Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, Jay O. Sanders, Taika Waititi, Angela Bassett, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan, Clancy Brown
Directed by Martin Campbell
Expectations: None, except that I expect to have some fun with it.
On the general scale:
On the B-movie scale:
As I like to do at the beginning of reviews, I’ll just cut to the big question looming in your mind: Yes, I enjoyed Green Lantern. Feel free to move along if that’s what you came to find out, but if you’d like to know why, there’s plenty of that to follow. I don’t think Green Lantern is a particularly good movie, but I think it tells a hard tale well, what with all the wild, intergalactic struggles of the Green Lantern corp and everything. I read a lot of comics in my youth, but I never read a Green Lantern tale, and outside of his appearance in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Strikes Back, I don’t know that I’ve ever been exposed to him in any real way. DC has always been a major blind spot for me, and this puts me in a very interesting place to see Green Lantern. Instead of approaching the film as a seasoned vet, I’m actually coming at this one as a standard mainstream moviegoer, and within the opening minutes I was already completely lost… but that’s OK.
During these opening minutes there were a lot of crazy, intergalactic visuals and narration explaining who and what the Green Lantern corp was. As soon as they started dropping alien names I was lost because they held no weight to me, but the sheer draw of the sci-fi visuals captured me completely in a child-like way. Then three aliens fell down a hole and found an even crazier looking alien who opened his mouth in a wide scream and gold tentacles came out of his mouth. I was sold. When I decided to watch Green Lantern, it wasn’t because I thought it would be good, it was because I thought it would provide me with a lot of B-Movie thrills. And this yell was exactly that. If this moment had come even five minutes later, it might have been too late and I’d have given up hope, but it came at just the right time.
Don’t ask me to recite the plot back to you, though, as not a lot of it made total sense to me and I wasn’t paying close attention at all. The gist is that the screaming alien is growing to an incredible size over the course of the film and is threatening Earth. I don’t remember them saying that it was ever threatening Earth, but they must have because it ended up there. In any case, while that’s going on a Green Lantern dies and his ring chooses Ryan Reynolds to be his successor. Cue the hour-long origin. There’s also a scientist that contracts an alien virus that causes his head to expand and somehow he knows both Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s characters, but again, I missed why. But again, it doesn’t matter.
No one will argue that Green Lantern features a thrilling, well-told storyline, but I do contend that it contains more than enough to satisfy a simple superhero film craving. This is exactly the type of movie I’d have loved at like nine years old, and because the tone here wasn’t all that serious, I was somehow able to tap back into that part of my brain and just enjoy it for what it is. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s always fun when it does. I think a big reason this film had such a negative backlash was because after Nolan’s Batman films, most people expect and demand realism in their superhero movies. I don’t know that Green Lantern really lends himself to that, but not only does this film not care about presenting realistic situations, it’s so over the top that it’s clearly meant to be whimsical and very evocative of actual comic books. So even though I’ve never really read Green Lantern, I can appreciate the route they took with this one, and I respect the filmmakers for delivering a superhero movie aimed at the ones that probably care the most about them: kids.
That being said, the amount of computer FX in this movie is staggering. Just about everything has the dripping filth of CG slickness to it, sometimes even the light streaming through the windows! It’s pretty ridiculous, but even though everything always looks like FX, and they never really jive perfectly with the backgrounds, they still managed to achieve what they set out to achieve. For instance, all the wild Green Lantern construct stuff was great. It moves at the speed of thought as Hal Jordan must come up with a witty defense for whatever is hurtling his way in a split-second. I especially enjoyed when he made an elaborate catapult to throw a fireball back at Parallax, but any one of the constructs are worthy of being singled out. Sure, they don’t look real, but they’re not supposed to. This is a comic book movie that in its best moments, legitimately feels like reading a comic. It doesn’t quite have the visual style down, but I could almost feel the pages turning beneath my fingers as the climactic — and awesome — final battle played out.
The only problem is that because this is yet another superhero origin movie, a good portion of the film is some of the most clichéd and boring personal drama you’ll ever see in a mainstream film. The romantic sub-plot is horrible and feels incredibly forced, and every single character outside of a couple of Lanterns feel shallow and almost completely uninteresting. During one early romance scene, I was more interested in the Blitz ’99 arcade cabinet in the background than any of the painfully obvious dialogue. Despite all of this, I still liked the movie. I know, it’s crazy, but I think that speaks to the power of capturing that comic book feeling that’s generally stripped away during the movie adaptation process. Marvel’s films are definitely better, but I would argue that DC is doing much more daring and risky things with their franchises.
I also disliked that they eventually took the plot down one of my most hated story devices: the “we’ve never had a human in our ranks, but he’s able to easily ascend to the upper echelon simply because of his humanity” thing. It’s not as bad here as it is in something like Avatar, where a white man becomes a native and before you know it he’s the greatest native there ever was… because he’s white and is inherently more capable. Such bullshit, and I really wish they hadn’t done it here, but I stifled my rage and enjoyed the ending of the movie regardless. I suppose it’s natural for humans to write stories where humans are worth something in the universe, and my real issue is when it’s used as subliminal racism (which it’s not here).
Is Green Lantern exceedingly well made? No, but I’d watch a sequel in a heartbeat. And I also learned a few things about myself due to the unforeseen coincidence that the Green Lantern Corps is powered by “will.” Things like: “Green is the power of will” and “Will is stronger than fear.” If this is anything to go by, I should thoroughly enjoy reading Green Lantern books as well. Any suggestions?