Theatrical Review: GREEN LANTERN
Writers: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg
Director: Martin Campbell
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins
Studio: Warner Bros.
The summer of the comic book superhero movie is now in full swing. It kicked off with THOR and it will end with the release of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER. Marvel Studios is making big strides this year to be on top of the summer movie blockbuster heap, as they are quickly amping up for 2012’s release of THE AVENGERS. DC Comics is falling behind and fast, with GREEN LANTERN poised as their savior for 2011, but sadly, no matter what kind of constructs this Green Lantern can conjure up it won’t save the world, or this movie. GREEN LANTERN goes admirably all out with its space opera themes, but it falls short in its actual construction.
The film follows Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a cocky and brash test pilot, who is chosen by a Green Lantern's ring to become a member of the Green Lantern Corps. The ring is part of a super-galactic police squad who bring order to the universe. Typically, the ring only chooses those who are fearless, but Jordan’s own weakness, being human, becomes his greatest strength. There are many rings, and the green ring of the Green Lantern Corps represents (and is powered by) the strength of willpower. Jordan must come to grips with his duties, but through the course of the film, he shies away from them.
As plot-heavy as this may seem, it’s surprisingly simple to follow. The film does create a vast world and a mythology very well and doesn’t shy away from its origins as a cosmic, superhero property. I found this to be refreshing, as it doesn’t water down its source material, it revels in it. To the film’s credit, a willing viewer will revel in it as well. But what falls flat is not its source material, it’s the film’s very execution.
For its 105 minute runtime, the film doesn’t get its footing until well into the second act, mainly because it has problems establishing character motivation, a proper villain, and its tone. Starting the film off with a narration is a good way to get into this cosmic world, but it never gets fully started on Earth. Yes, you do have to establish this world, yes, you do have to establish Hal Jordan as a cocky and brash test pilot and yes, you do have to establish the origins of the ring and how it found Hal Jordan, but to do all this in a very clunky and laboring way is just irritating. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), the lonely scientist and eventual villain is introduced in a very strange manner, literally just cut into the movie. For a minute, a viewer might think, “What just happened? Was there a reel missing?” All of these various elements could have been spliced into each other, giving the film a sense of urgency and kinetics, instead of the disjointed, piecemeal manner they are presented.
While the film has trouble trying to establish itself thematically and narratively, it also has trouble establishing a coherent tone. A viewer is left to wonder if this is a comedy or drama or an action film. The drama is dull and surface and the comedy is flat and humorless. The space opera elements hold tight and interesting, but never really explored and the comedy seems wrangled in there simply because of Ryan Reynolds’ personality.
In terms of acting, Blake Lively as Carol Ferris gets much of the blame, or maybe it’s just Martin Campbell’s direction of her, as she has nothing really to do on screen instead of acting as the love interest and the damsel in distress. Lively has recently proven herself to be a solid actress, as a viewers may remember her recent Oscar-worthy role in THE TOWN, but in GREEN LANTERN she comes off stale and uninteresting. Ryan Reynolds is fine as Hal Jordan, always charming and witty, but as fans of the comic book would say, Hal Jordan is neither of those things, he’s more brooding than anything else. Mark Strong as Sinestro is much like his name suggest, strong. A mentor to Hal Jordan, we get a super-small glimpse into his eventual evil turn, but it is played as a suggestion rather than an implication. Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond is somewhat notable, chewing the scenery as much as he’s allowed too, but ultimately his villain is a weak character, only played as a “macguffin” for the plot, which for purpose of this review, could have been stronger.
As a redemption story and hero’s journey, GREEN LANTERN has all the right elements, but the film deals with these issues and themes in a poor way, and it never really executes its redemption elements. It introduces the story and influence of Hal Jordan’s father, Martin Jordan’s, tragic and traumatic accidental death, but the film never does anything with it. It’s simply introduced at the beginning and never examined again, outside of Hal Jordan leaving a room when anyone ever asks him about it. This is just poor storytelling. An interesting way to examine this is would have been to have Hal revisit this event when Parallax confronts him with his fears – instead, the film opts to visit the Carol Ferris relationship.
Visually speaking, GREEN LANTERN does have a lot going for it. Green Lantern’s suit looks great and his constructs look believable, but the movie depends on how vivid the important colors, green and yellow, pop off the screen, but they get distracted and toned down by the 3D. At this point in the summer blockbuster season, more and more films are being presented in 3D, but many viewers are turned off by it because of what it does to the image on the screen. Namely, 3D depresses hues by darkening them, which is at play in GREEN LANTERN, much to the film’s detriment.
Overall, there are some things to like with GREEN LANTERN, such as the vast world-building and its imagination and action, but the film itself is weak, deeply flawed, and ultimately clunky and disappointing. Whether it be DC or Marvel, good storytelling and execution is invaluable to moviegoers, no matter how strange or unfamiliar the source material may be. One only need to look at THOR, another comic book superhero movie with heavy themes and a space opera world that managed to be interesting, action-packed, and humorous as it switched back and forth between a cosmic world and our own. GREEN LANTERN could have been and should have been better, instead of being just disappointing and middle of the road.
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