I’m a Green Lantern fan; it’s probably my favorite of the DC properties, I love the concept of being able to make your will manifest through a ring, the space cop, space opera, and cosmic weirdness. All greatly appeal to me; I think Geoff Johns has done a fantastic job, expanding the Green Lantern concept, while showing respect to all that have come before.
I’ve been looking forward to this movie since it was announced. The script was said to be great — New Zealander Martin Campbell has a great ability as a action film director and establishing franchises, Ryan Reynolds while not my first choice (that would be his Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place co-star Nathan Fillion) and Mark Strong was perfect for Sinestro. Now that Green Lantern had been released, I was yellow with fear — the movie has been absolutely pummeled with bad and disappointed reviews. It turns out, however, I enjoyed the film far more than I thought I would. I think it’s a worthy first step and think the best comparison would be the original X-Men movie.
The production design of the characters was superb; most of the massive Green Lantern core were brought vividly to life. Michael Clarke Duncan as Kilowog, and Geoffrey Rush as Tomar-Re perfectly capture their characters. Rush acts as our guide to the Green Lantern legend — what it is and how it operates — and Clarke Duncan has the tough but compassionate role of drill sergeant Kilowog.
But the big question is how does Ryan Reynolds do as Hal Jordan? I’m happy to say that I believe Ryan Reynolds understands the character. He displays the sincerity and confidence as well as the self doubt. The problem with being Hal Jordan in any incarnation is the actor has to find the right balance between confidence and arrogance that Hal Jordan possesses — it is very difficult to get right. Hal is a very normal person; he makes mistakes and bad decisions but he also doesn’t give up. Reynolds displaces this quality exactly as it should be. Mark Strong as mentioned before is absolutely perfect as Sinestro; he is very much the flipside to Reynolds’ Hal Jordan — his arrogance and ego are all there, and there are definitely signs of a menace that he will come to embody. Blake Lively as Carol Ferris, I feel, is the weakest link in the cast. She is adequate, but she doesn’t really bring the whip-smart instincts that Carol possesses. The script and the actress lets Carol Ferris the character down.
The script was very loosely based on Geoff Johns’ Secret Origin story arc and while the two main characters — Hal Jordan and Sinestro — are pitch perfect, I really feel they should have just used the story arcs for Hector Hammond and Carol Ferris as presented in that story. In Secret Origin, Carol is in firm control of her company and doesn’t want Hal Jordan anywhere near it. She is determined to succeed; however the twist in the tale is that she is barely holding it together caring for her sick father and the guilt of their part in Hal’s father’s death while trying to keep up appearances. This makes Carol a much more interesting and three-dimensional character and unfortunately I don’t believe Blake Lively has the acting chops to pull off such a character — more’s the pity. Also I believe that her chemistry with Reynolds isn’t there and having a good romantic chemistry between the two characters is crucial for any sequel.
Peter Sarsgaard as the film’s villain, Hector Hammond, is unrecognizable and does such a good job with it that you feel quite sympathetic for him. He is just a normal character doing his job when he is infected by our real villain Parallax — the embodiment of all fear — and eventually becomes corrupted by fear. Again, if the writers just used the Secret Origin arc for that character he would have been really good. In the comic Hector Hammond is already the boyfriend of Carol, who he sees as little more than a trophy. He is greedy and vindictive and becomes an extremely creepy character, jealous of Hal Jordan and his apparent success. Part of this is in the character in the film; unfortunately it is not explained or explored very well.
The other major characters are Tim Robbins as Hector Hammond’s senator father, who is fine in the role but it’s really just a plot device character designed to set things in motion; and Angela Bassett as Dr Amanda Waller — who is designed to be the Nick Fury of the cinematic DC universe. While Bassett is a great actress, I really wished they had used CCH Pounder, who not only nailed the character in the Justice League cartoon, but physically looks the part as well. The New Zealand contingent does us proud. Taika Waititi as Hal’s “sidekick” Tom Kalmaku and Temuera Morrison as Abin Sur — Hal’s predecessor — are well cast and fit the characters to a tee.
The major failing of the Green Lantern film and the biggest reason I feel that many coming away from it are disappointed, is that the film really seems afraid to embrace its cosmic source material. The film is mostly earthbound. We get to go to the Green Lantern headquarters of Oa and see some alien planets but it feels like the filmmakers only dipped a toe in the water, too afraid to really cut loose. This is something that Green Lantern’s biggest comparison Thor does a lot better. All its characters are given distinctive personalities and something to do and its cosmic mythological source is front and centre — but neatly balanced with its earthbound happenings.
Another problem is that there is quite a lot of explanation — while necessary — the audience is told not shown. It doesn’t quite work as well compared (again!) to Thor, which not only told but showed the audience why things were the way they were to great effectiveness. The Director, Martin Campbell, I’m starting to feel wasn’t quite the right choice for this project. He is good at a rebooting existing franchises, but when it comes to establishing one he plays it far too safe. But to give credit where credit is due the action is good and the constructs — one of the biggest parts of Green Lantern’s powers — is realized brilliantly. It does feel like a Green Lantern movie, but it really starts to feel like one when we get to the space battles and interacting with other Green Lanterns.
As I said before, the film really just reminds me a lot of the first X-Men film — it’s fun, it’s very respectful to the source material, and it gets the crucial characters right; however there is definitely room for improvement. I’m hoping it will do well enough for Warner Brothers to green light a sequel. With the origin now done, hopefully we will get the Sinestro Corps War and then we can get the epic superhero sci-fi movie Green Lantern is supposed to be. I really did like the film — I don’t love it — but I’m not bitterly disappointed with it either. Fun but flawed.
Three power rings out of five.