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Review: Green Lantern

Posted by Patrick Sauriol on Thursday, June 16, 2011

In the pantheon of Warner Bros. superheroes, Green Lantern has always been second tier. When you spend a little time following what the Lantern does, it was easy to see why: he's a cosmic superhero with adventures set mostly in outer space, with plenty of strange looking aliens as his allies and also his enemies. Superman and Batman fought their bad guys on terra firma, and general audiences had an easier time understanding the motivations of both heroes (even though the Man of Steel himself was an alien.)

It wasn't until five years ago DC Comics began to build up the mythos of Green Lantern. Comic book writer Geoff Johns came onboard the comic and cleaned away 60 years of the boring stuff while emphasizing what made Hal Jordan cool, and also birthing the concept of a wide range of colored Lanterns, some good, others evil.

For myself, Green Lantern has always been my favorite DC hero for the reason why he's able to create all those nifty green constructs. With Batman, it's all about his obsession with controlling chaos and finding a way to punish criminals so he can find some order from the senseless death of his parents. With Superman, it's about the ultimate immigrant who has the powers of a god but the moral compass of a man. With Green Lantern, it's Hal's willpower that allows him to overcome the adversaries he faces, and overcoming his fears to save others as well as himself. I liked Green Lantern because it meant that you could be a superhero by just having the willpower to conquer your fear.

So for twenty-five years I've hoped to see a good adaptation of Green Lantern. In my mind's eye I wished for a filmmaker like Christopher Nolan to come along and get what made GL cool and unique. I wanted to see a superhero version of Star Wars and a set-up for a whole series of Green Lantern movies that would show us the Corps, the rise of the Yellow Lanterns, the secrets behind the Guardians of Oa, and Hal falling into the role of the protector of Sector 2814 as well as his hometown of Coast City.

Martin Campbell's Green Lantern doesn't live up to my expectations but neither does it shatter all of my hopes. It's neither great nor is it awful, nor is it moderately average. Instead, it falls somewhere behind the first Iron Man and X-Men movies. Serviceable, but not spectacular.

As a cinematic adventure, Green Lantern never gets up and soars. The script sets up the origin of Hal as superhero, as well as the background of the role of the Green Lanterns, several major Corps members and Hal's love interest, Carol Ferris. The screenplay could have benefitted from better character dialogue and treating the material with a little more of a serious tone. For what they bring to their roles, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively play their characters better in the second half of the film. I think that Reynolds might have it in him to take his performance further in a second film, and under the direction of someone who better understands Hal's heroic elements.

There are two better performances. Playing the main villain, Peter Sarsgaard does a great job as Hector Hammond, science nerd that turns into a creepy stalker and later a mutated psychic Mr. Potato Head. Sarsgaard is clearly ad-libbing in some of his scenes, and he pulls it off well.

Also doing an admiral job is Mark Strong as Sinestro, present day Green Lantern Corps member and future supervillain. For years the fanboy talk was that pulling off a believable Sinestro was going to be next to impossible because of the way the character looked in the comics, with his purple complexion and Snidely Whiplash moustache. Strong's makeup works but so does his performance as the intense Lantern; you can feel the weight of his eyes as their stare at you, and it gives his Sinestro the gravitas the character needs to be believable. For nerds of Green Lantern like myself it's great to see such perfect casting for this part of the movie.

While he's never seen on screen, Geoffrey Rush provides the voice for the CG-created Tomar-Re, the fishy-looking guy in the Corps, and he's perfect for the character. As the big giant Corps member Kilowog, Michael Clarke Duncan seems like he was given the job because he's also a big guy in real life, and it just seems like an imperfect choice for that character.

So let's get to the suit: it's not bad to look at. After first seeing Reynolds' CG superhero threads in the trailers, I was worried that it would look goofy in the finished product. Thankfully that's not the case, and the actual living energy look of the Green Lantern suit that Hal wears kind of works for the movie version of the character. Seeing little arcs of energy ripple across Reynolds' shoulders and the interior lighting effects gives his Green Lantern costume a quality that isn't possessed in the Superman or Batman movie hero costumes. Now I'm fine with it.

Usually I've enjoyed the scores that James Newton Howard has delivered for the other films he's worked on but not this time. It plays as generic action background music and utterly fails to be epic, which is what should be in a Green Lantern movie. Like Iron Man the first, the music is there and it's not distracting, but it also never raises one's emotions. Ultimately it's a lost opportunity.

Martin Campbell may have gotten the car started for a new superhero movie franchise but not to the same intensity and level as he did with the Casino Royale/James Bond rebooting. For all its story hiccups, I wish that I could have had the same feeling of satisfaction with Green Lantern as I had for J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot. Hopefully Warner Bros. will listen to the criticism and agree that the second movie needs to amp things up, both for the drama and tone as well as raising the stakes. Perhaps one of the Nolan brothers wants a part-time job while making The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel?

Stick around after the credits and you'll get a preview of where they want to take Green Lantern 2. That's also where I want to see things headed.

Review Score: 63 / 100

Quasar
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Posts: 7588
Posted: 8 years 5 weeks ago

I'm thinking I'll just watch the after credits scene online.

Faster and faster, a nightmare we ride. Who'll take the reins when the miracle dies? Faster and faster till everything dies. Killing is our way of keeping alive. - Virgin Steele, Blood and Gasoline