It is time at last for my review of the Green Lantern film. The movie officially opens today, but I actually saw Green Lantern at a special preview screening (in 3D!) on June 15th. I had originally planned to post my review on the Monday after opening weekend, but I figured you folks couldn’t wait! I might as well get on with it. Spoiler warning from here on out…
I’m likely going to get shouted down as a pariah, pelted with rocks, and drummed out of the Green Lantern Corps for this, but I’m not going to lie to you. Green Lantern can be summed up in a single word: disappointing.
That’s not to say that Green Lantern is unforgivably terrible; I’ve certainly seen worse films (the Star Wars prequels and Transformers movies come to mind). It’s also not due to Green Lantern fans hyping the film beyond all possible expectation (though I’m sure plenty of them did). Finally, I’m not saying you should outright avoid Green Lantern; I did enjoy it, for the most part. It’s just a simple case of style over substance, and the film’s cons sadly outweigh its pros.
Before we get into the downsides of the film, let’s talk about the parts of Green Lantern that were really good.
First and foremost, I’m sure everyone wants to know about how well Ryan Reynolds and the rest of the cast pulled off their respective characters. All of the acting in the film was pretty good, even when the script veered into cheese territory. Reynolds in particular was both a good and bad choice for Hal Jordan. He pulled off the character without a problem, injecting plenty of humor as well as humility into the role. Hal was a relatable character, even though he gets to fly military jets and we don’t. However, it was very difficult to see past Reynolds as a comedic actor, because that’s what a majority of his roles have been. Instead of Hal Jordan the Green Lantern, it was much more like Ryan Reynolds the Green Lantern. Reynolds himself is not to blame for this; it’s hardly his fault that he’s typecast. Reynolds made a great Hal, but perhaps an actor outside of the comedy realm would’ve been an even better choice.
Blake Lively did a much better job as Carol Ferris than many fans were initially willing to give her credit for. Her few lines in the trailers didn’t inspire much confidence, but as usual, it’s all about the context. We all know how stunningly gorgeous she is, but Lively was quite convincing as Carol. Aside from being the obvious love interest, she managed to paint a convincing picture as a hardass businesswoman as well. Even when she served as the damsel in distress, it didn’t come off as pandering or sexist.
In the “foregone conclusion” category, Mark Strong was excellent as Sinestro. In fact, his performance was the strongest in the film (no pun intended). Strong excels at playing intelligent bad guys, and even though Sinestro’s not a villain here, his arrogant streak shines through thanks to Strong’s performance. His expressions and body language somewhat hinted towards Sinestro’s eventual downfall, though the intercredits sequence featuring him surprised non-comics fans, as there just wasn’t enough character development in that direction. Regardless, I would’ve liked to have seen Sinestro appear even more in the film.
Everyone else played their parts well, though there wasn’t enough focus on most of the other characters to really let them stand out. Even Hector Hammond didn’t get as big a role as the trailers suggested, though Peter Sarsgaard was great, chewing right through the scenery as the mad telepath.
Beyond the acting, Green Lantern had some other cool stuff that stood out in my mind. The scene where Carol recognizes Hal through his mask and poorly altered voice was great. The domino mask disguise may have worked during the Silver Age, but it’s beyond implausible onscreen. I was glad to see the filmmakers poke fun at this, as well as Hal’s big helicopter rescue at the party. The Hot Wheels track was ridiculous, but when Tom Kamalku called Hal out on it later, it made the scene a lot more believable.
The training sequence with Kilowog and Sinestro was just what we’d hoped for: Hal getting his ass beat by his superiors, but showing a glimmer of the powerful Green Lantern he’d become. Unfortunately, it’s the only scene that spotlights Kilowog, and nearly the entire thing was shown in the trailers!
The creation of a yellow ring by the Guardians was a neat surprise. The fact that they’d even consider such a desperate measure gave them a bit more character than the stuffy old farts they were initially presented as. Their movie appearance still reminds me of the Talosians, but at least they’re not the assholes those aliens were.
