April 16, 2012

Movie Review – Green Lantern

Filed under: Movie Review — Rodney Twelftree @ 12:01 am
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Green Lantern Review Logo v5.1 Movie Review   Green Lantern

- Summary -

Director :  Martin Campbell
Year Of Release :   2011
Principal Cast :  Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong, Peter Sarsgaard, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins, Voices of Temuera Morrison, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan, Clancy Brown.
Approx Running Time :   114 Minutes
Synopsis:  Hal Jordan, a test pilot for Ferris Industries, encounters a dying alien who informs him that he’s been chosen to bear the green ring of a Lantern, the galactic police corp established to seek out and defeat evil, wherever it may lie. Jordan’s cocky attitude and disregard for authority bring him into direct conflict with Sinestro, the leader of the Green Lantern Corp, while on Earth, a scientist by the name of Hector Hammond discovers the downside to an internal exam of the dead alien.
What we think :  Nowhere near as bad as the critics suggested this was, it’s less The Dark Knight and more Fantastic Four, only without the four. Bright, shiny production values, coupled with Ryan Reynold’s almost pitch-perfect performance as the iconic Hal Jordan, ensure that even if the story doesn’t generate much tension, the film is still pretty fun to watch. It’s entertainingly stupid, the kind of film the kids can watch with little fear of being too frightened out of their minds, while still dreaming of having a power ring all their own. Harmless, goofy fun.

**********************

We’ve all done it. Dreamed about having superpowers or some magical device that would enable us to smack down the bullies, right the wrongs, and make us rich. Comic books have tapped into this desire since the early part of the 20th century, paving the way for creations such as Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man and all the rest – all imaginary folks who struggle with powers far beyond those of mortal men (ha), who must balance the weight of having the power with the responsibility of using it for good. Essentially, comic books are morality fables, as the titular Hero fights evil while at the same time dealing with his own internal conflicts. Green Lantern is less a film about internal conflict than it is a story of whup-ass. Which flies in the face of comic book movies these days, I think. Green Lantern as a concept hails from the hallowed halls of DC Comics, the direct major competitor of current comic-to-film powerhouse Marvel. I was always a DC guy, preferring to enjoy Superman, Batman and the rest of those heroes, instead of your Spider-Man’s and Hulks – I think the fact that DC had a longer, more iconic history than Marvel (in my eyes, at least) made this choice a little easier. What hasn’t been easy, however, is watching Marvel kick goal after goal with its own film productions of it roster of heroes, while DC’s roster sits unused, undeveloped, with the only exceptions being a critically derided Superman Returns, and the highly applauded Christopher Nolan Batman franchise. The Big Seven from DC, the major players in their arsenal of characters, includes Green Lantern, amongst other iconic genre characters like Wonder Woman, The Martian Manhunter, Aquaman, Superman, Batman and the Flash. And yet, until now, only two of them have ever recieved the genuine big-screen treatment they deserved. Marvel, meanwhile, go from strength to strength building their cinematic world in the lead-up to The Avengers. Green Lantern, perhaps more than any of the other DC characters, lends itself perfectly to the modern blockbuster superhero movie – the scale is epic, the potential for cool visual effects is massive, and the stakes are astronomically high. Why, then, was Green Lantern derided by critics and fans alike? And were they right to do so?

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I’m dressed in this skintight outfit… and I suddenly need to wee….

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a cocky, irresponsible test pilot for Ferris Aircraft, crash-lands his plane while performing a dogfight demonstration with his boss’s latest weapon – some sort of high-tech new aircraft designed for the military. Hal’s disregard for authority, and his love for Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) have given him a self-assured attitude which most of his friends treat with disdain – heck, even his family think he’s reckless to the point of suicide. When a dying alien crash-lands on Earth, and gives Hal a mysterious green ring, Hal’s life takes a turn for the worse. It seems the Ring has chosen Hal to become a member of the galactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corp, which draw upon the green power of Will for their strength in combating evil wherever they find it. As the new guardian of Earth’s sector of the universe, Hal has to establish himself quickly within the Corp, with lead Lantern Sinestro (Mark Strong) disbelieving his ability to wield the power well enough. On Earth, meanwhile, the dying alien is given an autopsy by Jordan’s childhood friend Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), and unwittingly ingests the yellow power of Fear from within it – the alien, Abin Sur, was fighting a galactic menace known as Parallax before he was injured, and the power of Parallax is now transferred to Hammond. At the same time as Jordan’s getting used to his own new-found powers, Hammond’s body and mind are also changing, becoming more deformed whilst developing telepathy and telekinesis. Hammond’s jealousy of Jordan, and his own personal attraction to Carol Ferris, draw out a primal rage that threatens to bring the full power of Parallax to Earth – and only a Green Lantern can stop it.

