For those not in the know, the DC Comics character Green Lantern is a super hero who wears a powerful ring that can create whatever the wearer wills. Before going into the new Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern film I willed it really hard not to suck, and let's just say, like the heroic Green Lantern of Earth, Hal Jordan, I was able to do just that.
Unfortunately my will was not strong enough, because I was unable to get a great Green Lantern film to quell my fanboy appetite. It's okay, though, because hopefully the unsuspecting non-geek filmgoer will find something to enjoy in this comic book come to life and Green Lantern, like Marvel's Iron Man before it, will take a third tier character and propel him to the A list.
Directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, The Mask of Zorro), Green Lantern is a fun time at the movies. Much like last month's Thor, it takes a lot of liberty with the source material but it's mainly to fit within the cinematic parameters of movies these days, so we try to forgive it. So if you're a die hard GL fan, cut it some slack… you got a Green Lantern movie so quit your bitchin…
Green Lantern is the story of reckless test pilot Hal Jordan who flies jets for his obviously younger, sadly less hotter, test pilot partner/boss Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). After costing Carol's company a major government contract, the rebel Hal alienates his friends and family and figures himself washed out. That is until alien Abin Sur, a Green Lantern Corpsman mortally wounded by the evil entity Parallax, crashlands on earth and tells his mysterious power ring to wisely choose a replacement.
The ring finds our man Hal and our adventure begins as Hal is transported to the home of the Green Lanterns, the planet Oa. Here Hal learns that not only is he not alone in the universe, but he's been chosen to police it. He also meets three key Lanterns that will aid his training, Tomar Re, Kilowog (Voiced by Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan respectively) and Sinestro (a convincing Mark Strong).
While Hal is learning about good energy and positive vibes, back on Earth shady government types have found the body of Abin Sur and select high school biology teacher apparently, Hector Hammond (The screamingly campy Peter Sarsgaard) to map the anatomy of the dead alien. Upon examining Abin's gaping chest wound, Hector gets a little prick of Parallax and it all goes to his head… Literally!
The rest of the film is pretty standard stuff and Hal has to learn how to be a hero and stop all that gosh darn running away from his problems! The Earth gets threatened, Hector wants some of Carol's Ferris and a lot of green stuff appears. What were you expecting? The Dark Knight? Please…
Where the movie works – Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds holds the whole damn movie together even though he had little to work with. He teeters on the edge of schmaltzy in some of the sensitive family moments and you never really believe he gives a damn about Carol, but seeing him act against mostly animated characters is enjoyable. He's great in this and he makes you want to see more.
Mark Strong's Sinestro is pretty bad ass in this flick and it's why we're all reminded of the unspoken rule of sci fi movies that George Lucas taught us – Give any asinine piece of dialogue to a well trained actor with a British accent and they can make it believable. Sinestro works in this film and he's a likable character.
The film's in 3-D and it looks like it was up converted, but I have to say, they did a good job. However, a lot of the sets that get up converted almost look drawn on, so you literally feel like you're watching an animated film half the time. Some of the most exciting parts in this film are when Hal is using his ring and everything but the live actor's heads are animated. The effects are beautifully done and believable and the 3D was good.
What doesn't work – The story is thin and rushed. For the most part it all functions, but it lacks any true substance, not for a lack of trying. Sadly, though, any attempt at depth falls flat: Hal's banal and boring friend Thomas is a throwaway, any father/son moments between Saarsgard and Tim Robbins are laughable, and a back story of a childhood crush and Hector's insecurities are underdeveloped.
The film starts to fall apart towards the end of the second act as a major plot point and essentially a key element to the Green Lantern mythos is handled with little care and unimaginably rushed along and then forgotten. Also, there is some inconsistency on what the Green Lantern's purpose is when the call is sounded. Might leave some folks scratching their heads.
I'm sorry to say, that for as gorgeous as Blake Lively is, that acting might not be in her best interest. I partially blame casting for that, but she's so unbelievable as the take charge, fighter pilot, company CEO that Carol Ferris is supposed to be. She plays this flat and boring with absolutely no dynamic.
Lively never makes us feel that Carol would be the girl that Hal would fall for, being that the first time we see Hal he's in bed with a nameless woman. It would take a special woman to be able to get through to THAT guy… and unfortunately, this version of Carol Ferris is just not it.
I like Peter Saarsgard. However, it really feels like him and Tim Robbins were just there for a paycheck. Saarsgard hams it up so much that you're waiting for him to break the scene like a bad Jimmy Fallon sketch on SNL.
About eighty percent of Saarsgard's dialogue is painful screaming and half the time you wonder if it was delivered over the phone. Then again, like Reynolds, he wasn't given much to work with. Towards the end, he turns into Erik Stoltz from Mask and pretty soon, we're all wishing for Laura Dern to save us. (Netflix it, I don't have time)
Overall the voice of the film is simplistic. Never is the audience challenged to think that they're watching anything other than a comic book movie. It's not high art, but it's a fun time at the movies. It's got heroes and bad guys and cute girls with high action and adventure. And I mean seriously, what more could you wish for in a summer blockbuster?
Green Lantern the film succeeds like Hal Jordan's Green Lantern succeeds in the film. It's not perfect but it gets the job done.