Green Lantern (2011)
July 18, 2011
“In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might beware my power, Green Lantern’s light.”
Synopsis: Test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is granted a mystical green ring that bestows him with otherworldly powers, as well as membership into an intergalactic squadron tasked with keeping peace within the universe.
Despite its big budget and 3D release, Green Lantern got dismal reviews this summer. With a bleak 26% on RottenTomatoes, you’d think Halle Berry had suited up for Catwoman 2. Admittedly, Green Lantern can’t compare to Thor or X-men but its far from a rotten movie. And considering the staggering amount of obstacles Warner Bros faced in making a Green Lantern film, it turned out much better than I expected.
The Green Lantern mythos is built on a staggering amount of science fiction, containing a lengthy history and many alien characters. Most “Sci-Fi” stuff we’re familiar with is pretty tame; tossing one or two fantastical elements our way but otherwise grounding its premise in reality. Stories like X-Men and Heroes endow ordinary humans with superpowers, monster movies like Super-8 showcase a mysterious extra-terrestrial, and Avatar introduces us to a single alien planet. Green Lantern asks much more of its audience. In the first five minutes we’ve met the Guardians who created the Green Lantern Corps on their home planet Oa, glimpsed thousands of alien species spanning thousands of systems, and even witnessed an intergalactic villain sucking souls for energy. This information dump will probably overwhelm the average movie-goer, while the hardcore fans will be disappointed at the lack of exposition. But this is the nature of adapting a 60 year old comics mythos into one film.
Continuing on the science fiction theme, one of Green Lantern‘s biggest challenges is reconciling Hal Jordan’s dual life into one cohesive story. One minute Hal is flying jets and romancing Carol Ferris, and the next he’s zipping around planets to punch aliens in the face. Trying to balance these extremes is like squeezing Top Gun and Star Wars into the same movie. Green Lantern mixes these genres better than I expected, but not without the occasional hiccup.
Themes: Fear, Courage, Responsibility
Forget the stupid promo tagline “Anyone can be chosen” because its completely opposite to what Green Lantern is about. Not ‘just anyone’ can be chosen. Members of the Green Lantern Corps are supposed to be fearless, iron-willed soldiers. When a member of the GL Corps dies, the ring seeks out a suitable replacement, one who is “without fear.” Hal Jordan spends most of the film struggling with the question “why was I chosen?”; the last thing he feels is fearless. Hal’s recruitment into the Corps forces him to look at his choices, questioning if he’s been living irresponsibly. Finally, Carol tells him “The ring did not see that you are fearless. It saw that you have the ability to overcome fear. It saw that you are courageous.” – Courage is not the absence of fear, its having the bravery to face those fears instead of being handicapped by them. This is an important and timely lesson for our culture. Many people are taking Hal’s road; running from their fears and blowing off their responsibilities, living in denial that they actually have fears and are avoiding them. And like Hal Jordan, we will never reach our full potential until we confront our fears.
Green Lantern could’ve been a ‘successful’ superhero movie had it arrived before Iron Man and Marvel Studios other streamlined successes. Superhero movies aren’t just for nerds anymore; they can be exciting, humorous, and genuinely engaging. Green Lantern delivers a larger than life saga and noteworthy special effects, but the storytelling is sloppy, the action sparse, and the villains bland. Parallax‘s cgi rendering is impressive but his screen presence felt unimaginative and lacked that kinetic spark. Fantasy writers seem to be obsessed with ambiguous clouds of evil and Parallax fits that description too well. Its like screen writers think “Hey, you know who was a great movie monster? The Blob thing in that 1958 horror movie! He had zero motivation but everyone loved him because he was A BLOB! Let’s just forget character development copy that!”
I’m disappointed that they didn’t go ahead and make the film about the downfall of Sinestro (played by Mark Strong) considering that he becomes one of the best villains in the DC Universe. The expected after-the-credits-scene revealed that we’ll see this plot in a sequel. (Too bad it didn’t make any sense in the context of the film.)