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Tell me Gloria, what do you know about spandex?

It’s a well known fact for comic books films that the first one usually needs to be an Origin Story – you have to set up the characters and conflicts within the franchise to enable those unfamiliar with the core creation to understand what’s going on. Comic books are a serialized, ongoing format, by and large, so the history and background to a lot of comic book characters can be quite convoluted, which, if you’re going to put up on the big screen, may send non-fans running for the hills. It’s a difficult thing to balance, a good Origin Story, and some, like Superman’s for example, almost need no introduction in the public mindset. Spider-Man and Batman too, I think, have become saturated in pop-culture consciousness, thanks to the many film iterations they’ve enjoyed down the years. Green Lantern, however, is different. Hal Jordan’s only had one parent killed (an accident), nor has he been orphaned by his homeworld’s destruction, nor has he been bitten by a radioactive animal – no, his powers are derived from a ring he wears, a ring which gets its power from the collected will of all living things, a power harnessed and utilized for good by the Green Lantern Corp, created by the immortal Guardians. Sounds a bit weird, I know, but Green Lantern has long been a staple in the DC Comics firmament, and I think he deserves the kind of big screen treatment only a major Hollywood studio can provide. Thankfully, DC is owned by Warner Brothers, perhaps the most famous and successful of all the Hollywood film studios. Which means we can enjoy plenty of money being thrown at the screen in the name of entertainment, all to bring Green Lantern to life. And first, you need his origin.

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Actually, I’d rather have a Prince Albert than wear this gaudy thing…

Green Lantern is directed by Martin Campbell, the man behind such cinematic outings as Goldeneye (the reinvention of James Bond for the 90’s), The Mask of Zorro (the reinvention of Mexico’s most famous hero), Vertical Limit, Casino Royale (the reinvention of Campell’s own reinvention of James Bond, this time for the New Millennium) and the film remake of his own British TV series, Edge Of Darkness, starring Mel Gibson. Campbell’s done enough around the industry to give me reason to believe his take on Green Lantern might be a worthwhile affair. He usually, to use a phrase the youth are using to describe quality action, “brings it”. Unfortunately, Green Lantern stumbles more often than it soars, and although I think the problem stems from an unfamiliarity with the character, as well as a screenplay that feels half written, it’s a film you’d consign to the same level as Superman Returns than you would The Dark Knight. It’s not a bad film, don’t get me wrong, but there are a number of issues than bring it undone from time to time. The screenplay was written by a committee – Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg are all listed as scripters for this thing, and you can kinda tell that too many hands touched it before it made it to the screen. The plot tries to incorporate far too many subplots; Jordan’s ongoing grief at the death of his father years prior, Hector Hammond’s chasm-sized distance emotionally from his father (played by Tim Robbins), the political interests of the Guardians and their impossible-to-read decisions regarding the fate of the Green Lantern Corp and the rebirth of a long-imprisoned Parallax, as well as numerous ancillary characters begging for time, adds up to an overwhelming concept for most audiences to understand. Fans of the character will rejoice in the appearance of all their favorite characters – and thank Campbell for deciding not to include Guy Gardner, no doubt – but those of you who have never picked up a comic book before will probably be sitting there wondering what on Earth you got yourself into. And that’s one of the problems with this film: it isn’t a film for the superhero novice. It’s a film better enjoyed and more understandable if you have at least a basic working knowledge of comics books, and Green Lantern comics specifically. Which isn’t what you want in a film like this – anybody, regardless of their appreciation for Green Lantern, should be able to watch this without having to have read a comic book before.

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What a migraine actually feels like.

