Movie Review: Green Lantern

I’ve always been more of a Marvel fan than a DC fan, though I love the Superman and Batman movies, when it comes to comics I’ve always followed more closely the likes of Spider-Man and The X-Men. We are now entering an age of Hollywood where, partly because of CGI capabilities and partly because of prior box office results, comics that stretch the limits of imagination are being considered for live action adaptations. This month saw a new character brought to the big screen for the first time, one I was only vaguely aware of – Green Lantern.

This year alone we’ve already had Thor and X-Men: First Class, with Captain America due next month, next year The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and reboots of Superman and Spider-Man, all of which I admit I know a lot better than Green Lantern, which I still had some knowledge of, but not of a similar level. I was also advised by the friend I saw the movie with, and a few others online who are far more versed in that universe, of certain characters and events.

First off, one thing that I want to get out-of-the-way – I saw this in 2D. This decision was made as Green Lantern was not shot in 3D, it was retro-converted in post production, and I can tell you at no time did I think ‘that was framed for 3D’ (see Drive Angry for multiple examples of this) – it wasn’t shot in 3D, hence it does not need to be seen in 3D. Avatar? Fantastic, the perfect example of how 3D should be done(although, I still think the special effects of that movie look better in 2D), the experience I had earlier this year watching Thor convinced me I shall only be watching something that was 3D to begin with, not added as an afterthought.

The movie starts with a voiceover to set up the basic premise of the Green Lantern Corps, a force for good throughout the universe that was created by a race of immortals who divided the universe into 3600 sectors with members patrolling them. Each received a ring, powered by the green energy of will, that allowed them to conjure anything their mind could imagine.

Among their finest warriors, an alien named Abin Sur, who defeated and trapped an alien named Parallax who, powered by the yellow energy of fear, has now escaped his imprisonment. After narrowly surviving an attack by Parallax, a critically injured Abin Sur, realising that he will soon succumb to his wounds, sets course for the nearest habitable planet – Earth, to start the selection process to find his successor.

On Earth is Hal Jordan(Ryan Reynolds), an irresponsible fighter pilot, who risks his life during a combat test against two drones to prove a point. Hal defeats them, risking the project’s future, and when his aircraft stalls, he is forced to eject after being distracted by thoughts of his father’s plane related death when he was a child. Shortly thereafter, he is whisked away by a ball of green energy, to Abin Sur’s crash site. His last actions are to give his power ring to Hal, and tell him the ring chose him to be his replacement.

Hal, uncertain of what to do, goes about his life, and during a fight with a drunken group from the aircraft company, unintentionally uses the ring to fight them off, manifesting a giant fist that sends them all flying. The ring then under its own power, sends him out deep into space arriving at Oa, the home world of the Green Lantern Corp, so he can be inducted into their ranks. Meanwhile, another of the Lanterns named Sinestro who doubts Hal’s resolve, learns of Parallax’s trail of destruction as he makes his way to Oa, a path that will take him first to Earth.

It’s a surprise that this movie has four screenwriters including Michael Goldenberg (who wrote the script for Harry Potter & The Order Of The Phoenix), you would think that with that many they would come up with more of a story. I will admit I did enjoyed it, my low expectations were met, but just barely and by movie’s end I wished for something more given the accomplished direction of Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) and editing of Stuart Baird (Executive Decision).

As I said, I didn’t know the story of the Green Lanterns that deeply, but I was aware of a few things, such as that the colour yellow is a weakness of the Lanterns, that a Lantern is supposed to be without fear. Though the former is not really covered in the movie, the latter is a large part of the development of Hal from being a reckless, irresponsible fighter jock, to full-blown superhero, something that Reynolds pulls off, but never intently. Sadly, his is the only character who really gets any strong development throughout the movie.

The character of Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) is written as a basic potential love interest, and Lively does the best she can with it, but it’s largely a thankless role, and given her character’s origins in the comic book (See below) there should have been more of her character developed in the movie. Peter Sarsgaard is a decent and threatening adversary as Hector Hammond, a scientist brought in by the government to autopsy the alien body of Abin Sur.

Up to that point he appears to be a gentle scientist, but is infected by remnants of Parallax from Abin Sur’s wounds, and gets a startling physical transformation as well as apparent telepathy and telekinetic abilities, which we only see briefly used. Again, his character could, and should have been further developed. A love triangle sub plot involving his jealousy of Hal over the character of Carol’s love interest does not quite pay off, feeling instead that it was forced into the story to try to bulk up the rivalry between the two, but ultimately fails.

There’s some effective voice casting with Geoffrey Rush as Tomar-Re and Michael Clark Duncan as Kilowog, other Lanterns that train Hal once he arrives on Oa. There are also what could only be described as ‘extended cameos’ for Tim Robins and Angela Bassett, Bassett in particular, given that she plays Amanda Waller, a prominent character in the DC universe.

A character I was already aware of was Sinestro and the dramatic change he undergoes in the comics. Portrayed by Mark Strong in the movie, though heavily covered by flawless CGI, his performance is better than Reynolds, and helps to solidify the movie in his moments on-screen (stay after the credits for a small scene setting up his character’s arc for a sequel). As mentioned above, the Carol Ferris role is critically underutilised and needed further development beyond a love interest. I was especially made aware of this after the movie as she has a more important role in the comics. Given the development of Sinestro for a sequel, it seems odd that her role would not be written better as could some of the elements lost in the transfer from comic to screen.

A scene which felt horrible rushed when Hal has to recharge the ring before he could even turn on the Green Lantern uniform after only having used it briefly the night before, should have been expanded upon, as later in the movie it seems to have an almost limitless amount of energy. Only later on after the movie, was I advised by a friend that the ring needs to be charged every 24 hours, something that could have easily been explained in a scene where Hal finds himself unable to use the ring. It would have given the character a little more vulnerability, and all for a simple throwaway line of dialogue. There’s also something that happens at the end of the movie which seems very much like a ‘oh, we forgot… never mind’.

The movie is one of the most special effects heavy movies I’ve seen, with the entire opening being all CGI, and for the most part the effects are good throughout, with the planet of Oa and characters such as Abin Sur, Sinestro, and Parallax being among the best, the constructs that a Lantern can create are believable, and the Lantern uniforms (which are fully computer generated) work – but only just. Some effects needed more work though, the dogfight in particular and some points during the final confrontation.

The musical score by James Newton-Howard serves the movie, but as seems the trend with comic book movies, is void of any real character theme. At times it also relies too heavily on a synthesizer beat when the orchestra’s music would have done. Less is more in this case. There are a few highlights to be found, like the scene where Hal first recites the Green Lantern Corps oath:

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!

Overall, I enjoyed the movie, but as mentioned above, was left wishing there had been more, that the script had been more refined, and the development of the characters stronger. I suspect that the average moviegoer, who has no knowledge of the source material will enjoy it if they have an open mind to science fiction, while fans who are heavy into the Green Lantern universe may be disappointed and not be able to see past the missed opportunities.

There is a rumour that this may be the first in a DC series of movies linking the universe together in the same way, possibly with a view to Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot next year leading up to a Justice League movie similarly to what Marvel is doing with The Avengers, if this is an example of how well they intend to do that, they need to raise the bar. The movie has had a slightly disappointing opening weekend in the States, coming first but only taking an estimated $52 million at the box office, and will need to do better to get a sequel, given it’s budget which is estimated to be around the $150 million mark.

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