Consider how the Green Lantern movie might have been if the makers went on with the original pitch: Jack Black in the starring role as shlubby Ikea employee Jud Plato, who is chosen by the ring when it sees him eat a raw coyote head on Fear Factor. He used his newly found powers to improve his life by making Hispanic green maids to clean up after him and green hotties to feed him grapes while he watches TV. With that in mind, we should ALL be thankful how the Green Lantern movie turned out to be.
Oh yes. It was going to happen at some point
Green Lantern is an earnest attempt to bring the comic book character to the big screen. Save for a few tweaks here and there, Green Lantern remains largely faithful to its comic book origins, something that should please the fans, while trying its best not to alienate mainstream audience. It is a straight retelling of the origin of the first (modern-age) Green Lantern Hal Jordan, and how he gets to become a Green Lantern in the first place. The movie opens with an (obligatory) introduction to Green Lantern Corps, intergalactic police force. GL Corps have split the universe into 3,600 sectors, and appointed one Green Lantern per sector. They have harnessed the green energy of willpower, and forged rings that can wield it. When Abin Sur, a Green Lantern, is wounded while battling an ancient evil known as Parallax, he crash-lands on the nearest inhabited planet, Earth. Abin Sur sends out the ring to select a new recruit, in the form of second-generation test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds). After a brief encounter with the dying Abin Sur, Jordan is quickly chaperoned by the ring to planet Oa, headquarters of the Corps, where he meets other Lanterns: Tomar-Re (voiced by Geoffery Rush), Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan), and Sinestro (Mark Strong, under heaps of prosthetics and makeup). Meanwhile on Earth, while examining the corpse of Abin Sur, scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is infected by Parallax, mutating Hammond and giving him telepathy and telekinetic powers, at the cost of his sanity.
In Jack Black’s Green Lantern, he would have been called “deady”…
Surely, it’s not without its flaws, but it is not the train wreck the reviews make it seem like. One thing studios need to take note of is that they need to abandon the ‘origins’ format for superhero films. Green Lantern has been unfairly labeled as a Xerox copy of every other superhero film, but isn’t every superhero film in that case, with very, very few notable exceptions, a copy of some superhero film? Green Lantern is not any different, and here we get the standard ‘origins’ story: a. introduction to hero before becoming hero b. hero gets new powers c. hero questions his ability to become, ehem, a hero d. hero fights major villain, reassures himself of his heroic status e. hero kisses girl, flys away, waves at audience. With Green Lantern being second tier comic book character, not as famous as say, Superman and Batman, and with all the heavy history that is part of the Green Lantern mythos, it’s difficult to see how the makers could have done without an origins story.
There’s also the issue of Green Lantern never really facing a real threat. Surely in the comic books Parallax is an indestructible cosmic entity and the manifestation of fear itself and Hammond is a mastermind with telepathic and telekinetic powers, but what the audience see is a dirt cloud and a fat blob. The makers should have learned their lesson from Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer and avoided the “cloud about to destroy Earth” route (even FF had Silver Surfer in it, a worthy opponent). But even then, the fight between Jordan and Parallax is all too brief, and the way Jordan disposes of Parallax triggers the question “why didn’t any other Lantern think of that?”
The biggest problem with the movie perhaps is the tons of missed opportunities and untapped ideas that the film could (should) have explored further. To begin with, Green Lantern is one of very few superheroes who spend a considerable amount of his time in space. Superman does, but Batman, Iron Man, Spider-man and pretty much every other superhero is bound to Earth. This idea is never ever really explored, except for the brief scene in Oa, even though it could have added a much needed space opera angle to the film. Imagine Jordan as a rookie Lantern being involved in a training mission on a distant planet, or a brief visit to other planets within his sector - I think when we all saw the second trailer we thought this is the angle the filmmakers are going for, sadly this wasn’ t the case with the film, where Green Lantern is bound to Earth the whole time.
Obligatory Blake Lively picture. Hotness.
Then there’s the dynamic between Jordan and Sinestro. The casting of Mark Strong, always an excellent menace, really adds intensity to the character, and I imagined the relationship between both Jordan and Sinestro will be a reverse Obi Wan/Anakin, in which the master falls into evil and the student becomes the hero. Unfortunately, such potential is squandered, Sinestro’s appearance is all too brief and you can sum it up in one sentence: Sinestro doesn’t like Hal. Even this odd sentiment towards humans is never really properly explored and it comes around as forced. Similarly, the relationship between Jordan and Carol Ferris (Blake Lively),who is only there to represent the obligatory love interest, even though both share a much deeper relationship in the comic books that is never really explored here.
Also, the powers of Green Lantern. What we saw on the screen was good, really good as a matter of fact, that I wish there was more of it. That bit where Green Lantern assembles a machine gun turret out of nothing? I wanted to see that, done with all sorts of weapons, over and over again. There’s no limit to what Green Lantern can imagine, and this should have been the case with the makers.
Ryan Reynolds is somewhat on restraint here, not going full wise-cracking charmer (you will notice that some parts from the trailer didn’t make it to the final cut, and it’s easy to see why). But whenever the mood threatens to get too serious, it is up to Reynolds to throw a joke in to break the mood (check out the scene where Hal recites the “oath” for the first time and how it compares to Spider-man using his webshooters for the first time). It works with other superheroes like Iron Man or Spider-man, but in the comic books Hal is more of a serious man, and while Reynolds’ antics will be a general crowd pleaser I am sure it will displease the fans. The casting of Reynolds as Hal Jordan prompted a lot of negative fan reaction when it was first announced, but it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the role.
The one thing Green Lantern excels in is effects. The costume update makes sense within the context of the story (after all, who needs fabric when you can create a costume out of energy) and the result is visually dazzling. Equally amazing are the realization of Green Lantern’s powers. What could have turned out to be second rate effects turns out to be one of the coolest superpowers to ever grace the big screen (if only they put more of it on the screen). The realization of Oa will draw comparisons to Thor’s Asgard, both being the fantastical realm of the summer to check out. Make no mistake: it is no Pandora, but it is decently realized, although it at times suffers from Star Wars prequels green screen effect. The biggest let down is Parallax, and I’m surprised the makers weren’t able to make a better job with it, given the number of films with cloud-about-to-consume-the-planet kind of effect (Fifth Element anyone?).
This being a movie by director Martin Campbell, the man single-handedly responsible for resuscitating the James Bond franchise TWICE (GoldenEye in 1995 and Casino Royale in 2006) and the modern invention of Zorro, I expected more. Green Lantern may not have the emotional complexity of The Dark Knight, but it is solid summer entertainment at its best.
Verdict? Those who like their superhero movie meal peppered with a philosophical subtext should steer away from this and watch X-Men: First Class instead. But those in for a night of no-brainer heroics, swear yourselves in to the Corps.