The scale of the film is so widescreen, so epic in size, that not even the largest screen can fully transmit the breadth of the narrative here. The GL Corp straddle the entire universe as protectors, and yet they seen consigned to stay on their home base planet of Oa, which is given a brief voice-over description by the wonderful Geoffrey Rush (who also plays one of the Lantern characters in the film) at the outset, but it’s an emotionless vacuum we’ve stumbled into here. The Corp are universal police, and yet there’s almost no attachment for us to them as characters; they exist simply to serve the story, and their internal mythology is poorly developed by the script. Killowog and Sinestro, two of my favourite GL characters outside of Jordan himself, are well portrayed here – Sinestro is performed by Mark Strong, while the CG Killowog is voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan, and yet for all their class, they seem reduced to the level of plot exposition at its worst – there’s almost no empathy generated by the paper-thin script here, and as a result, anything that happens to the Corp is met with a resounding “meh”.

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Alien halitosis was a real bummer for key-parties.

Jordan, played by Ryan Reynolds, is a character perhaps best suited to the actors style. Reynolds met a lot of criticism for his portrayal of Jordan, not only from fans but from cinema patrons around the world – I’ve always enjoyed Reynolds in most of his films, and while I can see that he has some annoying traits some may find grating to watch, Green Lantern represents a perfect match of personality with a character. Reynolds is Hal Jordan, his cocky attitude and unrelenting smile encapsulating the smug arrogance the comic character enjoyed. Blake Lively is hardly a revelation as Jordan’s main squeeze, Carol Ferris, and while she’s nice to look at, her performance isn’t anything revelatory. That said, her character arc is like watching a cardiac patient flatline, it’s so devoid of life. Peter Sarsgaard hams it wonderfully as Hector Hammond, although the treatment of his character in this film indicates a very obtuse knowledge of the legacy his comic-book counterpart enjoyed, and it’s obvious the writers don’t quite know how to handle him. And his final fate, towards the end of the film, will be met with a giant “that’s what they decided to do with him?” sense of incredulousness. Then again, this isn’t a film you watch for carefully constructed characters and a meaningful plot – this is a comic book movie designed to work like a comic book. Flashy visuals, slick one-liners, tortured and malevolent villains, all work in combination to create a complete escape for the viewer for at least 90 minutes.

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Yeah, I have a glad condition. Wanna make something of it?

While the story tends to go nowhere in terms of emotional content, and the delivery of the performances are hit-and-miss, I still managed to enjoy the sense of wonder this film has going for it. That being said, the film did lack the one-two punch it needed to make it truly awesome, a lack of Hal Jordan using that fantastic ring to right wrongs and defeat evil through a large portion of the film means that we spend far too much time watching people talk than we do watching them brawling. Jordan has a few key moments to shine, namely saving a helicopter from killing dozens of folks when it crashes at a party, and trying to save the day when Parallax eventually reaches Earth. Jordan’s relationship with Carol is something of a bugbear for me, it’s the kind of plot device which should be almost second nature to Hollywood these days, and yet comes across as clunky and fake, no matter how hard Reynolds and Lively sell it. But they try, and you can see that, so any negativity I have towards the film is polarized by a sense of attempt, something I would normally overlook. Oa, the Green Lantern homeworld, is not quite as awe inspiring as the filmmakers would like us to think it is – it looks like a generic Star Trek creation cast aside for being too CGI. And it is too CGI, something plaguing the intergalactic feel this film has going for it. Green Lantern has a vast array of visual effects, and I’d be a pretty piss-poor critic if I didn’t at least mention the crazy decision to CGI Hal’s Lantern costume. It’s horrific, an eye-wateringly terrible effect, his suit – the green and black color design is lifted directly from the comics, but the execution of it inside the computer, instead of using real fabric and cloth, is jarring. I understand why it might be easier to do it this way, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

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You do realise that you’d got a giant sundial on your head?

This is a film with plenty of problems, not the least of which is an unforgiving fan-base who will be critical of every creative decision Campbell pulled out on this one. Some of the criticism Green Lantern received was justified, and some of it was not. The script is uneven in both tone and sense of wonder, the performances of the cast range from very good (Mark Strong) to okay (Reynolds) to totally over-the-top (Sarsgaard) to wooden-boat rubbish (Lively), and the effects are, by and large, pretty awesome. James Newton-Howard’s score is suitably epic, given the large scale the film’s narrative enjoys, and Campbell handles the action well enough without really managing to create a memorable moment out of any of it. It’s an enjoyable piece of popcorn fluff, and although there’s problems with it, if you check your brain at the door and just enjoy it for the razzle-dazzle it provides, you’ll have a good time.

