Green Lantern

Green Lantern

*1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Successfully bringing a superhero comic to the screen is never easy, and some present more challenges than others. In the case of the Green Lantern, there's a particularly silly plot to accommodate (ancient league of alien space police, magic rings that make the imaginary real, etc.) complicated by decades of accumulated backstory which is (summed up as fast as possible in a wordy introduction). There's the difficulty of translating alien worlds that looked amazingly futuristic in the Forties into a present where they look, well, passé; and there's the difficulty of turning what is essentially a children's story into something that will please those fans who have since grown up without radically transforming what they once loved.

It's also challenging to review a film like this in the knowledge that one is stomping all over others' childhood dreams, but really, Green Lantern is a bad film. Even allowing for those inescapable difficulties, it struggles. Where it will satisfy is in its preservation of the original look of the comic book and in some of its effects work, though even that could do with polishing. The 3D does its job without being intrusive or gimmicky and it will doubtless satisfy some as a lightweight action adventure.

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For Reynolds, this is at least a step up from his last superhero movie, but that was X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He's a pretty unlikeable Hal Jordan, presented as a loveable rogue but so steeped in cliché that a considerably more charismatic actor would have been required to pull it off. It's also unfortunate, given the problematic socio-political undercurrents in the story, that the studio chose to build the story around one of the white Green Lanterns. This gives us a story arc about a man who has every advantage in life getting, um, more powers. "I actually feel sorry for you," says flimsy love interest Carol (Blake Lively), "because you've been given so much, but..." The scriptwriters let it trail off meaningfully; they can't think of a reason to feel sorry for him either, though they repeatedly ask the viewer to. Perhaps he's supposed to be endearingly rubbish. This doesn't work when he's also a dick, taunting a villain with "You can do anything I can do," as if the man just hasn't tried hard enough before. At least he comes clean later. "I lied. You have to be chosen." Well, quite. If the X-Men series were superhero films for disadvantaged youth, this is a superhero film for the Bullingdon Club.

As if the point weren't made clearly enough, we have another Green Lantern espousing the Nietzschean notion that fear is always weakness and the weak are doomed to die, plus we have a villain whose evil is illustrated through the handy shorthand of making him increasingly disfigured and disabled, as if to justify his social exclusion throughout. He's not the main villain, though - that job is left to a sprawling mass of smoke and skulls that makes The Mutant Chronicles look state of the art. I'd be loathe to dismiss a film on account of its character if it delivered in other areas, but this is superhero narrative by numbers; it's dismal. Where the Green Lantern idea might at least have offered the opportunity for some inventive battles and thrilling action sequences, instead we get a couple of glorified fist fights. One ends up wishing that Hal would ditch his new job and get back in a fighter jet where he'd be a lot more interesting to watch. The attempt to draw in a fighter jet motif at the end just doesn't work.

On top of this, if we're to root for a superhero, we need to have a clear idea of his limitations (barely discussed here) and of the rules of the universe within which he operates. When physics is treated as haphazardly as this it's difficult to be convinced by the effects, let alone the florid explanations we're given for them. Gravity, in particular, seems to be a confusing concept for the scriptwriters. Perhaps this is appropriate in a film that has none of its own.

I tell a lie. There is one actor who brings both gravity and conviction to her brief scenes: the ever-dependable Angela Basset. The tragedy is that she's more than wasted here; she also serves to counterpoint the lack of any strength of character in a hero whose power is supposed to be rooted in his will. The Green Lantern may still seem exciting to kids of a certain age, but if you're a grown up who once loved it you're probably better off staying away and not sullying those rose-tinted memories.

Reviewed on: 15 Jun 2011
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Green Lantern packshot
A fighter pilot is called upon by a league of intergalactic defenders to help them fight evil through the use of a powerful ring.
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Read more Green Lantern reviews:

Stephen Carty **1/2

Director: Martin Campbell

Writer: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong

Year: 2011

Runtime: 113 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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