Green Lantern Movie Review
Back in January I wrote a glowing review of the comic story Green Lantern: Secret Origin during which I briefly described my concerns towards the upcoming Martin Campbell film adaptation. Despite my cheap shots at the CGI in the trailer, I remained somewhat optimistic. I even bought a die cast metal power ring replica of the one Ryan Reynolds uses in the film. On the night of June 17th I walked into my local theater proudly sporting a retro Green Lantern t-shirt and my power ring in hand. Little did I know that the film I was about to watch was going to be more disappointing than getting a birthday card without any cash inside.
Green Lantern opens with a brief overview of the history of an intergalactic peacekeeping force known throughout the universe as The Green Lantern Corps. This league of emerald warriors are founded and led by a small group of wise immortals known as The Guardians of the Universe. This little lecture in Comics 101 is given by the very talented Geoffry Rush who voices Green Lantern Tomar-Re. But in retrospect this introduction serves really no purpose since the character is forced to repeat this information again during the film’s second act. The picture then quickly introduces Parallax, the all powerful living embodiment of fear who manages to escape his prison and hunt down Abin Sur, the Green Lantern who defeated and imprisoned him years ago. Although championed as the greatest amongst his contemporaries, Abin Sur is mortally wounded in a matter of seconds and is forced to give his power ring to someone worthy enough to take his place.
The ring surprisingly chooses a talented yet reckless fighter pilot named Hal Jordan, played by Ryan Reynolds. I thought the casting for Jordan was a wise one, Reynolds does his best to capture the cockiness of the character who is in turn hiding some emotional baggage after witnessing his father die in a fiery plane crash. This traumatic childhood event is done in such a cheesy flashback that it completely negates any emotional response from the audience which in turn eliminates any character depth within Hal Jordan at all. Minus the world’s worst flashback, Reynolds is at his best during an early scene where the character is in a simulated dogfight with two aircrafts sporting the world’s most advanced artificial intelligence. Why would the US Military allow Ferris Aircraft to use their own pilots to test an A.I. system developed by Ferris in the first place? Couldn’t the pilots simply throw up their hands and lose the simulation to better sell the product? Even so why bring in the rebellious Hal Jordan when every character around him knows he’d sacrifice everything in order to win?As ridiculous as the scene maybe, Reynolds’ energy and natural charisma completely sells it and I wish he, as well as the film’s pacing, kept up that kind of enthusiasm throughout the rest of the picture. It’s Jordan’s brash actions during the simulation that gets him some heat from his employer and former girlfriend Carol Ferris, played by the very photogenic Blake Lively. She is horribly miscast and never comes across as the hard as nails flying ace she so desperately wants to be. Lively was cast as pure eye candy which is tragic since she wowed me in the film The Town.
The film reaches it’s peak once Hal gains Abin Sur’s ring and leaves Earth to train with his fellow Green Lantern Corps members on the distant alien planet Oa. It is here Hal gets the crash course on Green Lantern mythology from completely flat, exposition spewing, CG characters who just happen to completely populate a CG world. Martin Campbell was really hoping that these digital environments would completely stun viewers but he was sadly mistaken. Repeating the same mistakes as George Lucas during the Star Wars prequels, the dependency on computers for world building fails to keep the interest of film fans. Special effects are simple secondary tools for telling a story but in Green Lantern, the special effects have the spotlight while everything else is pushed into the shadows. As Jordan explores Oa, comic fans get a few shots of their favorite Green Lanterns like Stel, Salaak, Rot Lop Fan, Green Man, Bzzd, and Boodikka yet they aren’t even given a bit of dialogue. Why spend millions of dollars designing these characters when they have no effect on the plot whatsoever? The only Lanterns who do have actual speaking parts are Tomar-Re, Kilowog, and Thaal Sinestro. Hollywood’s favorite bad guy Mark Strong was perfectly cast to play the role of the strict and militaristic Sinestro. His few scenes are the most memorable of the film and the sparing sequence between Sinestro and Jordan was the one moment where I felt some joy to what I was watching on screen. Of course this sudden glimmer of hope towards the film was instantly extinguished when Hal Jordan throws a temper tantrum and returns to Earth.
From here on out the film feels stuck on autopilot. It’s as if Campbell had lost the pages of the script leading up to the final confrontation between Green Lantern and Parallax, so he just ended up filming a series of filler scenes. A lot of the character interaction during this second half feels unnecessary or misplaced. Relationships are introduced that should have been established during the first reel of the movie. Other scenes feel like generic super-hero beats, cliched moments that audiences have seen one too many times, and done better I might add. I almost forgot to mention the film’s antagonist Hector Hammond…which isn’t too surprising since it felt like the filmmakers forgot about him as well. Hector Hammond, played by Peter Sarsgaard, is a scientist brought in by the government to analyze Abin Sur’s body. During the autopsy Hammond comes in contact with a piece of Parallax, thus turning him into an elephant man with telekinetic abilities. Sarsgaard gives a pretty eerie performance for someone who is given absolutely nothing to work with. The character serves, yet again, no purpose to the overall plot of the film. A relationship between Hammond, Jordan, and Ferris is hinted at but never fully developed. If Sarsgaard’s character was established earlier in the film, then maybe his descent into madness would have been more effective. Hammond’s only motivation in the film is to kidnap and mutate Carol Ferris so she’ll stop drooling over Hal Jordan and instead maybe go out with Hector. That’s not even a joke. He explains it all during a monologue.
For a budget well over 200 million dollars, I can’t imagine where the hell all that money went. The CGI still doesn’t look finished. Its as if all the artists are still tweaking things before the Bluray release. It’s over guys. James Cameron won. In theory, the completely digital Green Lantern costume makes sense. Unlike other super-heroes who sport spandex, Green Lantern’s uniform is completely constructed out of pure energy. But why spend millions of dollars to digitally create a skin tight rubber suit if you can pay thousands to have people make an actual skin tight rubber suit? The alien character designs are pretty impressive but so little time is spent on them I can’t completely count this point as something positive towards the movie. The few Green Lantern Corps members who actually do have roles are humanoid and could have been created with good old fashioned practical effects. Director Guillermo del Toro has proved time and time again that a marriage between practical and digital effects create the best results. And Parallax looks like crap. I mean literally, the monster looks like a floating blob of space crap.
Not only as a massive Green Lantern comic book fan but as a film fan in general, I hate to say this but the Green Lantern movie is bad. I would go as far to say that it’s downright terrible. I’ve been thinking about it all day, going back and forth on my feelings towards the finished product. At every moment of every turn Green Lantern left me disappointed. The movie should have been an exciting space opera but instead was a cookie cutter superhero film, lacking enthusiasm, energy, and anything new to add to the genre. With a vast and exciting comic book history, Green Lantern had the potential of being the greatest comic book movie of all time. It isn’t the worst but it’s definitely forgettable which is even more upsetting. So stay indoors this weekend fellow geeks and rewatch Green Lantern: First Flight because that cartoon is more mature than the movie I saw Friday night.
Final Score: 4 out of 10