7 Star Movie Review   Green Lantern

What others are saying about Green Lantern:

Saint Pauly over at WTF? ripped this film a new one:  “The monster was able to destroy the best and most experienced Green Lanterns in under 30 seconds but the new guy will be able to save the day because he’s a human. And American. “

Sam over at Duke & The Movies enjoyed it: The Green Lantern was not made to inspire discussions on humanity or good vs. evil. It was purely made for those who love the original comic – and for those who just want to go to a theater and be entertained.  You get what you pay for. “

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Rodney is the Editor-In-Chief of Fernby Films, and has been appreciating films seriously since 1993. Rodney’s first foray into online reviews was for a now-defunct online Australian DVD store, before starting up fernbyfilms.com when that enterprise fell through, in 2007. Rodney lives in the South Australian city of Adelaide, with his wife and two young children, whom he loves very much.

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28 Comments »

  1. Thanks for the shout out, mate. And for showing us how reviews are meant to be written!

      Saint Pauly — April 16, 2012 @ 10:19 am

  2. You're welcome, dude!

      Rodney — April 16, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

  3. i dunno… For me this was like a car race–you only watch it for the wrecks. Yet one more time when your reviewer is awesomer than the film, brother.

      Al K Hall — April 16, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

  4. I love Ryan Reynolds in just about everything he's done. Have you seen Buried? I thought the special effects were cool, but the dialogue was pretty ordinary. It just clunked along, as if they were making up words on the set to fit the story…

      Nacent — April 16, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

  5. Y'know, I still haven't seen this one but every time I was browsing on Netflix streaming and came across the poster, I was just never interested in it for whatever reason. I do like Martin Campbell's work though, so I might give it a chance at some point.

      ruth — April 16, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

  6. I'm sorry, but the argument that this film can be enjoyed as "big dumb fun" is so wrong it hurts. You think that just because a film can come out with nonsensical plot and characters that we're meant to just swallow it blindly? This kind of review is exactly why Hollywood movies are so stupid these days!

      Ashley Lee — April 17, 2012 @ 12:50 am

  7. I am surprised by the score here. I hated this film so much. Plus it felt really long too. But as ever you make a very good case Rodney

      Scott Lawlor — April 17, 2012 @ 3:55 am

  8. Thanks Scott – look, I never understood why the film wasn't as well received as it should have been: the story wasn't that bad, and aside from some character issues and a lackluster final act, it's still a pretty decent superhero flick. Mind you, I once said the same about Daredevil. So perhaps in a few years I'll be saying the same thing about this.

      Rodney — April 17, 2012 @ 4:59 am

  9. Actually, positive reviews and continual audience attendance to films which blatantly go out of their way to be “big and dumb” are the exact reason why independent film has struggled all these years. If Hollywood gave us quality stories as well as magnificent special effects more often, there might be more room in the world for the up and coming Tarantinos and Rodriguez types looking to make a name for themselves.

      Ashley Lee — April 17, 2012 @ 7:30 am

  10. This one wasn't as terrible as everybody said it was but I will admit that it could have been a bit better when it came to evening out its action and story. Reynolds was good though, but really deserves a film that helps out his dramatic and comedic abilities. Good review Rod.

      Dan O. — April 17, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

  11. Like Ruth, I still haven't seen this. Ryan Reynolds is usually quite a laugh but I just wasn't that interested when it came out. I don't know the Green Lantern story very well so perhaps that was a contributing factor.

    PS Sorry for being AWOL for so long, I've recently got a new job so have been mad busy! Moving house this weekend so after that I should be back blogging full time :D

      Claire — April 18, 2012 @ 7:13 am

  12. I haven't seen the last few movies you've reviewed and I don't think I plan too either. I might've been interested in Green Lantern at some point in time, but then the horrible reviews and terrible CGI came into my eyes. DC Comics will have to reboot this character if they ever want to have a Justice League movie.

      Max — April 18, 2012 @ 9:37 am

  13. Oh good lord, such a terrible movie. The bad CGI and the "acting" from Ryan Reynolds has hoefully sunk this turd forever. Too bad DC, you had a good chance to make your Justice League movie and you've ruined it with this abortion.

