Thursday, June 7, 2012

There's Hope For Slackers Yet: Green Lantern


In order to enjoy certain films, sometimes it helps to have perspective. This film, Green Lantern, isn't perfect, but it certainly isn't horrible, either. It's one of those slightly above-average films that when seen in an ideal set of circumstances becomes remarkable. Ideal circumstances in this case being after a few drinks or on the extreme cheap. Better yet, see a seriously terrible film the night before, (Vanilla Sky, Gigli) have a few drinks, and make someone drive you to the theater and pay for your ticket, this will give you the necessary perspective and mindset to enjoy this film. Optimism is the key. Too much work, you say? My advice, then, is to stay at home and wait for Transformers or Harry Potter.
Green Lantern, based upon the comic book series by DC Comics, is the story of Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) and his initiation into the intergalactic police force, The Green Lanterns, whose ability is marked by fearlessness and willpower. Despite being a gifted and able test pilot, one of the best in the country, Hal frequently abandons his commitments and folds under pressure. He is chosen by the green ring of a wounded Lantern, who in trying to escape a ferocious enemy (Parallax), crash lands onto Earth and eventually dies. Hal seems a strange choice for a super hero (just as many critics have pointed out that Reynolds was a poor choice for the role)---he's a slacker, he's sarcastic, and he plays by his own rules, but his inner fearlessness and perhaps thirst to prove himself make him a striking would-be Lantern. Many times after doubting himself, Hal is assured by other Lanterns, "the ring is never wrong."  As Hal struggles to accept his new responsibilities, Parallax, who is fueled by the fear of others, looms closer and closer to Earth. Through the "infection" of a biologist (Peter Sarsgaard), and feeding upon the fear of everything he encounters, Parallax plans to destroy Hal, and presumably the Universe after that, although it wasn't all that clear. 
This is not to say that Parallax wasn't without merit; the visual effects were very good, and in his case, extremely frightening---an all-consuming, tentacled monster. Visually, the film was amazing; whether it was Sarsgaard's metamorphosis to evil, the Lanterns' willpower made physical, all the flying, or Ryan Reynolds' body, there was plenty for the eyes. And if you're someone who likes homages to other films, the entire dogfight with the jets in the beginning will feel like a cocky, amped-up Top Gun sequence ("Did you just abandon your wingman as a decoy?") Nice. 


The weakest element of this film is unfortunately the writing, which is a difficult thing to recover from---honestly, I had to check Wikipedia several times in order to answer my own questions about why something happened or character names. This is obviously more of an issue for viewers who haven't read the comics, but it's legitimate. Given the fact that the entity, Parallax, is making his way to Earth (off screen) for much of the time, and the goings-on between Hal and the biologist, Hector, were pretty significant most of the time, the transitions between Hal's business back to Parallax seemed a bit abrupt. You get so focused on Reynolds' and Sarsgaard's scenes that Parallax almost fades away entirely, and when he pops back in, it's jarring because so many other things are going on.
There are other aspects, mostly thematic ones that made the film worth seeing, the Daddy issues of both Hal and the biologist, the Inception-esque way the Lanterns created their items out of thin air, and probably most of all, the upward trajectory of a man who by all definitions was a slacker, a fuck-up. Couldn't we all lose our fearlessness and rise to the occasion like Hal? Would that it were true.

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