Thursday, June 23, 2011

Culture Shock 06.23.11: 'Green Lantern' is 3 good movies but 1 lousy one

Give "Green Lantern" some credit. Most superhero franchises wait until the third installment to become so bogged down in too many characters and too many plot threads to bother telling a compelling story.

"Green Lantern" accomplished that feat its first time out.

There's enough going on in "Green Lantern" for three movies, but instead it's all crammed into just under two half-baked hours. Nothing gets the attention it needs. It's the same filmmaking by committee that gave us "Spider-Man 3" and "X-Men: The Last Stand."

While Martin Campbell is a more-than-capable action director, having resurrected the James Bond franchise twice ("GoldenEye" and "Casino Royale"), he can't breathe life into this bloated corpse.

To be fair, Hal Jordan, the test pilot who becomes the title hero, isn't the easiest character to work with. He's given a "power ring," which allows him to turn his willpower into anything he can imagine, and joins the Green Lantern Corps — an intergalactic police force of sorts — because he's already the perfect person for the job. Unlike Batman, Spider-Man and Iron Man, he has no real character arc, not even his origin story.

In the comic books, Hal is a total square.

To compensate, the movie saddles him with a character arc straight out of Screenwriting 101 — Hal has token daddy issues. And the writers apparently liked that idea so much they gave his love interest and one of the villains token daddy issues, too. It's token daddy issues for all!

We should just be glad the other villain, a CGI-smoke monster that feeds on fear, doesn't also have daddy issues. A smoke monster with family hangups would have been too much like "Lost."

That leaves the normally likable Ryan Reynolds, miscast as Hal Jordan, to spend a lot of time whining and fretting and being generally annoying as he tries to overcome his secret fear — the result of his dead-father problem — and harness the power of his ring in time to save the Earth from the fear-eating smoke monster, Parallax.

When he's not doing that, he's off at Green Lantern training camp on the planet Oa, ruled by the Guardians of the Universe, who are the most incompetent old wise men since the Jedi Council. Right after telling a story about how you should never, ever fool around with the "yellow energy of fear," they agree to forge a yellow power ring to "fight fear with fear." As it turns out, this bit of stupidity serves, ultimately, just to set up a sequel that may never happen.

Back home, Hal has a family. We know this because we meet them once before they disappear from the film entirely. It's as if the screenwriters forgot about them while they got busy half-telling all of the movie's other not-all-there stories.

There's the token love story, the token romantic rivalry, the token training sequence and the all-too-easy resolution to the gravest threat the universe has ever faced. We get two villains and, in the middle of the end credits, foreshadowing for a third.

You could probably get two or three good movies out of everything in "Green Lantern."

What you can't get is one halfway decent one.

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