Movie Review – Green Lantern

I discovered comic books back in the mid 1980s. We lived near a convenience store that stocked a fairly large number of them. I remember well going down there, getting a strawberry ice cream cone, playing some Super Mario Bros and buying comics.

Being an imaginative child, and a fan of science fictiony stuff, I very quickly gravitated to Green Lantern. And why not? Here was a set of stories that often took place in space, featured aliens by the gross and had a ring that could be used to make anything (though usually just made shield bubbles and giant fists). I really loved the comic, though as I aged I drifted away from comics in general and by the early 1990s had stopped reading any. These days I pick up the occasional graphic novel, but I haven’t read a monthly series in a very long time.

The character(s) of Green Lantern remain a favorite of mine, however, and when I heard DC was finally getting off their collective backsides and making a movie based around the comic, I rejoiced for about twenty seconds. Then reality hit. I’d always had a sneaking suspicion a Green Lantern movie would wind up being all about the special effects and wouldn’t have any real story. Sadly, I turned out to be right. What I didn’t anticipate was how ho-hum those FX would be.

The story centers around Hal Jordan, played by Ryan Reynolds, a man not entirely suited to the role. Jordan is a test pilot. Test pilots are known for being capable, disciplined and for taking their jobs seriously. Think of Chuck Yeager. Jordan was like that in the comic, but since he’s now a movie character he has to have issues centering around his dead father and be a maverick, and believe me I choose that word deliberately. The first few minutes of the film need only the sounds of “Danger Zone” playing in the background to be a Top Gun rip-off.

Anyhow, an alien and member of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police agency, ends up crashing and dying on Earth while fighting an evil space baddie named Parallax (and I’ve kept up on the comics enough to be confused, given that I know who Parallax was in the comics). His ring goes off and picks Jordan to be the next Green Lantern for this sector of space. “Hilarity” follows as we see Jordan getting used to his new ring, visiting Oa (the headquarters planet), meeting his fellow Green Lanterns and getting trained. That one of those fellow Green Lanterns is named Sinestro should serve as a warning to the people running the program, but for some reason doesn’t.

Back on Earth, in what’s a far more interesting plot development, Hector Hammond, a scientist very well played by Peter Sarsgaard, is recruited to study the remains of the alien who’d crashed. Hammond’s character is interesting, compelling and entertaining, all things Jordan really just isn’t. He eventually gets “infected” by Parallax and starts going mad. He is of course known to Jordan and in love with Jordan’s boss and ex-girlfriend, Carol Ferris. Because in comic books everyone knows everyone.

I really wanted to like this movie, but I really didn’t. The plot is incredibly boring and the movie itself is just dull as dishwater. The effects aren’t much to write home about, either. The technology exists to make photo realistic CGI people (see: Avatar), but that technology costs more than they are willing to spend for this movie. Aside from Sinestro, well-played by Mark Strong, none of the other Lanterns look very good and their world is not that impressive.

The other major problem is Ryan Reynolds. Given the right material, he’s not a bad actor, and he’s certainly quite easy on the eyes. Problem is that he’s not right for the role of Hal Jordan, and they changed too much of the character to suit his acting style rather than simply having him play a different version of the Green Lantern. Why not have him play Kyle Rayner, who is much closer to the acting style of Ryan Reynolds? Better yet, why not ditch Jordan and Rayner, and have the John Stewart version of Green Lantern? He was very popular in the Justice League animated series and it would have been a great chance to have a major super hero movie headlined by a black actor.

But, oh well. This wasn’t a horrible movie by any means, but it was dreadfully dull. If DC plans to use this as their version of Iron Man, which clearly they do as this movie even includes a post-credits teaser, and build up to a Justice League movie, well, they’re likely to be very disappointed. I know I was.


5 Responses to “Movie Review – Green Lantern

  1. Michael Amann Says:

    I don’t know I thought the special effects were awesome, the best part of the movie. I got the impression that most of the lanterns were SO WEIRD and the special effects so hard core that they had to inject some meaningless human drama so as to not alienate all the “humans” watching who wouldn’t be able to relate to all the strange xenomorphic aliens, my favorite. Also, they seemed to be trying to create some sort of Twilight type romance story to nab the audience’s attention. It seemed like an odd cutting and pasting of two stories. One drab and drama centered, the other quite far out and really creative. You can always find some flaw in the logic of the action for example, as an Elder, how could Parallax now know the axiom, the bigger you are the quicker you burn? It was a lantern that taught it to Hal Jordon. I mean c’mon, but I guess they had to beat the monster somehow. Hahaha. The old story of nerd has crush on girl his whole life and feels bitter when she falls for the a hole better looking guy is a bit tired. Do you have any blog posts about all the trite motifs that keep appearing in movies, again and again and again?? I sort of agree that Ryan Reynolds isn’t a good enough actor to play this role, but as a naive, fly by the seat of your pants sort of dare devil from an immature race, I guess it works. I hate how aliens always seem to find some good in humans. Unlike in Dr. Who, where most of aliens think of humans are crap, something I’ve always found refreshing.

    • Chris Says:

      I think you’ve hit it right on the head with some of your observations. I do think Reynolds is an ok actor, but this role just wasn’t right for him. Kyle Rayner would have been much better. And I don’t have anything about those trite motifs, but if you haven’t checked out TV Tropes, do so.

      • Michael Amann Says:

        That’s a good site. I’ll have to plod through all of those. If they work and audiences still buy them, what the hey, it’s better than working, I guess. I was just noticing that my beloved Dr. Who had fallen victim to generic story telling devices. For example in Cold Blood, several of them are used. 1) Dire countdown. The gas is going to be released into the compound so everyone has to leave. The clock counts down as any dialogue ensues. This adds tension as time gets shorter. A booster to this is, the Dr. or some character, stops and has a casual conversation as the clock winds down. This creates more tension as the countdown gets closer and closer.
        2) I will never leave you, no really. When the Grand Dad in Cold Blood decides to stay so the others can get out. Everyone says, “no I won’t leave you I won’t I wont…, then ends up leaving anyway. Boo hoo. How many times has that been used? Then it’s used AGAIN when Rory gets hurt and Amy has to leave him. She again asserts, say it with me “I won’t leave you I won’t leave you,” then ends up leaving him. I guess this is a cheap and sort of established use of the storytelling toolset. It’s almost like, why take a chance when I can pull a few tricks out of my hat? I guess I assume everyone gets as bored as I do seeing the same patterns. Weird.

  2. Chris Says: <— a great explanation of what went wrong, so horribly, horribly wrong, with this movie.

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