How were the special effects? We all know that Warner Brothers really pushed the effects teams hard for Green Lantern, and it shows. A few shots on Oa didn’t look so hot, due to Reynolds’ being head plastered on a computer-generated body surrounded by digital backgrounds and aliens, but everything else was just fine. The design of the various alien Green Lanterns looked fantastic in motion, and everyone’s uniform had a neat pulsing aura around them when they were in flight.
Most importantly, the constructs looked very cool. Aside from the expected green glow, they had a metallic quality which made them look more realistic and tangible. Aside from the usual firearms and melee weapons, a few more unique constructs found their way into the film. For example, Hal used a pool of water to catch a falling Dr. Waller, the aforementioned race car and track to stop a crashing helicopter, and a pair of F-35 jets to pull himself away from the sun.
I mentioned that the preview I attended was screened in 3D, so let me offer a few words on that. I actually consider this to be a separate criticism from the film, as Green Lantern was originally shot in 2D and intended by the director to be presented that way. Films converted to 3D after the fact will always suffer; computer-generated imagery can be rendered again with a second software camera to create a three-dimensional effect, but nothing can be done to add depth to previously filmed actors or physical objects. To paraphrase Montgomery Scott, “Ya cannae change the laws of physics!”
In other words, don’t bother shelling out the extra few bucks to see Green Lantern in 3D; some of the effects look great, but everything else looks flat. When live actors are mixed with the 3D effects, it looks awful. There’s one scene in particular where Hal is flying alongside Tomar-Re, and it looks like someone slapped a cardboard Ryan Reynolds face on a video game character. This is not a knock against Green Lantern itself; it’s solely a marketing trap, and you’d do well not to fall for it.
And now, the moment you’ve been dreading…the parts of Green Lantern that reeked of stupidity. These are what really dragged Green Lantern down, and in many cases, there was simply no excuse for them.
First and foremost…the script just didn’t work too well. No less than four people worked on it, and it shows. The actors did the best they could with what they were given, but quite a few lines and dialogue just came off as hokey. I’m not even talking about bits clearly meant to be humorous; even the more serious pieces didn’t always sound right.
Editing is also where Green Lantern runs into problems. There were a lot of slapdash cuts and other edits in the film; too many scenes seemed to jump around without a clear sense of direction, and cutting from one camera angle to another didn’t always go smoothly. In particular, the pivotal scene where Hal is remembering his father’s death while falling to Earth himself in a dead jet was far too rough.
Moving on to specific plot points that fell short, we’re told that Abin Sur imprisoned Parallax on the dead world of Ryut. Well, “imprisoned” is hardly the correct word here; he basically just dumped Parallax underground and hoped no one would find him. All it took was the accidental discovery of the villain by some innocent alien spacemen to set him free! If Parallax was that big of a threat, you’d think Abin Sur would’ve taken much more reliable steps to keep the bastard locked up.
When Hal arrives on Oa, he’s medically scanned…and then tortured. What the hell was that all about?! This scene made absolutely no sense at all. It ends with Hal awakening in his Green Lantern Corps uniform for the first time, but that still doesn’t explain why he was tortured. The ring just creates that shit out of energy anyway.
Let’s talk about Hal making his first public appearance as Green Lantern on Earth. I find it very interesting that a helicopter crashed into a party of hundreds of people…and not a single person got hurt. Come on! Hal later claims that he saved all their lives, but he really didn’t. He only saved Carol. Everyone else got out of the way before Hal did anything, and they did so in a quick and orderly fashion. Yeah, like that ever happens.
How about Hal magically finding Hector Hammond at a secret government facility? We see Hal hanging out by his car, then cut to Hammond being a cackling villain at his lab…and then Green Lantern comes busting through the walls. How did he know what Hammond was up to? How did he even know where the facility was? It’s like a critical chunk of the plot was edited out, and that’s never a good thing.
