Green Lantern

Directed by Martin Campbell, 2011.
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, Taiki Waititi, Angela Basset.
114 mins.

Combating a fearsome galactic menace, dying alien Abi Sur travels to earth, where he meets hotshot pilot Hal Jordan – whom he gives him a powerful weapon, and urges to take his place in the mighty Green Lantern Corps…

IN THE WAKE OF of Marvel Studios’ string of hits, Warner Bros sought to bring a previously untapped four-colour classic to the big screen. With one of the richest and most well-defined mythologies in the superhero genre, endless potential for spectacle, and wise-cracking star Ryan Reynolds in the lead role, DC Comics’ Green Lantern seems ideal for blockbuster treatment. It had scope far beyond most movies of the genre; it could be everything from Spider-Man to Star Wars.

Don’t get your expectations up. Green Lantern is a decent effort that was victim of a huge critical lambasting, and subsequently collapsed at the box office; a backlash, though,  that was more the result of the movie not realizing it’s sky-high potential than being genuinely bad. Director Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale)  solidly covers all the basics, but his point-and-shoot approach is suited to more grounded, stunt-filled action movies like Bond; he never really embraces the possibilities of the CGI-fuelled concept on offer here – a hero who can materialize any object he desires in a second, made of shimmering green willpower projected from an alien ring.

In addition, the central character of Hal Jordan is transformed from the comics’ blue collar, seat-of-the-pants daredevil to a wisecracking, irresponsible shirker; this is Ryan Reynolds playing himself as a superhero. Warner Bros were banking on his undeniable charm and humour to replicate Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man triumph. But this robs the viewer of a potentially interesting and fresh take, a engine-grease, regular Joe superhero, who is nether shy science geek, millionaire playboy or tortured loner.

That aside, the movie is more-or-less faithful to the comic it’s based on. It’s never less then competent and entertaining, but never reaches the high notes ones hopes for in the genre. The greatest asset of the movie is Mark Strong’s wolf-in-slightly-less-scary-wolf’s-clothing Sinestro. Both creepy and respectable at once, Sinestro adds genuine otherworldly presence to proceedings, while also making the ultimate hard-ass drill commander for Jordan’s induction into the Lantern Corps. The requisite training scene effectively showcases the powers of the ring while also setting up a fierce rivalry between the two; though Sinestro ultimately grows to respect his upstart colleague, it’s merely the first step of an intriguing ‘hate-respect’ relationship which has lasted fifty years in the comics.

A more expansive tale than most comic book movies, Green Lantern often approaches the scope and scale of Star Wars

Like many recent movies of the genre, Green Lantern fills many small roles with established actors in hope of giving them more to do in potential sequels. Future Thor: Ragnarok director Taika Waititi  simply provides a frat-boy sparring partner for Reynolds, while Tim Robbins essays that rarest of screen characters; the supervillain’s daddy. Blake Lively is solid as love interest Carol Ferris, but hugely unlikely as both ace fighter pilot and corporate mogul. She shares a certain chemistry with Reynolds (the two later married), and humorously points out how ineffective his mask is. Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan lend famous tones to animated characters.

Speaking of animated characters, the geek-to-freak villain Hector Hammond provides plenty of weird, skittish menace after being effected by alien goo. An increasingly unhinged Peter Skarsgard is clearly enjoying the role, thankfully keeping ham to a minimum despite ridiculous prosthetics. Hammond is only the starter villain however; soul-drinking, cloud-shaped abomination Parallax soars through space like an intergalactic Great White, intent on spreading devastation and death across planet earth.

Which would be bad.

Green Lantern is a movie that could only exist after the birth of CGI, and as you’d expect, the screen is often filled with spectacular visuals. A more expansive tale than most comic book movies, the film often approaches the scope and scale of Star Wars; offering deep space combat, an intergalactic civilisation and more than a cantina-full of bizarre extra-terrestrials. Characters such as humanoid hippo Kilowog and bird/fish man Tomar Re show just how far digital effects have come, whilst also highlighting great art design in turning the simple cartoons of the 60’s comics into a living, breathing alien menagerie.

For a genre that straddles the boundaries between the everyday and complete fantasy, Green Lantern will be a tipping point for some. Aside from the inherent ridiculousness of the power ring (the movie wisely doesn’t even attempt to explain it), this is a movie which features, as a climax, a man fighting a huge brown space blob with green aeroplanes and boxing gloves he creates out of his own willpower. It never collapses under it’s own inherent absurdity, but fans of Christopher Nolan’s grounded Batman outings should stay well clear.

If this is to be the only Green Lantern movie, at least for the time being, then it does at least feature many of the highlights of half a century of comic mythology; the death of Abin Sur, Hal Jordan’s initiation, the Corps, Parallax, the fall of Sinestro. All this and more is neatly mixed into the storyline, rather than simply being a greatest hits collection ala Daredevil (2003). Although not quite the blockbuster fans were hoping for, Green Lantern should suffice until the character returns the big screen. Hopefully it’s not too far away – the potential is certainly there.

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Review by Betamax Sandtheft

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