Comic Books Magazine

Review #2919: Green Lantern (2011)

Posted on the 25 July 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Screen story by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, and Marc Guggenheim
Screenplay by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg
Directed by Martin Campbell

I’ll give “Green Lantern” this: It’s full of incredible color. Yes, lots of it is CGI, but it’s a visual wonder nonetheless. The problem is that you can’t sell a superhero movie on bright colors alone. That’s one of the smaller problems of this film. The biggest flaw I could see was that the film didn’t know what it wanted to be. It spends some time being a overly loud, action-packed thriller. Then it has to spend time building a romance story between fellow test pilots Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) and Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). Then it has to tell a story about a race of intergalactic beings who are the universe’s policemen, engaged in a war with a giant, multi-tentacled dark cloud with a face. Or it could be a coming-of-age origin story for Hal as he becomes the Green Lantern of Earth. Or it could be a story of trying to fulfill the unrealistic expectations of your fathers. The filmmakers can’t stick with one story, and having to service all of these stories at once, the final film ends up a incomplete, sometimes incoherent mess.

Review #2919: Green Lantern (2011)

“Green Lantern” is a weird movie. I think it acknowledges its weirdness, but never fully embraces it. Hal is recruited by a dying alien into the Green Lantern Corps and the story takes off from there. Hal is trained on the mysterious planet called Oa, where the Guardians of the Universe use the Corps to protect the galaxy from Parallax, the giant evil cloud that consumes planets. So they have to spend a little bit of time on Oa to fully flesh out some of the veteran Green Lanterns to teach Hal.

The Green Lantern ring he is given is a weapon that can “will” anything its owner imagines with his mind. Of course, being the cocky fighter pilot that Hal is, he conjures up the usual macho imagery, from fists to guns to swords. It’s supposed to be a brawny movie and, as if showing off the hunky musculature of the overly handsome Reynolds wasn’t enough, it shows us with a lot of the Green Lantern imagery. Actually, I thought Oa was one of the more interesting aspects of the film. I wished they had spent more time there instead of back on Earth. It was the same problem that afflicted “Thor”: Asgard was much more interesting a world than the small Earth town that was presented. As such, even the training sequences with Hal and Sinestro and the other aliens lack substance because they spend so little time on it.

But Earth beckons because Parallax threatens its very existence. Not only that, but a scientist named Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) gets infected by a mysterious yellow substance (the material that Parallax is made of) and turns evil. His goal is not something big like global annihilation, but rather living up to his father’s expectations. The daddy issues presented here aren’t very deep, a symptom of the film’s oddly short 105-minute run time, so Hammond doesn’t seem fully evil and lacks a clear agenda.

There are times even when the film awkwardly tries to present Hammond as sort of a dark reflection of Hal Jordan. The end confrontation between those two characters plays very much on that notion. So little time is spent developing it though, that it doesn’t pack much of a punch when it comes. I didn’t give it much thought because the filmmakers made the odd choice of blowing Hammond’s head up to Elephant Man-sized proportions that it distracted me from anything else onscreen. Ultimately, Hammond doesn’t matter because he’s folded into the narrative by the Parallax threat.

I will say that the final confrontation between Green Lantern and Parallax was impressive, though. A highlight of an otherwise disposable film. But it’s only those characters who are a threat, but Hal’s fear tha can defeat him. The fear in him can render the Green Lantern powers useless. It’s a nice concept, but becomes poorly executed because it seems Reynolds cannot properly convey the emotion of fear. It hinders Hal and holds the story back. That fear goes away quickly, seemingly because the writers needed to move onto bigger things.

The film also tries its hand at romance, though that aspect is as weakly developed as the others. Blake Lively is a pretty face, but that’s it. Carol Ferris has no personality. She seems to like Hal at times, then can’t seem to stand the sight of him at others. Other than the fact that she is an ace pilot, has known Hal since they were both kids, and looks great when all dolled up, there isn’t much there. I did like that they subverted a common superhero trope: Carol immediately recognizes Hal even when he’s in the Green Lantern suit, which is supposed to keep him anonymous with just a mask. Most superhero films never acknowledge that. The romance between them feels so slight because the writers half-ass their way through it. They have to give service to so many moving parts that the romance aspect could’ve just as easily been discarded and the audience might not have noticed.

“Green Lantern” is a classic case of a film having too many cooks in the kitchen. There are four credited writers to the film and felt like a lot more stuck their hand into the making of the film. Everything was done in a haphazard and rushed manner, as if everyone involved got the edict from DC Comics to put up a superhero franchise to compete with the long-time rival and currently more successful Marvel studio. They felt that they had to cover everything in the Green Lantern story (which, like many popular comic book heroes, is an expansive one) and mixed it in with the usual stuff you get from an origin story: romance, action, weird aliens, and bad guys. It didn’t work. It was also one of the loudest films I’ve ever seen, which is odd because some of it is in space and as everyone should know by now, sound cannot occur in outer space. The filmmakers somehow wanted to pummel you with endless sound, mixing the unmemorable musical score with loads of gunfire or rockets or other loud noise. I actually winced from the auditory bombardment many times while watching this film. But I came in with low expectations and the film seemed content to not surpass those expectations in any way. At least, my eyes got a good workout from all of the colors.

Grade: 6/10

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