Director: Martin Campbell
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, Jon Tenney, Taika Waititi, Temuera Morrison, Gattlin Griffith, Jenna Craig, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clark Duncan
RunTime: 1 hr 54 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: PG (Some Violence)
Official Website: http://greenlanternmovie.warnerbros.com/
Opening Day: 16 June 2011
Synopsis: In a universe as vast as it is mysterious, a small but powerful force has existed for centuries. Protectors of peace and justice, they are called the Green Lantern Corps. A brotherhood of warriors sworn to keep intergalactic order, each Green Lantern wears a ring that grants him superpowers. But when a new enemy called Parallax threatens to destroy the balance of power in the Universe, their fate and the fate of Earth lie in the hands of their newest recruit, the first human ever selected: Hal Jordan. Hal is a gifted and cocky test pilot, but the Green Lanterns have little respect for humans, who have never harnessed the infinite powers of the ring before. But Hal is clearly the missing piece to the puzzle, and along with his determination and willpower, he has one thing no member of the Corps has ever had: humanity. With the encouragement of fellow pilot and childhood sweetheart Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), if Hal can quickly master his new powers and find the courage to overcome his fears, he may prove to be not only the key to defeating Parallax...he will become the greatest Green Lantern of all.
After “Thor” and “X Men: First Class”, “Green Lantern” is the third superhero movie in merely six weeks to hit the big screen. But then again, such are the stuff of summer blockbusters, and there was no way DC Comics would let Marvel steal all the thunder without unleashing some of their own. The intergalactic league of superheroes known as the Green Lantern Corps is DC’s answer to Marvel’s dominance in the comic-book superhero genre, and given the 70 years of history that the Green Lanterns have, you’d think that they would stand a pretty good chance to give the incumbent a run for their money.
Alas that is sadly not to be, as Martin Campbell’s adaptation turns out to be at best a mediocre attempt to launch a major fantasy action hero franchise. To be sure, Campbell had the odds stacked up against him from the beginning. Like Iron Man or Thor, Green Lantern was a second-tier DC character- unlike Batman or Superman for instance- so there was the unenviable task of introducing the Green Lantern Corps to many (like this reviewer) who had not read a single page of the comic books.
This first movie was going to have to be an origin story, and that alone explains the lengthy exposition at the beginning explaining the origin of the power of the Lanterns, the planet Oa on which the Lanterns gather, as well as the Lanterns’ arch-enemy Parallax. Into this universe enters the first human, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a cocky test-flight pilot following in the footsteps but still haunted from the death of his father during his childhood days. Hal has been chosen by the ring worn by one of the Lanterns’ top fighters Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), unsure though he may be of his own abilities.
“I, Hal Jordan, pledge allegiance to a green lantern that I obtained from a dying purple alien,” Hal says in a dubious voice. He won’t be alone in his disbelief- you’ve got to admit the very premise sounds cheesy, especially in assuming that a person would so readily believe what an extraterrestrial creature tells him. And one suspects that it is the precise reason why the glib witty Ryan Reynolds was cast in the role- just so his own smart-alecky attitude would reassure the audience that Hal understands the absurdity of it all.
Its tongue-in-cheek sensibility reminds one of “Iron Man”, which so beautifully pulled it off for a rip-roaring adventure. The same however cannot be said of “Green Lantern”, which wavers uncertainly between irreverence and solemnity. The latter is apparent when the film emphasises the size of the threat a recharged Parallax poses not just to the Corps, but also the rest of the inhabitants of the universe. It is also especially sombre when elaborating on the difference between will (the power of the Lanterns) and its diametrical opposite, fear (the power of Parallax).
Campbell struggles to balance the tone of the film, but never quite succeeds either way. The result is a mixed bag that doesn’t quite convey the same gravity in the proceedings as “Thor” or “X Men: First Class”, and yet doesn’t quite achieve the cheeky fun that “Iron Man” and its sequel delivered. In fact, a lot of what takes place on the planet of Oa comes across as hammy, from the Lanterns’ leader Sinestro’s (Mark Strong) inspirational speeches to the rest of the Corps down to their supreme Guardians of the Universe with Martian-like oval-shaped heads and fishbowl helmets.
It’s not as though Campbell and his four writers (Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg) are unaware. After an initial visit to Oa followed by some Lantern training 101 by the fishlike Tomar-Re (voiced by Geoffrey Rush) and the porcine-like Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan), they confine Hal to the planet Earth for pretty much the middle third of the movie pondering over whether to accept the fate before him. There is just one brief action sequence that we get to see the Green Lantern Corps in action, and the character of Sinestro is underwritten with little more to do than to express his skepticism of Hal’s recruitment into the Corps.
While on Earth, there is a tepid love story between Hal and his childhood friend cum wingman Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) livened only so slightly by Reynolds’ and Lively’s chemistry. There is also a human villain in the form of Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgard), the son of a politician (Tim Robbins) and a brilliant and nerdy scientist called in to examine Abin’s body. The reason for Hammond’s madness is his exposure to the energy of fear left within Abin, giving him a gargantuan skull with bulging veins in addition to telepathic powers.
Sarsgard may play his villain role with gleeful menace, but that can’t disguise the fact that his character, as well as the strained relationship between him and Hammond Senior, is superfluous. Lively’s character is unfortunately confined to no more than a love interest, leaving Reynolds to do all the heavy-lifting himself as Hal Jordan. And despite the initial fan reaction to his casting, Reynolds is easily the best thing about the film- he has enough screen charisma to carry both the sober and droll aspects of his character.
Besides casting Reynolds in the lead role, Campbell also gets the action sequences right. He exploits Hal’s ability to conjure up any weapon or object to stage some inventive showdowns- especially the climax where Hal comes face to face with Parallax. Yet even this doesn’t go on long enough to satisfy audiences hungry for some loud large-scale action, and there are surprisingly few of these for a summer action blockbuster- the climax is also the first full-fledged battle Hal engages in after accepting his destiny as a member of the Green Lantern Corps.
Thankfully, Campbell has on board Dion Beebe as cinematographer, and the latter is responsible for some jaw-dropping shots, such as Hal’s flight of exploration around Oa and Parallax’s takeover of downtown Connecticut. Dion also deserves credit for having the foresight to create shots where the post-converted 3D works, and while the extra dimension here certainly can’t measure up to films shot in the format, it definitely fares much better than its Warner predecessor “Clash of the Titans”.
But these are little consolation for a movie that can’t quite find the right balance in tone, and boasts a middling script with half-baked subplots. It lacks the awesome sense of adventure and thrills that a summer audience looks for in a superhero movie, as well as the depth that some have come to demand from such fare thanks to superior genre examples like “X Men: First Class” and yes DC’s own “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”. Especially when it has to differentiate itself from a surfeit of comic-book superhero movies, “Green Lantern” just doesn’t shine brightly enough to make its presence felt.
(Struggling to balance gravitas with self-conscious irreverence, this is an utterly mediocre comic-book superhero movie that fails to live up to its hype)
Review by Gabriel Chong