After honoring an oath of silence and seeing advanced screenings of film twice in two distinguished premieres earlier this week, words can be said about DC Comics and Warner Bros. latest superhero movie, Green Lantern. Being a fan of the character and comics myself, my initial reactions to the film adaptation of one of the world's most beloved comic book heroes can now be told, and it will certainly be a very detailed and biased review. SPOILERS are here obviously, so if you're looking to shy away from them, best turn away now. Otherwise, step into the world of green energy and harness as much willpower as you can to read through my analysis of this new hero flick and get an idea of just who the man with the power ring is. Thanks again goes to Warner Bros. PH for the movie screenings!
"In Brightest Day. In Blackest Night.
No Evil Shall Escape My Sight.
Let Those Who Worship Evil's Might...
Beware My Power... Green Lantern's Light!"
- The Green Lantern Oath
Movie: Green Lantern
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong, Peter Sarsgaard, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan
Directed By: Martin Campbell
Convoluted as it may seem to most people with only a passing knowledge of DC Comics' emerald warrior, the film adaptation of Green Lantern is a "straight and shoot" flick that does more than present your usual "superhero gets powers and saves the day" tale. It tells the story of an intergalactic peacekeeping force known as The Green Lantern Corps, who safeguard our universe from every evil across the galaxy. However, when a seemingly unbeatable evil entity of Fear known as Parallax arrives and threatens to destroy everything, the corps only hope lies with their newest recruit: an arrogant hotshot and pilot from Earth named Hal Jordan.
When the Corps greatest warrior named Abin Sur crash lands on Earth, he relinquishes his Power Ring to Jordan before dying, entrusting the human with great power and responsibility. Harnessing the energy of Willpower, the ring allows its user to turn thought into reality, granting Hal extraordinary abilities in the process. As the first human to receive this power, the Corps are not convinced at first with his selection. Furthermore, Hal's personal conflicts and trouble on Earth get worse when an old acquaintance named Hector Hammond finds himself with powers of his own and becomes a threat to the new Green Lantern and those around him. With the help and support of fellow co-pilot and love interest Carol Ferris, Jordan must not only prove that he can wield the ring, but also overcome any doubts and fears he has to find the courage necessary to fight Hammond and Parallax and prove he is the greatest Green Lantern of them all.
Now that we've gotten the backstory out of the way, it's time to get to the real meat of this post: the review itself.
I'll be honest. As a comic book fan growing up, I admired Hal Jordan as Green Lantern a great deal. He was the hotshot who defied authority and had an ego like no other, facing danger head on and taking on the bad guys without so much as a sweat on his brow. My loyalties may remain with The Batman, but the character had his own dimension and mythos that begged to be explored, more so with the reinvigoration of the franchise back in 2004 that saw Jordan return to the spotlight after a brief dance with evil and death. That's the Hal Jordan I remember... And that's what makes me gripe about the movie so much.
The truth is that I wasn't too impressed with the GL movie. It's not bad, but it barely gives viewers a clear understanding of who Hal Jordan is and what his world is. There's so much to squeeze in about the character and the Green Lantern mythos in general that I am not surprised that this 2 hour movie essentially failed to live up to my expectations in setting up what could have been Epic in scale. Fine, they explained who the Guardians of the Universe and Corps are and how a Power Ring works, but that's just a small part of what matters, which is truly the character and his background. Granted, cramming years of plot threads and story elements into a film is no easy task, but when you look at what current Green Lantern writer and famed DC scribe Geoff Johns has accomplished over the years, his tales can easily translate into film if the right writers just take and bake what's written in there properly. His "Secret Origin" storyline in particular (and a great read I might add) served as the inspiration behind this movie, and portrayed everything you needed to know about Hal, Sinestro, the GL Corps, and their supporting cast in a simple and cohesive narrative.
