Review: Green Lantern (12) / Directed by: Martin Campbell / Screenplay by: Greg Bertanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldberg / Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarasgaard, Mark Strong, Tim Robbins
Despite having made 214 million at the worldwide box office this summer, Green Lantern is still seen as something of a flop due to the amount they spent on it. Sometimes the films that flop deserve re-appraisal when they appear on DVD and sometimes you are amazed they never found an audience. Honestly I can see why Green Lantern didn’t connect; it has a strange misjudged tone that is neither here nor there. It’s too scary for kids and the concept is too goofy for adults. Having said that this is still superior to Pirates 4 and much of the inferior product that made money this summer.
At the beginning of our story we meet Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) working for the Ferris aircraft company testing top of the range aircraft for sale to the military. Hal is reckless and often risks valuable aircraft costing millions to just prove a point. Hal is on thin ice in his job with his boss and former lover Carol (Blake Liveley). Meanwhile in space, the Green Lantern Corp are the peacekeepers of the universe using powerful rings that harness the power of the will, enabling the user to project whatever he wills into existence. One of their best warriors Abin Sur is up against the deadly entity known as Parallax, a being that harnesses the power of fear. During the battle, Abin Sur is mortally wounded and crashes to earth. On earth the Green Lantern on board seeks out the most fearless individual around to become a replacement on the Green Lantern Corps. The ring transports Hal to the crashed alien craft and he is given the ring. Eventually when he works out the Green Lantern oath, Hal is transported to OA the home planet of the corps. Once there Hal is filled in on the history of the Corps by Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush) and trained in battle by a lumbering beast known as Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan) and the cynical leader of the Corps Sinestro (Mark Strong). Hal realises he is not worthy of the responsibility and returns to earth. Back on his home planet the military finds the body of the crashed alien and a particle of Parallax infects the scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Saarsgaard) who gains supernatural powers. This in turn brings Parallax to Earth and Hal must embrace his new powers and inner courage to save the world.
Sometimes just because you can do something with modern special effects doesn’t mean you should. There is so much to do with the Green Lantern’s powers that clearly works wonders on the comic page that doesn’t quite translate to the screen. For instance in one sequence, Hal saves a crashing helicopter from certain doom by conjuring up a Hot Wheels style race track for it to careen around. Instead of going ‘wow that’s cool’ the first instinct is to laugh. Suddenly it becomes clear why the film was once conceived as a Jack Black starring comedy. During some of the later sequences in battles between Hal and Hector Hammond, things become very confusing and it’s not clear what exactly is going on as both of them writhe mysteriously on the floor. Again something that probably worked well with thought bubbles on the page but not in the context of a movie. I honestly think that Martin Campbell is a bad match of director with material. His fast cutting and brutal style may work well for a Bond film but somehow doesn’t translate to a big science fiction comic book canvas like Green Lantern. As a result you never feel like the film is given time to breathe, it seems to just race to meet each script beat and get to the end. I wonder what someone like Steven Spielberg or James Cameron would have done with this material. There is a sub plot involving Hal’s feelings of fear related to his dead pilot father but it's literally just a footnote and never really expanded upon (although this is apparently expanded on in the extended edition) so it comes across like Hal just can’t be bothered to be the Green Lantern rather than it coming from a deep childhood trauma which we are supposed to believe. Sadly this is a product of screenwriting by committee where four screenwriters are credited, each one paring it down until it’s by the numbers basics.
Despite these flaws, Green Lantern is a lot of fun. Ryan Reynolds is solid as the hero of the film and does not rely on the sarcastic charm that has turned many off of his previous performances. All of the Green Lantern Corps aliens are also very well realised. Had this been made in the late nineties then it could have looked awful but now with motion capture technology and other advances the aliens are completely believable and the planet of OA is quite breathtaking. Apart from the aforementioned confusion in the editing, the action scenes are pretty great so if you are just looking for effects and explosions then this will do the job. They build a convincing and well realised universe here and it will be interesting to see where they go with it in the proposed sequels. Although apparently the intention is to go even darker and grittier with the sequel when really they need to go the opposite way and make it even more fantastic. The success of Star Trek and Avatar have proved that there is still an audience for space opera and this is why a Green Lantern movie set solely in space would be the best way to go with it. They set this up with a neat post credits coda which will lead into a strong storyline from the comics.
Green Lantern is not as bad as you have heard but kind of a missed opportunity for something truly great. Ultimately it has great special effects and a nice central message about belief in ones self. Hopefully a sequel will correct all of the flaws present in this first movie and Green Lantern will get the film that does the epic concept justice.
Extras: Extended Version of the film, The Universe According to Green Lantern, Ryan Reynolds Becomes the Green Lantern, Deleted Scenes, MMM: Green Lantern's Light (No Walk On Version), MMM: Graphic Localization, MMM: PiP, The Art of the Green Lantern, MMM: Focus Pod, Weapons Hot: The U.C.A.V Dog Fight, MMM: Focus Pod, Reinventing the Superhero Costume, MMM: Focus Pod, Ring Slinging 101, MMM: Focus Pod, We Are the Corps, MMM: Focus Pod, Acting Under 10 Pounds of Silicone, MMM: Focus Pod, When Parallax Attacks, MMM: Focus Pod (All of these are BR only) Justice League #1 Digital Comic, Preview of Green Lantern: The Animated Series.
Green Lantern is out now on DVD/Blu-ray