Movie Review: Green Lantern

PDFPrintE-mail Written by Paul Mount Friday, 17 June 2011

Movie Reviews


Green Lantern really shouldn’t work. It just shouldn’t. It’s based on a pretty obscure comic book character (albeit one who’s been around for decades) whose name is hardly pop culture currency in the way that Batman, Superman and Spider-Man undoubtedly are. It’s also immersed in some pretty way-out science-fiction concepts and features a superhero who can do just about anything courtesy of his own imagination and a powerful emerald green ring. There’s no High School angst or adult self-loathing here and no colourful, identifiable super-villain the hero can have a prolonged bout of fisticuffs with at the movie’s climax. But what it manages to do though, incredibly, and in my humble opinion, contrary to many of the sneery negative reviews you may already have come across, is balance its weirdness (and the planet Oa, home of the Green Lantern Corps and its immortal Guardians is pretty damned weird by any cinematic standard) and its silliness (some of the weapons Green Lantern conjurs up) with a real sense of humanity. Fortunately in Ryan Reynolds the film has a hugely likable leading man who handles the human stuff as deftly as he handles his superheroics and there’s a pleasingly understated chemistry between him and his love interest Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) and even a few decent one-liners.

Green Lantern troubles and yet dazzles in its opening moments with the dreaded voiceover telling the audience the history of the Green Lantern Corps and the thousands of Green Lanterns spread out across space protecting identified ‘sectors’ of the cosmos. Things take a turn for the seriously sci-fi as aliens who have crash-landed on a distant planet are consumed by a ferocious evil force known as Parallax, a fiery, tentacled embodiment of Fear itself. Parallax attacks an alien Green Lantern who flees to the nearest civilised planet. Wonder which one that’d be?

Normal service is resumed when we meet cocky fearless test pilot Hal Jordan (Reynolds), a bit of a ladies’ man and something of a show-off. After a disastrous test flight leads to the destruction of a multi-million dollar aircraft, Hal suddenly finds himself whisked away in a twisting ball of green light and transported to the alien Green Lantern’s crash site. The alien dies in Hal’s arms but not before he tells him of his destiny, that he’s been chosen to be a new Green Lantern and that wearing the emerald ring gives him unfathomable powers and, in best superhero tradition, unfathomable responsibility.

Green Lantern seems to effortlessly combine the audience’s normal expectations of the genre - the romance, the gags (one scene hilariously exposes and destroys forever the nonsense of the secret identity protected by a small mask across the eyes!), the big spectacular action and FX - with some way-out stuff. The extended sequence where the ring hurls Hal across space and to the planet Oa with its gathering of Green Lanterns - all of them resolutely non-humanoid - takes the audience way out of its comfort zone and deposits them into something completely unrelatable and yet imaginative and colourful and thrilling just because it’s so different. But the film doesn’t overplay its weird card and soon Hal is back on Earth as the new Green Lantern, saving Carol and the local Senator (Tim Robbins) when scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgard) - who has become infected with secondary alien DNA from the recovered corpse of the dead Green Lantern (come on, keep up!) - starts to throw his own newfound powers about.

The film isn’t brave enough to abandon the ‘superhero origin’ template altogether though. When Earth is attacked by Parallax - the tentacled creature writhes about the city vaporising terrified members of the public - Green Lantern has no choice but to face the creature alone despite previously renouncing his destiny. But first he has to defeat Hammond who is becoming more and more deformed and more and more powerful. The final battle sees Hal luring Parallax out into deep space again and, the creature vanquished, Green Lantern returns to Earth, gets the girl (of course) and flies across the screen in the most energising final sequence of a superhero movie since ‘Superman’ back in 1978.

Green Lantern is, for this reviewer, the real surprise of the summer season so far. It’s daringly different, much more high concept even than the ‘Gods-amongst-us’ shtick of Thor from a few months ago (and, to be honest, far more entertaining) and yet, despite moments which look as if they’re going to become insufferably pompous and portentous, it never overplays its self-importance and is always quick to remind us that this is a big fun action pic for the summer crowd. Slick, clever, spectacular (there are only a handful of scenes where the CGI isn’t quite up to the mark), funny and visually arresting, Green Lantern is the best new superhero film since Iron Man. Let’s hope the inevitable sequel (teased in a post-credits sequence so don’t rush out) doesn’t crash and burn like Iron Man 2 because if ever a new superhero franchise deserved to run and run it’s this one.

Expected rating: 6 out of 10

Actual rating:

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