What the movie did was "trim down the fat" and sacrifice exposition for the bare gist of the plot said storyline offered. Gone were the defining moments that served to build quality in the story, such as the mentor-student relationship of Hal and Sinestro, and the complications of Hal's love life with Carol Ferris. Heck, Parallax here is an amalgamation of what it really was in the books and a prominent enemy in a current GL storyline that's about to conclude. All things considered, it would be foolhardy of me to say that the movie translated the story of Hal Jordan perfectly. It barely does the job as a matter of fact, and instead streamlines things for only a modern audience to consume, which I believe is a great tragedy to would be GL readers in general.
As far as casting goes, I still don't think Ryan Reynolds fits the bill as my definite choice to play Hal Jordan. His face doesn't have that arrogant heroic look many expect from someone playing the character, and in every scene he looks very unsure of himself. Yes it's supposed to be an origin story where he's still green (heh) and learning to overcome fear to become "the greatest Green Lantern of them all", but every time I see Ryan, I am reminded of his comedic roles and his tenure as Hannibal King and Wade Wilson/ Deadpool in the Marvel movies Blade: Trinity and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, respectively. Although he may not look the part, he did a good job nonetheless, and he deserves a pat in the back for his efforts overall. Blake Lively plays an ok Carol Ferris, but I feel a tad bad that her character wasn't fleshed out properly, more so by the fact that they just hinted her future role in the GL Mythos as Star Sapphire with her pilot codename instead of setting up potential events to come. Again, much of the characterizations in the movie were streamlined, so she's bunched up along with the likes of Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) and Sinestro (Mark Strong). Sarsgaard's Hammond is a totally different creature from the one in the comics, and they tried to channel a "Spider-Man" type parallelism with his character by having his beginnings as a villain mirror Hal's transformation into GL. He serves his purpose as villain of the movie, but not in a memorable capacity I'm afraid.
One of the positives I can get out of the movie was Mark Strong's casting as Sinestro, which I believe to be an excellent choice by the filmmakers. He fits the character to a tee, and my only disappointment lies with that fact that he and the other GL aliens don't get that much screen time. They're there only to guide and train Hal for a few short minutes, and there's hardly any presence felt with OA and the Corps until only when Hal Jordan visits and interacts with them. It's a pity really, especially with Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan lending their voices to Tomar-Re and Kilowog, respectively. I know they're planning to make sequels, but would it have been too hard to give them more of a role in this movie besides placing them in merely for exposition's sake? We won't know for sure, and it's really where the movie should place emphasis on next time should a sequel be in the works already.
For quality and presentation, I will say that the movie outdoes itself in the special effects department and succeeds in bringing a Lantern's powers to life effectively and reassuringly. Martin Campbell and Warner Bros. did a good job by allocating budget and going the extra mile to make "rendering constructs" a flawless task for GL and bringing the planet OA and the GL Corps to life. Back when the movie was in development, I had some doubts as to how far things would progress visually, but the final product shows that my faith wasn't misplaced, and I was happy with all the abilities the Ring could conjure up, as well as those amazing flying sequences. Simply breathtaking.
In the end, Green Lantern only does a fair job of presenting the Emerald Warrior to the big screen audience. I know it's a Martin Campbell movie and I've enjoyed much of his works (The Zorro and James Bond flicks in general), but I may have placed too much expectation on this one, and my background as a comic book reader has a lot to do with the criticisms and concerns I've laid out. Comparisons to past superhero movies, especially Spider-Man, can be seen here obviously, and I think there are hints of a possible shared universe being started here ala the Marvel movies that converge into The Avengers come 2012. What WB and DC should take out of this, however, is sticking to what works and crafting a tale that echoes more of Christopher Nolan's direction with his Batman movies. None of that is to be found here (yet there are funny nods to it if you look close enough), and just because it's a little dark doesn't mean an audience will appreciate it less (hopefully Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel" will follow that direction). Still, what's presented here is good enough, and the movie will do a decent job to entertain kids and adults looking for a quick superhero action flick.
Rating - 3/5