Friday, 17 June 2011

Green Lantern (Martin Campbell, 2011) Review

Peter Sarsgaard plays infected scientist Hector in Martin Campbell's Green Lantern (2011)

Green Lantern is such a scatty, disjointed and messy film that reviewing it is an almost impossible process; how do you make sense of the senseless, or derive logic from the illogical? In every stage - from scripting to special effects - the film is a failure, and it has only one positive. So let's get that out of the way first. Peter Sarsgaard, playing infected scientist Hector Hammond, is absolutely terrific, and magnetically watchable. He's one of my favorite actors, and a performer of such depth and range that he can turn trash into art for the seconds he's onscreen, and he does exactly that with an underdeveloped but interesting role in Campbell's film. It's a slimy, power-hungry performance which made me deeply uncomfortable, but the actor is clearly relishing the role, and therefore watching him also becomes fun. Every flicker of the eyes, extension of the neck, slurring of the speech... and those screams. They'll stick in your mind for a long time. It's a glorious performance, and despite how awful the film is - and by god is it awful - Sarsgaard fans owe it to themselves to endure the pain. Because for his mere appearance there are equal moments of pleasure, and I can't sing his praises highly enough. His performance elicits sympathy and sadness, which is an extraordinary feat given the script he's working from. Now we have that out of the way it's time to assess the actual film...

And let's start with that script. It manages to pack in every superhero cliché (denial of power, fear of responsibility, training montage, doubt from peers and the chance to prove his strength, and therefore win the girl) but with such crushingly lazy dialogue that the experience of watching often becomes deeply uncomfortable; actually, it's often embarrassing. This script should have got the red light on its first pass, but it feels like the studio just wanted to rush into production with whatever haphazard material they had so far. The jokes fall cringe-inducingly flat and Hal (Ryan Reynolds) is such a 2D machismo vehicle (complete with daddy issues and repressed love for his co-pilot) that it's impossible to care about him at any moment. Speaking of that co-pilot, the lovely Blake Lively turns in one of the most obvious paycheck-grabbing performances in a long time here. She looks not so much bored as entirely vacant for most of the running time, delivering her lines with zero conviction. She struggles to stand out from the furniture. The design of the film is also glossy and incomplete, and the alien council look more like characters from scrapped Ben 10 concept art, and the giant energy-sucking cloud monster actually elicited laughter in my screening, and its bobbing little alien head certainly secured a smirk from me too. Green Lantern's universe is so rich and diverse, but it doesn't lend itself well to cheap CGI effects; it belongs in a comic book, and to give the filmmakers credit, an adaptation is something of an impossible task. But they could have at least tried, y'know? Despite the money chucked at this project it still looks cheap and badly rendered, as well as overly-bright. Not that I'd really know, because the pointless 3D darkens the image, and it looks bloody awful. There are a few action scenes where the 3D is noticeable, but it'll be the least of your problems because their choreography is so incoherent.

So, we have an ugly, inane and badly conceived film which only made me laugh in the moments it was trying to be serious. It feels well over two hours long but actually clocks in at a neat 100 minutes, so that speaks for one thing: piss poor production. The length of a film doesn't really matter so long as it's interesting or exciting, but Green Lantern is so cobbled together, so overfamiliar and childish that it fails to engage on any level. If you're not engaged, it's bound to feel protracted. After a while my eyes began to hurt and a headache reared its head; probably from the deafening sound design, which amplifies everything to the Nth degree. I just can't believe how dazzlingly bad this film is, on every level, except for Sarsgaard's performance of course. It's not quite the worst film of the summer, because Sucker Punch (Snyder, 2011) is pretty reprehensible, but it's certainly not far behind. Everyone involved should be pretty ashamed of themselves for putting this slick, narratively stodgy and just plain dumb film in cinemas. It looks like the unfiltered fantasy of an 8-year-old hyped up on too many sweets, and has the same narrative coherency as an afternoon with his Action Man playset would have; and yes, is just as infuriating as that sounds. Avoid. At all costs. Oh, and just for the hell of it...

In brightest day, In blackest night,
Zero effort makes Green Lantern shite.

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