Eye For Film >> Movies >> Green Lantern (2011) Film Review
Reviewed by: Stephen Carty
All things considered, Green Lantern was always going to be a tough sell. After all, flying men and billionaire vigilantes are one thing, but a galaxy-travelling space cop with a ring that can create anything, is quite another. Then there’s the fact that DC’s emerald hero has always resided firmly, like most of his fellow Justice League members, in the towering shadows of the twin icons of Batman and Superman. So yeah, even Del Boy would’ve had a hard time shifting this one.
But still, here we are. Despite being responsible for pinnacle genre efforts like Dick Donner’s original Superman or Chris Nolan’s bat-movies (nobody mention Catwoman), Detective Comic’s output has long lagged behind Marvel’s aggressive franchise-building - and so it’s about time for their lesser-knowns. At the end of the day, introducing the likes of Blade, Iron Man and Thor, has literally paid off for the latter studio. Plus, Martin Campbell has notable experience proving doubters wrong, having silenced the pre-release Bond boo boys with his triumphant Casino Royale.
Unfortunately though, Campbell isn’t able to pull off the same trick twice with this film, which sees reckless test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) given a mysterious ring by a dying alien that enables him to turn thought into reality. Chosen due to his fearless nature, Jordan is selected to join an intergalactic peacekeeping force known as the Green Lantern Corps, who watch over the universe with rings which are powered by the green essence of willpower. While getting to grips with the responsibility, an alien parasite that feeds on fear seeks revenge on the Corps, before turning its attention to Earth.
While certainly not as offensively poor as some reviewers are making out, DC’s newest superhero outing is an unsatisfying mixed bag which, in some ways, feels like a backwards step for the graphic novel brigade. Instead of using the grand story canvas to create something memorable or epic, the potential is largely squandered with a muddled blend of genre clichés as the filmmakers trying to cram too much in. With a script written by four different writers(!), Green Lantern never decides what it wants to be.
While the early, Earth-set scenes feel like a light and breezy Marvel-esque origin story (with Peter Sarsgaard’s reclusive academic becoming evil in a very Green Goblin-ish way), we often lurch into a giant, sometimes creepy galaxy-spanning saga. This sort of diversity can work (Spider-Man was both light and dark, Superman was peppered with comic lines), but here there’s an uneasy balance between the smaller-scale human journey and the overarching space-policing plot.
On one hand Hal’s romance with the stunning Blake Lively feels lifeless, on the other his slacker-to-hero journey gets a ten-minute training session with Michael Clarke Duncan’s Hulk-like Kilowog, then he’s ready to defend the universe. No crime-fighting stretch, no period of getting to grips with the ring’s abilities, just a quick helicopter catch then off to battle a massive, planet-annihilating cloud.
And, as predicted, it’s also unashamedly fantastical stuff that requires far more suspension of disbelief than usual. Characters soaring through the cosmos, giant marauding clouds of evil and enough bizarre aliens to put Star Wars’ Mos Eisley Cantina to shame, The Green Lantern undoubtedly exists at the opposite end of the spectrum to the likes of Nolan’s gritty Batman Begins or Brian Singer’s grounded Superman Returns. Of course, this isn’t to suggest that all comic-movies need avoid the fantasy route, more a warning for those who prefer their super material fashioned in a world only slightly removed from reality. The Dark Knight, this certainly ain’t.
But yet, while the cosmic scale isn’t solely to blame for any shortcomings, the overall premise of an all-powerful ring brings with it some insurmountable baggage and inevitable logic niggles. If, for example, it can create anything you can imagine, when Abin-Sur (Temuera Morrison, aka Clone Boba Fett) is badly wounded, why doesn’t he generate some form of medical kit? When the corps are facing Parallax, why don’t they conjure up the original prison it was held in? Or, saving that, some anti-parallax bat-spray with a giant Adam West to boot?
The apologists and fanboys will probably offer explanations (the yellow power of fear or some such blah), but it’s never suitably explained in film terms. See the storytelling problems associated with a device that can create anything?
Sadly, the logic lapses don’t stop here. Hal is told by Geoffrey Rush’s fish-humanoid Tomar-Re (essentially our Basil Exposition) that the ring gives him access to galactic-type info, then seconds later he needs more universe tutorial. From what we can tell, it seems that when Hal’s ring creates green projections they’re only temporary but later they appear to become permanent. And, although the ease with which the human characters accept all the spacey-wacey occurrences chips away at our already-strained suspension of disbelief (“Oh, so you’re an intergalactic copper with a green willpower ring powered by a lamp, okay then”), the post-credits sequence of a significant player doing an out-of-nowhere 180 will have logical viewers arching their eyebrows in the style of Roger Moore.
Again, to clarify, it’s not dreadful, just disappointing. By the end you feel sorry for Reynolds who, quite frankly, deserves a decent comic movie after duds like Blade Trinity and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Still, it’s another winning performance from Reynolds, his limitless wellspring of charisma and gift for sarcasm resulting in all the movie’s best lines (“Watch your back Hal”… “That’s impossible Bob”).
Arguably, he’s too ‘big’ now for his stardom to disappear in such a role (you see ‘Ryan Reynolds playing Hal Jordan’ as opposed to just ‘Hal Jordan’), but he certainly looks the part, once again crafting a superheroic physique that looks ripped straight from the pages. As for the tongue-in-cheek jab at Batman’s growly voice and the naffness of heroes not being recognised by those close to them – just genius.
Likewise, Mark Strong elevates every scene he’s in, while Sarsgaard (who sounds more like John Malkovich than ever) does his best with a script that isn’t sure how to use him. Visually speaking, despite simply having too many CG creations to do justice to all them, you can’t help but be impressed by some of the green (screen) constructs and purple-sky vistas of Oa. And although Green Lantern’s coming-out rescue falls flat, the alley brawl packs a real punch while offering a neat way to introduce Hal to the ring’s capabilities. Despite the fact our hero punches a man through a brick wall.
So overall, entertaining if you can switch your brain off and don’t mind how out-there it is, but for those of us hoping for something different, The Green Lantern is a disappointingly familiar effort that tries to do too much. Surely, The Flash would’ve been a better idea first…Reviewed on: 16 Aug 2011
If you like this, try:Iron Man