Martin Campbell, the director of “Goldeneye”, “The Mask of Zorro” and “Casino Royale” calling the shots. There’s clearly potential here, but that potential for an engaging big screen adventure hasn’t been realised by the final product – there’s a lot of noise, a lot of colour and a lot of things happening, but I’m hard-pressed to tell you what happened in the film a matter of twenty to thirty minutes after I’ve finished watching it.
A glimpse at the comics version of the Green Lantern
There’s a curiously old-fashioned feeling to the movie which makes it seem as though it’s a period curio even as you watch it – Hal’s an overly confident pilot who blithely risks expensive aircraft in dogfights, beds anonymous blondes and runs in the opposite direction if the word ‘responsibility’ is mentioned.
The promiscuity aside, this is a character who could have been played by Errol Flynn back in the 1930s. We see an obligatory scene set at a swanky corporate party which features an R&B band belting out up-tempo funk – it plays as though it were spliced in directly from the cutting-room trims of a lost Tom Cruise 80’s vehicle. Mrs Rolling Eyeballs watched the film with me and felt strongly as though no cliche was left unplumbed in the making of this film and I’m inclined to agree with her.
Sinestro, played by Mark Strong, Green Lantern big cheese
The performances are variable. Ryan Reynolds can carry the action sequences surprisingly well but he’s not that funny or likeable in this film, which is quite a revelation – I’ve rarely seen him in anything where his brand of wit didn’t make me laugh. He’s actually a little colourless, which is ironic given the title of the film, and his character’s problems just aren’t that easy to relate to – he’s a test pilot, spars romantically with Blake Lively (miscast as an implausibly young CEO cum experienced test pilot), is absurdly handsome and gets to gad about the galaxy and use his new-found super-powers to give alien miscreants a kicking.
His big problem is that he has to stop our planet being absorbed and destroyed by one of those omnipotent extra-terrestrial threats that populate superhero origin stories like this. And if it isn’t yet apparent, the threat never really coalesces – we know that Parallax will be beaten, it’s never a subject of debate and the final battle is over in five scant minutes.
It feels like an after-thought. Hal chucks together some improvised weapons – the Green Lantern’s power ring synthesizes thought into reality and reproduces whatever object you can think of, allowing you to defeat a bad guy with a gigantic post-box made of licorice. Well, it would do if imagination were at play in this film. We get jet planes, 50 cal machine guns and chain saws. So much for the power of will made real.
If I sound disappointed, it’s because I am. The galactic possibilities of the film are mostly hobbled by setting the film predominantly on Earth, the photography is compromised by the green murky tinge to every shot – the Blu Ray transfer is really dark and makes it difficult to see anything during most of the scenes set on Oa – and the story is another origin story which becomes painfully dull to sit through.
A sequel has been discussed but I won’t be rushing to see it.