In fact, the entire Hammond subplot seemed rather pointless. Sure, he gained power from a fragment of Parallax’s energy, but it wasn’t required to advance the story. Even if you say that Hammond was necessary to draw Parallax to Earth, that still could’ve been written off. Parallax was consuming plenty of worlds on its way to Oa; Earth simply could’ve been in its path. It’s disappointing, because Peter Sarsgaard did do a fantastic job as Hammond, as I said. It would’ve been better to give his role a little more meat; make him the primary villain for this film, and save Parallax for a sequel. (And what the hell was that stupid spinning thing in the back of Hammond’s lab?)
Then there’s the final battle against Parallax. The monster’s on Earth, gobbling up humans (while politely leaving buildings perfectly intact), but it leaves this massive source of nourishment behind in order to chase Hal into space. I guess you could write it off as obsessive revenge, but it still seems a bit shortsighted. That’s not the real problem with this scene, though. Apparently, the writers believe that Earth, the asteroid belt, and the sun are all in very close proximity to one another. Hal and Parallax duke it out between these three environments with little to no sense of distance.
Parallax is ultimately defeated by being dumped into the sun. Why would fear energy be affected by gravity? It looks like Parallax built its “body” out of debris or something, so that being pulled in makes sense. But given how extraordinarily powerful Parallax was (it consumed civilizations, fer crissake), would it really have that much trouble maintaining orbit? Not only that, using a godlike being as the main threat in the first film of what may become a franchise is not a good idea. In the sequels, any threat will be lessened by default.
The trailers showed scenes of the Green Lantern Corps on Oa, ostensibly preparing for battle…but that’s not what happened. Sinestro talked them all up, but there were no big Corps fights whatsoever in the film. (It even looked like they used the exact same footage of Sinestro raising his arms before the Corps both in the middle of the film and at the end, but I can’t be certain.) The closest they came was when Sinestro took a small group to hunt down Parallax, and that battle ended very quickly as the villain murdered everyone except Sinestro. I understand that the first film in a superhero franchise has to be the origin story, and that the focus was rightfully placed on Hal, but a little more Corps action would’ve been nice.
James Newton Howard composed the score for Green Lantern…and it was awful. This is absolutely unacceptable, as Howard has produced excellent scores before; just look at his work with Hans Zimmer on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The only real themes were the title sequence and the credits, and even then, much of the music devolved into generic rock orchestra tropes heard everywhere today. The score lacked heart and soul, and it’s a damned shame.
Now, as with any film adaptation, there were significant deviations from the source material. It’s important to note that these are neither positive nor negative; this is a film, not the comics, and the audience should not have to be familiar with the source material in order to enjoy the movie. Sweeping changes really don’t bother me, and they shouldn’t bug you too much either, as the film really needs to stand on its own.
Of course, you readers are comic book fans, so let’s examine a few of the more notable changes. (Other than the visual design, of course.)
- Parallax is Krona. This surprised me, as I was under the impression that Krona would be possessed by the giant space bug seen in the comics. Instead, he wields the power of fear himself and becomes Parallax. This origin story is actually much like that of the original Parallax, before it was retconned into a sentient fear entity. Not only that, Krona is never even mentioned by name!
- The rings charge very quickly, and no oath is required. Yes, we see Hal recite the oath when the battery first “activates” itself, but when he charges it later on, it only takes a split-second touch. This makes the rings very much like Kyle Rayner’s original ring, but even his took a few seconds to charge. Also like Kyle’s ring, there’s no twenty-four-hour power limit; it functions more like a gas tank.
- There is no weakness to yellow. This was a classic weakness in the older comics. In the modern tales, the rings aren’t weak against yellow unless the wielder feels fear. In the film, no weakness whatsoever is mentioned.
- The Central Power Battery is at Oa’s core. It’s only seen briefly, but this is a change I definitely approve of. Why put your primary power source on the surface, where it’s a giant glowing target for orbital bombardment?
Green Lantern certainly had its high points, but there were so many glaring problems that it was disappointing overall, even for those of us who had tempered our expectations. It feels like a missed opportunity more than anything else. I did enjoy the film in spite of its flaws, however, and I see nothing wrong with checking it out for yourself and drawing your own conclusions. Just don’t get caught up in the hype! Even if you decide not to see Green Lantern in the theater, at the very least rent it in a few months.