      Asato — April 24, 2012 @ 7:12 pm

  14. Nice review, man. I thought it was an okay film, although there was plenty of room for improvement. I don't quite get the complete hatred the film had from people around the place, because as far as dumb fun goes, it's not such a bad movie.

      Benfield — April 24, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

  15. Normally I like Ryan Reynolds in whatever he does, but this film just annoyed me. the stupid CGI costume and the terrible script ruined a perfectly good opportunity to make Green Lantern a viable cinema entity. Such a shame.

      Sally — April 24, 2012 @ 8:15 pm

  16.  Thanks man, as always, for your kind words!!

      fernby — May 4, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

  17. I'm so glad someone else FINALLY said it!!! I like Ryan Reynolds personally, but the man won't be winning an Oscar anytime… Ever. His acting bothers me. Just his annoying mannerisms. I can't explain it, but you know it when you see it. He just seems to be trying to be funny. you know?! Every roll is the same. No depth. I wish I could describe it better. I guess it got him this far & I'm happy for the guy, but… Can't last forever. It gets OLD FAST!! I predict his career is past its due date at this point. Seems he knows this too! Looks like he is shifting gears and using his current position to branch into producing. Again! I like the guy! I hope he makes a truck load of money and is super successful, but… He really isn't a very good actor. I'm just sick of the crap Hollywood spoon feeds us. Find the real talent out there and make some original, GOOD movies again!!! Not remakes of remakes! Garbage upon garbage. If people weren't so bored and stupid, we wouldn't spend our money on the tripe to put on the screen. Then things would change.

      Kevin — August 14, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

  18. I stand by my claim that Buried is Reynolds' best film to date. have you seen it, Kevin? You might just be surprised by how good he is in it. Admittedly, that doesn't help Green Lantern, and I doubt the knockers will change their tune any time soon, but I think given the right script and a strong director, a good (or great) performance is not too far away for Ryan…..

      Rodney — August 14, 2012 @ 8:59 pm

  19. Man, I take it you didn't like the film, then? Ha ha, fair enough, I understand not everyone ha the same tolerance as I do for utter crap.

      Rodney — February 8, 2014 @ 2:46 pm

  20. Thanks for getting around to check out my stuff, mate! Good to hear from you! I agree – it's not such a bad movie!

      Rodney — February 8, 2014 @ 2:47 pm

  21. I've long been a fan of Reynolds too, especially his more recent work like Buried and even Blade: Trinity, which I thought was awesome. Thanks for stopping by!

      Rodney — February 8, 2014 @ 2:47 pm

  22. Thanks for dropping by, Nascent. Glad you enjoy Ryan Reynolds, and yes, we've got a review of Buried somewhere around the site… see if you can find it!

      Rodney — February 8, 2014 @ 2:48 pm

  23. Woah, hold up with the hate, mate! We're not saying that this film directly contributes to Hollywood's appetite for vacuous, stupid spectacle-driven blockbusters (although it certainly doesn't help that GL is exactly that kind of film) but we'll always defend a film as best as we can if it has even a small redeeming feature!

      Rodney — February 8, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

  24. No dramas, Claire, I've been a bit ill myself and haven't been around
    the site for a couple of days, so I know what it's like! Hope the move
    goes well. I think the lack of success of the film had more to do with a
    lack of knowledge of the character by the general audience than the
    fact the film was crappy in any way.

      Rodney — February 8, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

  25. Have you seen Buried, my friend? That's a film worthy of his dramatic abilities, for sure!

      Rodney — February 8, 2014 @ 2:49 pm

  26. Oh man…. you definitely should see Limitless at the very least. Green Lantern is worth a look if there's nothing else on TV, though. If DC ever do get around to doing a Justice League film, they've got plenty of groundwork to do so before that becomes a success. They need to introduce Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, The Martian Manhunter and Plastic Man to the world before JLA can be made – they should see how Marvel have done it so well and follow that path….

      Rodney — February 8, 2014 @ 2:50 pm

  27. Call it a lazy sunday afternoon time-waster and you'll be happy!

      Rodney — February 8, 2014 @ 2:51 pm

  28. Thanks Al, I admit I don't mind watching the racing for the crashes, but this one I actually enjoyed…..

      Rodney — February 13, 2014 @ 1:32 pm

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