Green Lantern – 2011

Directed by Martin Campbell

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins

Written by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg

There is an easy theory to have with movie making.  After 2, the more writers you get for a film, the more trouble you have.  So many voices(10)  killed Alien3‘s potential almost 20 years ago, keeping the movie from stepping the series forward to making an awkward step back.  This time, we see a movie that starts grooming for one bad guy, Hector Hammond (Sarsgaard), but brushes him aside for a rushed development through what could have been an intriguing nemesis (Parallax).  The result is somewhat chaotic, giving neither the poetic justice that they deserve and making neither the clear threat that they deserved to be portrayed as.  Why this happens is varied.  Most often you get a set of people who have a decent idea, and when producers (read financiers) are added, they take what they want from the previous efforts, while adding writers to doctor the script, adding elements that they prefer, until another one comes along.  The reason they added the element here was a search for a believable reason that Abin Sur, a Green Lantern, would be flying a spaceship, when his legion would not seem to have a need for one.  That is explained in the film, within the next 5 minutes.  Why not leave Parallax at this point?  It adds intrigue, and a looming presence available for sequels.  Look at what they did with General Zod in the first Christopher Reeve Superman to see what teasing can do for the development of a series, instead of going all out just for one film.

The origin story, as it goes, is pretty routine.  Show a brilliant, but flawed person, give him a super power, and then give him an internal challenges to overcome as a nemesis, which has developed along side the hero, and serves as the exclamation point for the hero’s development.  They hit all the marks here, and they show an eerie connection between all the primary characters.  This is not revealed naturally, but at a party, about half way through the film.  This is the “coming out” party for Hal Jordan as Green Lantern.  By this time, strangely, he’d already been to Green Lantern home base, went through about 15 minutes of training, and then quit.  No feeling of continuity pervades through this time: it’s just a bunch of stuff that has happened.  Next thing you know, he’s flying his love interest, Carol (a surprisingly bland, Lively) Superman style, talking about how he really should not have quit and then deciding to be a superhero afterwords. Gee, couldn’t see it coming.

Part of the problem here, is charisma.  Reynolds was the life of the party in the Wolverine movie a few years ago.  He displayed a reckless charisma as Deadpool which almost ran away with the film, until the ridiculous ending wiped that all away.  Reynolds barely cracks a smile throughout the entirety of Green Lantern.  We are told he is a loose cannon, and the life of a party, but instead we see evidence that his near fatal crash brought his young nephew’s birthday come to a halt, when the boy ran into his room to pout.  That’s not exactly living it up, writers.

The development of Sarsgaard’s Hector versus Reynold’s Jordan is inconsistently shown.  There are some decent sequences, but then they show a connection midway through the film, which, whether it is or not, feels tacked on.  Meanwhile, the Green Lantern planet, Oa, is seemingly being threatened.  Sinestro, (which most people who who’ve watched Superfriends will recognize as a bad guy), makes a series of bad choices, all rubber stamped by a the all-knowing immortals who created the Lantern Corps, who neither seem all-knowing or convinced of their immortality.  Sinestro is played by Mark Strong in the typically subdued manner he approaches everything.  This is supposed to be menacing, but always comes across as sleepy instead.  The rest of the Green Lanterns are so incredibly diverse and clumped together, the effect is somewhat overwhelming and, thus, forces the viewer to discount all of it.

Is this a bad film?  Well, it’s certainly not a good one.  The effects are decent, and the colors do stand out in 2D.  There comes a point though, when you realize that live action is really just another way of saying “real person in front of a green screen.”  And although I spent this summer watching all the Marvel superhero films and avoiding the lone D.C. comics film, there is a certain amount of vindication in realizing that you can sometimes tell which movie is worth watching by its trailer.  If you see this movie on a rainy afternoon, you shouldn’t be too disappointed.  What were you going to do anyway?  Read?


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