Green Lantern

Posted on June 16, 2011 at 9:52 am

Let’s get right down to it with the superhero essentials checklist.  Cool powers?  Check.  Interesting villain?  Check.  Interesting girlfriend?  Half a check.  Aliens?  Check.  Fancy gala party?  I’m not sure why that appears to be a crucial part of every superhero movie, but it’s here.  Working through some angsty parental issues?  Check.  Special effects and action sequences?  Maybe three-quarters of a check.  Does the superhero outfit avoid looking silly?  Half a check.  Is the 3D worth it?  No check.

Another month, another superhero, this time DC (home of Batman and Superman), not Marvel (home of the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and Thor).  Hal Jordan (a very buff Ryan Reynolds) is an irresponsible but irresistible rogue and a test pilot for a company that makes planes for the military.  He has an on- and off relationship with the test pilot/executive daughter of the head of the company, Carol Ferris (“Gossip Girl’s” Blake Lively).  When four members of the intergalactic force for peace and justice — think outer space Seal Team 6 — are killed by a creature who looks like a spider made of smoke, their special green lantern rings seek out the successors.  For the first time, a human is invited to join the Green Lanterns.  The alien dies, telling Hal only that he has to use the ring and lantern and say the oath.  Hal tries the only oaths he can think of — pledge of allegiance, He-Man — before the ring and lantern lights up and he gets it right: “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!“

It is fun as long as you don’t think too hard.  There’s so much nattering about Will versus Fear that it could have been written by Ayn Rand and directed by Leni Riefenstahl.  (Carol would be right at home with Dominique and Dagny.)  The Lanterns’ power includes calling into being anything they can imagine, which undercuts any peril and dramatic tension in the big confrontations.  It makes the struggle internal, one of strategic imagination and determination, not the best idea for a big special effects film.  The bad guys include a nerdy scientist whose exposure to the evil smoke-spider turns him into a misshapen, anger- and jealousy-driven madman, and the smoke-spider, whose surprising connection to the Lanterns makes him even more dangerous. But it seems unfocused, overly fussy and most likely re-cut following a poor reaction to an earlier version — characters like Hal’s nephew and best friend are introduced and then disappear and Angela Bassett barely appears as a scientist.  Mark Strong is a skeptical alien with a ridiculous mustache and even more ridiculous dialog, and the elders look like first-draft Yodas.  And everybody has father issues.  What, no one has a father who’s present and supportive? Aren’t there any mothers left?  Reynolds does fine as Hal but Lively never lives up to her name, swanning around in elegant sheaths and high heels but without any of the wit or energy of Gwenyth Paltrow’s Pepper Potts.  The credit sequence ends with a sneak peek at the villain for the next episode.  Let’s hope they have the will to call up something a little more fearless next time.

Parents should know that this film includes comic-book action violence and peril with human and alien characters injured, incinerated, and killed, some graphic images of wound and a dead body.  Two sons witness their fathers being burned alive, there are some scary monster-y looking aliens, various weapons and fistfight.  Characters use some strong language, there are some sexual references and a non-explicit situation.  It also includes revealing attire and alcohol (scene in a bar, character drinks to deal with stress).
Family discussion: Do you think fear is as powerful as will?  Can you will yourself to be courageous?  Why did Hal walk away from the things and people he cared about?  What do you learn about him from the choices he made in using the ring?
If you like this, try: “Iron Man” and the first two “Spider-Man” films and the Green Lantern comic books, especially the Golden Age and Neal Adams issues
Related Tags:


3D Action/Adventure Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel Fantasy Science-Fiction Thriller

8 Replies to “Green Lantern”

  1. Another great preview. I have to wonder about a super power that is limited by a character’s imagination. In the TV ads Reynolds/Jordan conjures up some steroid driven machine gun. Really? Counter this with the wizards duel from “Sword in the Stone”, and Jordan would learn that smaller is often more effective. I guess the lesson is to think clearly, don’t simply react.

    Green Lantern has always been a second tier hero. I gues sthis will simply underscore that role.

    Now what do you make of the redesigned costume for Superman in this month;’s comic book? No more underpants on the outside? At least he still has the cape. This will surely generate a lot of discussion at Comic Con next month.

  2. Yeah, this one really hasn’t been high on my list of must-sees, primarily because the initial marketing push was so cheesy and unfunny. I really do like Ryan Reynolds, but your ho-hum response to this just confirms my first impression. I’ll have to check it out on Netflix, but won’t be putting my hard earned dollars into the movie ticket box.

  3. Why do I get the feeling that I’m going to be defending this movie for the forseeable future? I still defend X-Men: The Last Stand and Ang Lee’s Hulk but sometimes I feel like I’m talking to a mass of brick walls. I figured this movie would be somewhat silly because the comic book is. It would be hard to make a straight, serious Green Lantern film that wasn’t silly on some level. Because I know this going in, I know exactly what to expect when I see it tomorrow and I’m sure I’ll have a great time. A good comparison to make would be Ghost Rider. That film is ridiculous, but Nicholas Cage put in such a great, over-the-top performance that he made it work and it’s one of my favorite comic book films for that reason. I’m looking forward to seeing the sequel next year.

    1. Thanks, Vince! It didn’t do very well with critics or ticket-buyers, but I enjoyed it. I liked “X-Men: The Last Stand,” too!

  4. I saw the film and enjoyed it. I agree with the point that you need not try to do too much thinking. Instead, just relax and enjoy it for what it is- a superhero fun film.

  5. After reading Geoff Johns’ run on the book over the last few months (up to the end of Brightest Day) and rewatching the movie tonight, I really want to see Ryan get another chance in the current DC film universe.

    1. Good to hear, Toby! I’d like to see Green Lantern get a better movie, but I am not sure RR is the best guy for the part. I hope you see him in Self/Less. I’d love to hear what you think.

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