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Green Lantern (2011) Glows Faintly [Review]

Plot: A cocky pilot named Hal Jordan finds himself thrust into a hero when a dying alien gives him a ring that brings his thoughts to life. Donning the uniform of the galactic law enforcement organization, the Green Lantern Corps, Jordan must battle his own insecurities, as well as a monstrous alien force descending on Earth.

I decided to review Green Lantern in two ways: as a movie reviewer and as a geek. The reviewer in me saw the film as an interesting, but ultimately flawed attempt to bring the classic superhero to the screen. The geek in me was thrilled by some of the nods towards the original comics, but also outraged by some pretty significant changes made to the Green Lantern mythology. Those of you who want to avoid the geek rant can skip that part.

The Reviewer Says:
In many ways, Green Lantern almost reaches greatness, but just doesn't live up to the hype. That's what makes the movie's weaknesses even more frustrating. With a little more thought and polish, Green Lantern could have taken the hero into the realm of Marvel's biggest successes like Iron Man. But even up against some of Marvel's duds like The Fantastic Four, I think Green Lantern falls short.

Let's start with the story. It doesn't work. Many reviewers have criticized the inconsistent tone of the movie, and I would agree. It's like the creators couldn't decide if they wanted Green Lantern to be a wacky slapstick comedy or a serious and dark vision, so they tried to do both, and it fails on both counts. It's not easy to go from laughing at Jordan falling on his face to watching people having their skeletons ripped out of their bodies.

The story pairs Green Lantern up against two villains from the comics, Hector Hammond and Parallax. Parallax is a monstrous creature powered by fear who consumes whole worlds, and is headed for Earth. Hammond is an old rival infected and guided by Parallax who gains super-mental powers that allow him to read minds, move objects, and generally be a bad guy. The problem is that neither villain is particularly strong. Hammond is more pathetic than scary, and Parallax doesn't show up until the end of the movie.

I think the biggest mistake the movie makes is its portrayal of Hal Jordan. Jordan in the movie is a brash, womanizing, egotistical hotshot. It's established that he's always avoided responsibility in his life, and much of the film is about Jordan resisting the great power and responsibility that the ring has given him. I figure the idea was to give him a fatal flaw, how he's held back from greatness by his own fears. That's not what happens. Instead, Hal Jordan came across as weak and cowardly. His cocky attitude came across as arrogance. Perhaps this is the fault of Ryan Reynolds, instead of the script. Robert Downey Jr. was able to get away with a lot as Tony Stark, because he carried himself with a sense of tragedy. No matter how arrogant he was on the outside, you knew deep down, Stark was covering up an inner pain. With Reynolds, there was no depth. It all felt like surface.

That said, some of the visuals are incredible, and when Parallax finally arrives, he's a truly menacing threat. It's also fun to vicariously experience the awe and wonder of entering the world of the Green Lantern Corps.

The Geek Says:
Hollywood, I think it's time to move away from the satires of superheroes. The days when superhero movies had to pander to the audiences that rolled their eyes at comic books ended with Batman Begins. I'm using Green Lantern as Exhibit A. The movie has some great moments poking fun at superhero conventions, like his girlfriend immediately recognizing him with the line, "I've seen you naked! You think I wouldn't recognize you because you covered your cheekbones?" That said, I found the satirical tone more annoying than enjoyable.

Another problem is that the Hal Jordan of the comics is nothing like the Hal Jordan of the movie. Admittedly, Jordan leans more towards the Clark Kent hero with the heart of gold that audiences may not identify with, but I thought they took him too far in the opposite direction. Surely we can have a flawed Jordan who's a heroic figure, too?

Most of the movie was about how Jordan becomes the Green Lantern, which makes sense, since it's his origin. The problem is that a lot of the origin story felt padded out with a lot of unnecessary scenes and slapstick. It's simple - alien lands on Earth, gives Jordan ring, Jordan becomes Green Lantern. How that ended up taking over an hour to get through is beyond me. But oddly enough, the part that I thought should have taken up the bulk of the story, where Jordan is trained to become a Green Lantern, ended up being the shortest. It's literally just a few minutes of the Lanterns beating on him with their constructs.

As to one of the most controversial decisions, I'm still on the fence as to whether Green Lantern's CGI costume is a good or a bad thing. Certainly it's visually more impressive than spandex, with its shimmering lines and three-dimensional symbol that seems to be glowing from inside Jordan's chest. But at the same time, it never looks completely real, giving it a cartoonish feel. You can never truly take him seriously.

The best part of the movie is clearly the constructs that Jordan makes, which is what all of us Green Lantern fans came to see in all their glory. Yet there's where I had the biggest beef. Every Green Lantern fan knows that the Lanterns can only create simple constructs. They can't make machines. Otherwise, Hal would just make an automatic villain-catching machine. Yet in the movie, he makes a race car, a machine gun, and jet planes. This leads to some truly bizarre constructs. At one point, Kilowog creates a miniature sun, complete with gravitational pull. In another scene, Hal has to stop a crashing helicopter. The real Green Lantern would have just made a giant hand to catch it. In the movie, Green Lantern puts wheels and a motor on the helicopter, creates a suspended racetrack over everyone's heads, and drives the helicopter-racecar around for a few minutes. For no reason.

Another nitpick. At one point, Hal charges his ring just by tapping it on his lantern. No oath. No ceremony. For the comic fans, that's like Superman putting on his costume by taking off his pants first. It's just wrong.

But the geek in me actually liked the movie more than the movie reviewer in me. I got to see Sinestro and Kilowog, hear the Green Lantern oath, and watch a giant green fist punch people. Like it or not, this is the Green Lantern on the big screen. Here's hoping they make the rumored sequel and get it right this time.

RATING: Three out of Five Stars

What did you think of Green Lantern?
[Image Source: inadawords]



  1. After so many had beat it to a pulp, I went in with very low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. I'm a DC guy, so I was just happy to see a DC superhero, even if it was one I didn't follow regularly. I was all right with the changes, but the comics I read were from thirty-five years ago, so maybe they were more pronounced compared to more recent comics. If they get everything right, I think a second movie could be really good.

  2. I agree, Alex. It wasn't the worst superhero movie ever. Just mediocre. I think there was too much hype. Low expectations are the way to go.

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