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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

REVIEW - GREEN LANTERN (2011)

Directed by: Martin Campbell
Written by: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong
Music by: James Newton Howard
Release date: June 17, 2011


The Green Lantern movie is considered to be one of the biggest disappointments in comicbook film history. In a time where the genre was exploding - one year before the release of The Avengers - it was clear that shared cinematic universes were becoming the next big thing, and Marvel were about to take the world by storm and rake in dollars by the bucketsful. On the other hand, Warner Bros. were like the fat kid wheezing behind in P.E. while the rest of the class sprinted ahead and left him in the dust. They'd made billions off Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight, and a sequel was in the works that was set to be released next year. But while The Dark Knight Rises was practically guaranteed to make them obscene amounts of profit, it was also the conclusion to a self-contained trilogy. When it came to thinking bigger, WB were clearly behind. Green Lantern was intended to be their Iron Man - a film that not only introduced the general public to a fairly lesser-known character, but set the stage for bigger things to come, and various individuals in capes and tights to run around in. It's quite safe to say that they failed miserably with that, but is Green Lantern really as bad as its reputation suggests?

An alien by the name of Abin-Sur (Temuera Morrison) is wounded during a battle with a parasitic fear-based entity named Parallax. Abin-Sur is part of the Green Lantern Corps: an intergalactic police force fueled by the manifested power of will. In his final moments, he crashes to Earth and gives his ring - the source of a Lantern’s power - to cocky test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds). With his newfound power to fly and create green constructs of anything he can think of, Hal accepts his induction into the Corps and becomes the last hope to defend Earth from the oncoming Parallax.


Let’s get straight to the point here… Green Lantern isn't a terrible movie by any means, but it does far too much with the bad and not enough with the good. Apart from its lackluster script, what it really comes down to is lack of passion.

As you might’ve been able to tell from the brief synopsis, the Green Lantern lore is pretty expansive. It’s a big juicy myriad of concepts and characters, that spans across multiple planets and universes. In this myriad are seven different Corps, all of which use colours to represent different emotions (green = will, red = rage, blue = hope, etc). For a newcomer to the series, this could be considered quite a lot to take in, so what does the movie do? It bombards you with all this exposition - and more - through a voiceover at the very beginning. And then none of the Corps, save for Green and Yellow (fear), are ever brought up again.

Out of every one of DC’s top-tier characters, Green Lantern is arguably the one with the most cinematic potential. There has never been a film that utilizes concepts like these before. There is so much you can do with this world, but this film barely attempts to scratch the surface. Another aspect where it fails is handling the relationship between Hal and his lifelong pink frenemy, Sinestro. This relationship is one of the defining aspects of the Lantern mythos, and something that was built up over a period of time. When they met, Hal and Sinestro were best friends. Buddy cops, more or less. But eventually Sinestro became corrupted by the power of fear, trading in his green ring for a yellow one and becoming the Corps’ mortal enemy. Here, they’re relatively acquainted at best, then the after-credits scene comes along in which Sinestro turns to the dark side. Now watch, Lantern fans, as that genuinely compelling character development you knew is squandered for the advancement of a sequel that never even saw the light of day.


The aforementioned lack of passion is evident in this film’s entire framework. WB treated Green Lantern like any old superhero, instead of Green Lantern. All the lore stuff is put in so WB can get away with calling this a Green Lantern movie, when it reality it follows a very familiar formula, has nothing new to offer and comes off as little more than a machine trying to create a successful franchise. As an attempt to strike back at Marvel, it’s actually quite pathetic. Hopefully these days are behind us now, but this film is a prime example of what was one of Warner Bros.’ most common criticisms: they never had a plan. They clearly wanted to play with the big boys, but instead of putting in any effort to actually do so they resorted to flinging dung at the walls and expecting it to stick. No matter what you may have thought about Man of Steel, at least that was WB trying to actually put their mark on the comicbook movie genre and carve their own niche. So much about Green Lantern - from the tone, to the after-credits scene, to just about anything else, comes off as trying to emulate Marvel.

Surprisingly, Ryan Reynolds - who faced skepticism from fans pre-release, including myself - is the closest thing this film has to a saving grace. He seems like he’s the only one here with genuine passion for the project, and manages to make the film less of a chore to watch with his enthusiasm and charm. At the time of writing, WB are on the search for a new, rebooted Hal Jordan, but it’s a shame that we probably won’t be seeing Reynolds in the role again.


Green Lantern actually has a solid cast overall, but they’re all underused other than Reynolds. Mark Strong is a perfect Sinestro but you know the problems with his character. Blake Lively is fine as Carol Ferris, but her character is one of the most contrived love interests you’ll come across. Peter Sarsgaard gives his all as the deranged Hector Hammond, but his character’s omission would probably improve the movie, being nothing more than an underdeveloped pawn of Parallax. As for Parallax him/itself, our supposed primary antagonist here barely has a presence. Poor guy’s just a big unconvincing CGI entity who has no development and barely appears before he’s thrown into the sun and dealt with. Didn’t we learn from Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer that a cloud a supervillain does not make?

Green Lantern’s CGI in general is actually quite rocky. I’ve never been one of those people to complain about too much CGI, but this film uses its poor computer-generated efforts so frequently that it can slightly take you out of the experience. The decision to show the energy constantly surging through Hal’s suit is a great one, but something about it just never looks authentic. And maybe it’s the ice-blue eyes that come with it, but his bright green eyemask looks straight-up goofy most of the time.


For a film starring a hero who can create anything his imagination allows him to, it’s clear that the writers couldn’t do the same. Green Lantern is a huge missed opportunity. It may not be Batman and Robin or Superman IV levels of bad, but it’s just so unremarkable. It trades in its rich concepts for a painfully flat script, and just doesn’t really amount to anything at the end of the day. WB face an uphill battle with this character now, due to this film underperforming at the box office, tainting the character’s reputation in the public eye and shattering fans’ faith in the studio’s abilities all in one go. Hal will most likely return in at least one of WB’s upcoming Justice League movies in 2017 and 2019, but as far as a new solo outing goes, fans will have to hold out until 2020. It’s a fairly long wait, but look on the bright side: surely they can’t make the same mistake twice.