Here’s the counterpoint to Captain America: Ryan Reynolds looks the part, Martin Campbell is an excellent action director (when he’s in the mood), and even DC co-publisher Geoff Johns – the ongoing book’s writer – is on board. But it’s a complete waste of time – all for nothing. The film is a garbled mess, it has no unique selling points, and noone clearly thought whether the highly successful comic property would work at all well as a film franchise. The moment where Hal’s mask is first seen in public drew hysterical, catty laughter in the cinema, for the few moments that people weren’t asleep from boredom or thoroughly insulted by the shoddy script and lazy acting. Martin Campbell has shown he knows how to direct blockbusters (‘Casino Royale’/'Goldeneye’), but either his eye was off the ball here or there was a far more serious series of failures. It’s not unwatchable but it is tedious, the script is terrible and far too much of what you need to know comes from endless exposition.
You know something is wrong when Blake Lively is the best actor in the film. Reynolds simply isn’t up to the task of playing a hero, but he isn’t helped by being woefully badly written. Test pilot Hal Jordan crashes his boss’ super fighter jet – he’s reckless. We know he’s reckless because we have it drummed into us every few minutes. We’re also constantly told he’s unreliable – again it’s drummed into us. Then Hal gets the ring (he doesn’t even show the slightest awe when seeing alien Abin Sur), instead just goes on admitting he’s reckless and unreliable and unworthy – we’re even given a brief flashback to prove his confidence issues come from seeing his father die. So how is this supposed to be interesting? In short it isn’t.
Hal gets a spine when he defeats Parallax (seriously – how are kids with today’s sophisticated tastes going to be remotely interested in an amorphous ‘entity of evil’?), but until that point there’s no moral centre to the film. Bruce Wayne has his revenge, Clark has his upbringing, as does Peter; Tony was just plain cool, but Hal? Hal’s not interesting, and Reynolds offers nothing to make him interesting. It’s a film which does everything it can do badly badly, but even then clearly by committee. I can’t recommend anything about it really. I went off to sleep for about 15 minutes of it. Why didn’t they bother spending more than a cursory few minutes with Sinestro (Mark Strong)?
Hint to DC: if you want us to like your heroes on film, you have to give us nobility (nope, not from Hal), tortured past (nope, not for Hal), wry humour (Thor gets it, Hal doesn’t), or a likeable everyman quality. The Corps wasn’t needed this time around – randomly including huge numbers of characters who aren’t given remotely decent screen time (Kilowog is the moral core of the Corps for example) comes across as a cynical licensing opportunity. Only the post-credits sequence with Sinestro gives any hope for the inevitable sequel, but I can’t really say I care about the prospect.
DC Comics’ films have been over reliant on Batman and Superman for far too long. I can’t wait for this next month – I think this trailer makes it clear it should be absolutely stunning (not to mention extremely close to the source material).
A noir thriller will never operate at the same pace as a standard actioner, but there’s still no excuse for the often meandering pace of director Martin Campbell’s remake of his own 1980′s BBC TV serial. I still haven’t seen the original, but despite some good performances (particularly by Gibson) this version doesn’t work anywhere near as well as the highly acclaimed original is reported to, and oddly it’s largely because of Campbell himself. Gibson returns to the big screen as policeman Tommy Craven, whose daughter (Bojana Novakovic) is shot down in front of him. The police and media believe he was the target, but Craven doesn’t, and is swiftly drawn into a conspiracy within the American defence industry. Will he meet his daughter’s fate or will hitman-cum-mysterious-ally Ray Winstone help him to reveal Craven’s boss’ (Danny Huston) activities to the world?
Campbell tries almost too hard to rise above a script (by William Monahan and Andrew Bovell) which is mystifyingly pedestrian, given the source material. Gibson does his best, but his role is under-written, and he often has to labour through overly talky sequences which have no dramatic energy whatsoever, other than through his still potent charisma. Even more mystifyingly are the direction and editing, which on more than one occasion are little more than amateurish. It feels like there are different elements constantly pushing against each other, and it makes a worthy production often uncomfortable and reduces its impact. Gibson though has no problem emoting as the policeman haunted by his dead daughter, already looking in real life far older than his years. But although you feel anything can happen around him (the manic Lethal Weapon energy is far from gone), there’s no dramatic tension to the story he’s acting in. It’s a missed opportunity by a director with such energy-bursting triumphs as ‘Goldeneye’ and ‘Casino Royale’.
The conspiracy is never adequately fleshed out, although its real-world murkiness is a nice touch. The links between Blackwater, the Bush Administration, the CIA and other organisations have long been known but have been very difficult (if not impossible) to prove, and ‘Edge of Darkness’ is fully aware of that, in ways ‘State of Play’ was not. If its noir elements had been put together a bit more competently (and the sickly ending avoided completely), and a little more political conviction been shown, this might have been a truly exciting return for the much missed Mel Gibson the actor. As it is it’s a mildly enjoyable diversion, which promises more than it delivers.