Movie Review: Green Lantern

Green Lantern is a superhero franchise with a rich history and cast of characters.  It’s been one of DC Comics’ most popular titles for a while now, and many of the recent big crossover events have focused on the Green Lantern Corps and its members.  Someday a movie will come out which will make Green Lantern accessible to mass audiences while still satisfying devoted fans.  Unfortunately, Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, is not that movie.

There are two ways to discuss Green Lantern: as a summer blockbuster by itself and as a film adaptation of the Green Lantern mythos.  Let’s start with the first.  Green Lantern is the story of Hal Jordan (Reynolds), a rebel-with-a-heart-of-gold fighter pilot out to prove his fearlessness.  His reckless ways cause conflict with Carol Ferris (Lively), fellow pilot, former flame, and daughter of his boss.  Jordan discovers a dying alien who passes on his Power Ring and membership in the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic peacekeeping organization.  While Hal is whisked away for some back story and a training montage, his old classmate Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is brought in to autopsy the alien, whereupon he is infected by Parallax, an ancient evil being which looks like a flying pile of dreadlocks.  After the obligatory crisis of self-doubt, Hal accepts his duty and battles the villains.

It’s pretty standard stuff, and the script doesn’t do much to make it feel otherwise.  There a numerous scenes of Reynolds and Lively, about to lock lips, when one pulls away out of doubt.  Mark Strong is great as Sinestro, the most powerful of the Green Lanterns, but is here more to cause Hal to lose faith than anything else.  Nearly every plot point feels like it’s been done better elsewhere, both specifically with Green Lantern (Justice League: New Frontier and the underrated Green Lantern: First Flight spring to mind) and in general (Top Gun pretty much closed the book of fighter pilot drama).

That’s not to say there aren’t some shining moments.  Geoffrey Rush as Tomar-Re, a bird-beaked member of the Corps who welcomes Hal, is fun, as is the aforementioned training montage.  Sarsgaard brings serious humanity and pain to the villainous Hector Hammond, who’s known in the comics mainly for having a big head.  But this movie can’t decide whether it wants to be a fun, cartoony romp like Iron Man or a vast space opera, and hurts itself by trying to have it both ways.

The other side of coin is the adaptation of the Green Lantern comics, and it didn’t fare too well here either.  Make no mistake, I’m not the kind of fan who requires a perfect translation of comic book canon.  I loved X-Men: First Class, which had next to nothing to do with the origin of the X-Men written by Stan Lee in the 60s.  But this movie (and movie series, if it makes any kind of money) has kind of squandered its potential.  See, in the comics, Hal Jordan was a powerful Green Lantern who eventually became a villain called Parallax.  He was stopped by other heroes and sacrificed his life in a final act of redemption, and his story had a lot in common with a classical Greek tragedy.  He was eventually brought back to life, and it was revealed that he had been possessed by Parallax, “the physical manifestation of fear.”  This is a perfect set-up for a movie trilogy or series.  A tragic cycle is something that hasn’t been seen in a superhero film yet, and it could set Green Lantern apart from the seas of adaptations and remakes which come out every summer.  Unfortunately, the creators fixated on the wrong elements (Parallax, Yellow Rings) and delivered a somewhat mangled origin story which attempts to set the stage for more recent arcs (The Sinestro Corps War) without the personal stories that made them relatable. 

Green Lantern isn’t a bad movie, per se.  It’s worth seeing, but not for the 7+ dollars most theaters are charging.  It’s just a mediocre movie, which is too bad, because the potential was there for it to be so much more.

RATING: ONE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FOUR)

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One response

  1. Pingback: Animation Wednesday: Green Lantern: The Animated Series « Gentlemen, Behold!!

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