Green Lantern (United States, 2011)

June 17, 2011
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Green Lantern Poster

When it comes to bringing their top-line superheroes to the big screen, DC has been lagging behind Marvel in recent years. While Marvel has aggressively built franchises, DC has shown little inclination to attempt more than occasional new installments for their Big Two: Batman and Superman. Green Lantern, which provides a motion picture introduction for another member of the Justice League, is designed to change that. Although the idea of a Green Lantern movie has been floating around for about 15 years, it wasn't until after the phenomenal success of The Dark Knight that it was (pun intended) green lit. Considering all the time this concept has been percolating, however, the result is disappointing. As origin stories go, this one would seem to have the potential to be innovative. Unfortunately, the four (!) credited screenwriters and director Martin Campbell do their best to force Green Lantern's uniqueness into the expected story mold. The result makes the movie seem assembled from bits and pieces of other superhero yarns rather than existing on a plane of its own.

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a hot shot pilot who puts ego above fraternity. A day after being fired for accidentally destroying an expensive fighter plane during a war game, Hal makes an unlikely discovery: a dying purple alien (Temeura Morrison) who gives him a green lantern imbued with cosmic powers and its associated ring. After putting on the ring and pledging allegiance to the lantern, Hal finds himself transported to another world where he learns that he is now a member of the Green Lantern Corps: a band of intergalactic warriors who use the power of Will to fight against the forces of evil and Fear. In addition to getting a quick crash course on how to use his Will and receiving a dressing-down from Sinestro (Mark Strong), the leader of the Green Lanterns, Hal learns that an ancient enemy, the Parallax, has been released from its prison and is rampaging through the galaxy, heading (of course) for Earth. Wearing a cool new costume, Hal returns to his home planet to confront the Parallax's agent, Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), prove his worth to his ex-girlfriend, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), and defeat the bad guy.

The Green Lantern screenplay has been assembled by picking plot elements from the Superhero Cliché grab bag. Nothing is likely to surprise anyone, Green Lantern fan or otherwise. On the other hand, ignoring the cringe-inducing dialogue and occasional instances of CGI fakery, it can be argued that the production has been assembled competently. Simply put, Green Lantern is capable of diverting those who relish superhero movies but it contains little to seduce others. A viewer's reaction to the trailer will provide an excellent gauge as to whether he will like the movie. Green Lantern is not a sequel but the pervasive sense of familiarity causes it to feel like one, despite the origin plot line.

Ryan Reynolds sells Hal's transformation from self-absorbed hotshot to self-sacrificing champion. Reynolds' interpretation of the Green Lantern's journey is similar to what Chris Pine gave us with James T. Kirk in 2009's Star Trek, although it's a cut below how Robert Downey Jr. traversed Tony Stark's parallel character arc in Iron Man. The mentor/student relationship between Sinestro and Hal is far from the best we've seen in a superhero movie (contrast it with, for example, the one in Batman Begins). Reynolds does the best he can with the limited material he has been given.

The most interesting secondary character is Hector Hammond, although he is badly treated as Green Lantern moves toward its climax. Hector's conflicted, angry personality, his buried jealousy, and his daddy issues all represent the building blocks of a fascinating anti-hero (not unlike Loki in Thor) but, after developing him, the screenplay can't seem to figure out how to use him, so his potential is never fulfilled. Would that similar short shrift had been given to Carol, who may be the most lifeless superhero love interest since Kim Basinger's Vicki Vale in Tim Burton's Batman. As appealing as Blake Lively might be in the right role, she's miscast here and it shows in her wooden, unconvincing delivery. A life-size Barbie Doll would emote better.

Visually, Green Lantern is a mixed bag. The CGI is variable - occasionally impressive, sometimes cartoonish. The 3-D, although saddled with the usual problems, is less aggravating than is often the case. In fact, many scenes make little or no use of it, so it's possible to watch stretches of the movie without the glasses and not notice any double images. There is some blurriness during the action scenes, but that's to be expected. 2-D is probably the way to go for Green Lantern, but at least if you're stuck seeing it in 3-D, you won't want to gouge your eyes out (although you'll still have to pay the surcharge for the dubious privilege).

Warner Brothers would like us to believe Green Lantern is one of the 2011 summer's "tent poles," but this is more in the nature of what one expects from a February superhero movie. It's not the kind of production to generate excitement outside its core audience. It's passable entertainment, but not much more than a two hour distraction. Green Lantern's generic, derivative approach causes this motion picture to fall into the stereotyped hole from which the superhero genre has been trying to escape.

Green Lantern (United States, 2011)

Run Time: 1:52
U.S. Release Date: 2011-06-17
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1