The superheroes that stay relatively grounded in reality are the most fun to follow because of the contrast between their human traits and their inhuman abilities and powers, it’s also easier to film movies about them. Sure Wolverine can heal himself and is made of adamantium, other than that though he’s just your average brute who looks at home in a local pub ready for a fight at any drop of a bottle.
This summer Thor introduced audiences to the first hero who is more than just a super being, but a god who has power way beyond that of a character like Spider-Man. It’s hard to find an emotional anchor to someone who can summon a lightning storm with the snap of a finger and lives in a magical kingdom, but overall, Thor managed to succeed in spite of this setback by using Earth as the prominent set-piece.
Now it’s time for DC to combat Marvel with one of its most sci-fi heroes to date, Green Lantern. However, using CGI heavily as a way to interpret the universe and the surreal imagery that exists in it turns the film into an artificial entry that is one of the most mediocre attempts at debuting a new superhero on the big screen.
The Geoffrey Rush narrative introducing the film and its premise before the credits is an early indication of how the film is going to turn out overall, a rushed mumble jumble of alien terms and races that seems way too overcomplicated to get attached to. Fans of the Green Lantern state that the comic book series is similar in tone to the epic saga of the Star Wars universe, but even with a scrolling summary of words explaining what’s going on wouldn’t make the plot that much more comprehensible.
The hero, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is also introduced poorly, with the story trying to establish him as an irresponsible slacker who only gets serious when he’s doing his job as a maverick jet pilot. The first quarter of the movie is like a Top Gun ripoff with Jordan being lectured by his female commanding officer (Blake Lively) on his unorthodox methods of danger and strategy, along with his plagued fear of ending up like his father who crashed in a test run when he was only a child.
After an unnecessary forced flashback sequence, the film tries to make Hal a sympathetic hero who has qualities of both good and bad but his origin story is just not convincing enough, especially with Reynold’s constant sarcastic one liners popping up every other minute.
The plot involves a dangerous entity known as Parallax, it’s engulfing planets and the beings who inhabit them. Its existence comes to the attention of the Green Lantern Corps and its leaders, who act as a sort of intergalactic police squad for the universe. After a brief but effective fight with Parallax, a Green Lantern member is wounded and searches Earth for a suitable candidate to replace him. The requirements? Strong will and the ability to overcome fear. If any of this sounds silly wait until you watch the movie, it’s even harder to take seriously.
Hal is obviously selected and heads to the Green Lantern planet capital Oa where he learns of his overbearing duty to become the hero of Earth. After another unnecessary forced sequence, a montage where Jordan is trained by two aliens that resemble a gold fish (Geoffrey Rush) and a giant boar (suitably voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan), the film really begins to drag.
There is no real joy of his new found power that makes these scenes memorable, Reynolds flashes a smile occasionally but its all an excuse to shell out on expensive effects. Spider-Man did an incredible job at showing how excited a teenager would be with the ability to climb walls and jump large distances. Jordan is used to flying in a cockpit so his power to take flight at any time seems like an added bonus instead of an incredible superpower.
Oa and the Green Lantern Corps who live there are all completely rendered using green screen, cutting off any real chance of involvement to what’s going on. Sure, the visuals are nice but they have no texture or substance to them, the same goes for the various constructs that the rings create to battle evil. Some are inventive to look at but once the gold fish announces that whatever you imagine you can create, more creativity is expected. The film never delves deep enough to explain why Jordan chooses his certain constructs, most are military creations like mini-guns and jets but discovering more about his power and its connection to his character would have served the plot better.
The same complaint applies to secondary villains like Dr. Hector Hammond, (Peter Sarsgaard) who not only has serious father issues but deserves his social outcast status that he walks proudly around with. He is creepy even before he gains telepathic powers and has a forehead the size of Texas, it’s too bad he wasn’t given more back story because Sarsgaard gives an interesting performance (his constant shrieking screams become painfully annoying however).
The film’s most intriguing character ends up being Sinestro (Mark Strong) the Green Lantern Corps fearless leader, who is oozing with a hard-edged personality and a tough backbone. Strong’s makeup job is outstanding and enhances the actor’s ability to channel an alien being with boundless power just from one cold gaze.
He delivers his lines with a fierce conviction, and fans of the Green Lantern series will be proud of how Strong portrayed Sinestro as a conflicted soul with traits of villainy. If a sequel were to happen in the future, hopefully Strong will sign on again. The plot could involve him creating his own team of Lantern Corps just like in the comic series. Sinestro deserves to be a recurring presence because of what he represents: good intentions masked by evil.
Girl power is almost non-existent in Green Lantern. Blake Lively looks stunning as always and tries her best to be a commanding woman that brings Hal back down to Earth after he has moments of low self-confidence. Unfortunately, her sexy secretary wardrobe drops her down a level to merely fit in as another hero’s good-looking arm candy. Angela Basset also appears in a cameo performance that is only included to serve up heavy bits of explanation from someone who looks to have years of knowledgeable experience talking about high-tech government projects of the utmost secrecy.
As for Reynolds, he adds his dry humor with a courageous demeanor and tries to make Hal Jordan a fearless warrior who ultimately grows into becoming Earth’s defiant protector. He fits the bill and delivers the goods as a hero, but the character is too hard to care about when all you see onscreen for the majority of the film is a CGI being do circles in mid-air and punch people with massive fists. It’s deceiving to believe any sort of development happens when someone so simple minded as Hal is given a power of vast proportions, it’s not in the same realm as fellow DC heroes like Batman or Superman whose emotional crises are an extension of themselves.
Green Lantern is a bland experience that doesn’t attempt to reach the heights that recent comic book adaptations have achieved lately, such as the stylish fashion of X-Men: First Class or the brooding intensity of The Dark Knight. It’s a serviceable action picture and a decent introduction to the character of Hal Jordan and his fellow Green Lantern Corps universe.
It has lots of special effects, some that work and some that miss the mark, and that alone is a reason to not view the movie in 3D. For every image that looks awesome, another will pop up that obscures the action in a muddy haze because of the massive reliance on special effects. Don’t spend the extra bucks on 3D, it’s another failed chance to enhance a movie beyond what it is.
Looking back on the film, a sequel could be what this series needs to really start gaining momentum and evolve into the sweeping space story it has potential to be. Director Martin Campbell knows how to make well-staged excitement and it’s not entirely his fault that the film fails. Green Lantern is dragged down by a number of elements and I wouldn’t place all of the blame on Campbell.
Ultimately, it’s not a completely terrible movie and there is some good here. That being said, compared to some of the other superhero films we’ve been seeing lately, it just feels very mediocre. And with the lack of character development and overly confusing plot, it feels like a rather bland experience that is probably not worth the price of admission.