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Visually Glorious But Poorly Written
on April 22, 2013
This is a deeply flawed film. But still, I think, an underrated one. A film probably not _quite_ fully deserving of its profoundly unimpressive box office numbers and many critical pannings.
The best thing about this movie are its visuals. Here, it's utterly electrifying and completely true to the original comic book vision. On this level it also benefits enormously from taking itself entirely seriously, a strength that unfortunately does not flow through into too many other aspects of the work.
The problems, you see, are in the writing.
It has been said that at the heart of all stories there is only one story: the hero's journey to find him or her self. That's what we get here. The trouble is, this hero's inner quest is utterly banal. The lessons learned are about as deep and interesting as those to be found in the latest disposable self-help paperback chock full of dime-store psychobabble. Or even, dare I say it, penny arcade psychobabble.
Incidentally, while we're on the subject of character, to be completely fair, even though the leading man and lady seem to have been chosen mainly on the basis of their looks, both do at least a credible job of standing up and reading their lines. Of course, we're still left with the problem that those lines suck, but yes, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively both put in a solid if unremarkable showing. The only really noteworthy performance is by Mark Strong as Sinestro. What's truly impressive here is that we do get to see the well-intentioned man that Sinestro starts out as, while just subtly hinting at the tragic flaws that will ultimately lead to his damnation.
Strong's work aside, the best performances in this film are by those who are merely lending their voices to various CGI creations. This includes Geoffry Rush who provides the voice of Tomar-Re, and Michael Duncan in the role of Kilowog. The only other actor I'd like to pick out by name is Clancy Brown, who provides the voice of Paralax. While best known for his role as the Kurgan in the original Highlander, he's also had a very successful voice acting career. In Bruce Timm's original DC Animiated Universe, Brown owned Lex Luthor like Kevin Conroy owned Batman, although sadly, he never seemed to receive the same level of recognition for doing so. While hardly used to his fullest potential in this film, he is at least worthy of an honorable mention.
Fundamentally, I would have to say that the problem with this work is that the director and screenwriters didn't take what they were doing even the tiniest bit seriously. I'd hazard a guess to say that these are not people who watch - or read - anything in the superhero genre in their off-hours. So on the most fundamental level, what I really think was lacking here was any respect at all for the source material.
When someone like Frank Miller comes along and thinks seriously about who his characters are and why they do the things they do, it shows. Similarly so on the acting front when people like Christian Bale and Kevin Conroy portray the Bat. But when someone comes along and says "Hey, let's do a summer blockbuster - we'll make tons of money!", that also shows. Because frankly, that's the kind of thinking that shines through in this mediocrity.
It doesn't completely suck. I suspect that somewhere, far behind the scenes, deep in the CGI department, there were some geek true believers who sincerely loved the Green Lantern mythos.
Unfortunately, their work is very close to being the only thing in this movie that's worth watching.