The more obsessive hardcore fanboys will likely convince themselves that it’s a perfect film anyway, because on a subconscious level they need to in order to somehow justify their fandom. It doesn’t make sense, but let’s be honest with ourselves: we’ve all done it at one time or another. (I’m sure I’ll end up buying Green Lantern on Blu-ray anyway for my collection, and I bet the “making of” special features will be very interesting to watch.)
We can only hope that Green Lantern does well enough at the box office to give us an improved sequel. Perhaps the negative reviews will push the powers-that-be to try harder next time?
If you want some eye candy and mindless escapism, Green Lantern fits the bill, I suppose. Kids are sure to love it, too. But if you want to see a much better Green Lantern film, go with First Flight or Emerald Knights.
Now that my thoughts on the actual film content are said and done, I’m going to talk about the preview screening experience. To my surprise, not too many people showed up. (Since I live in the northeastern United States, I’m sure Game Seven of the NHL finals had something to do with it.)
Sorry about the blur. Cellphone camera + streaming sunlight = mess.
Our theater is pretty big, so we’re not talking about a tiny building in the middle of nowhere. Regardless, there weren’t even many comic book fans in attendance. I saw one, maybe two folks sporting Green Lantern shirts. Most of the crowd was made up of families, so at least some kids will get into it. The movie was shown on one of the theater’s larger screens, but the room was only about half to three-quarters full. I was surprised that the promoters shelled out for a 3D screening, too. The local radio station that sponsored the event was giving out prizes, including a 50″ plasma HDTV, but we didn’t win anything. Curses! I did catch a thrown Green Lantern t-shirt, but I gave it to the kid sitting next to me.
People actually obeyed the theater’s “no cellphone use” rule, which was a relief. However, that didn’t stop random audience members from yapping to one another, and one of these idiots was sitting right behind me, of course. After a few outbursts, I turned around and told him to quiet down…which he did, to his credit. I only wish I could’ve muzzled the rest of the talkers. Look, I know not all theaters can be as hardcore as the Alamo Drafthouse, but I still think the big chains should crack down on rude moviegoers. Seriously, if you want to run your mouth, get the fuck out and let the rest of us enjoy the flick in peace!
Hal Jordan deals with distractions in his own special way.
One last thing before I leave. I had mentioned earlier this month that I was going to avoid opening night because I can’t stand crowded movie theaters. So why did I bite the bullet and attend a preview screening, wherein there would potentially be even more people than usual?
It actually had nothing to do with my Green Lantern fandom…and everything to do with my father. He bought me a Green Lantern comic book way back in 1985, as he read them when he was a kid. (To this day, I still can’t recall which specific issue it was.) As such, my father is responsible for getting me into Green Lantern, and I knew from the moment the film was announced that I’d want to bring him along for the ride. I joked that I was going to force him to go, whether he wanted to or not; fortunately I didn’t have to press the issue, as the old man could probably take me in a fight.
It was even part of his Father’s Day gift; we were planning going to go on Saturday afternoon, but once I got my filthy hands on a pair of preview passes, my first thought was to call him up and see if he wanted to go earlier.
Bear in mind, my father is not a comic book fan. He read comics as a kid, but everyone did back then. In other words, my father represents the mass market audience (though perhaps not the age demographic) that Green Lantern is truly trying to reach, since the relatively tiny number of comic book readers out there isn’t nearly enough to make the film a success.
Want to know what he thought of it? Here’s a direct quote:
“If I was eight years old, I would have liked it. But as an adult, the dialogue really hurt. I give it a three out of ten.”
Yeah, my father wasn’t too happy with Green Lantern. At least he didn’t blame me! I’ll be sure to take him to a better film for Father’s Day next year.
And that’s that. Hopefully you found my Green Lantern film review somewhat informative, entertaining, or a mix of the two. Green Lantern movie month doesn’t end here, though, as I’ve still got a few more movie-themed posts in the pipeline.
In the meantime, I know you’ve got comments. Fire away, but keep it civil!