SPOILER WARNING, AMIGOS!
In brightest day, in blackest night
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evils might
Beware my power, Green Lanterns light.
Does that strike an emotional nerve?
If it doesn’t do so instinctively, don’t worry about it. This is not a translation of the comic-book, rather it is an adaptation of parts of the mythology and a slight reboot of Hal Jordan to fit a motion picture. They get the spine of the character right, and Reynolds plays him perfectly, but he undergoes what we in the know call a ‘character arc’ to move from someone hiding his fear to someone embracing it. Yeah, I know that goes above the head of most people, but this is my sandbox and in my sandbox we use ‘technical terms’ to describe film, God-damnit!
Now, with that said…
I dug this. A lot. Despite flaws, which I’ll get to later. I’d like to take this chance to tell anyone expecting a ‘gushing review’ that doesn’t take into account any mistakes made to cordially get over themselves. While I am a fanboy for the material, I’m also someone capable of writing a piece that serves to balance the good and bad before making a final and underlined verdict.
For those not in the know, the gist of the film is that Abin Sur (an Alien) is critically wounded at the hands of Parallax (who uses a cloud to mask his true identity.) Abin uses his space-ship (for he is an Alien) to go to Earth (where humans live) and crash. He passes his ring onto Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), who then becomes a member of an Intergalactic Peace Keeping Force known as the Green Lanterns Corps (who alternate between space-cops, soldiers, and nurses when required.) Parallax decides that Earth should be destroyed for reasons comic-book fans (who make up maybe 10% of the target audience, at best) know and for everyone else are ruddy mysterious.
And if you’re still here after that, God bless you. For you’ve succeeded where most critics failed.
They called the film lifeless. I can imagine they were referring to the CGI, except the CGI is rather good. Or maybe they were referring to the romantic plot which falls into ‘oh, she loves Green Lantern and Hal’ except that doesn’t exist because Carol (Blake Lively in various short dresses) subverts that with a ‘I’ve seen you naked, you think a mask can trick me’ quip. Which tells us a lot about their relationship that may have been better left unexplained.
In point of fact, the film neatly subverts a lot of superhero tropes. Hal realises he’s a complete screw-up all the way through the film, but ignores it instead of there being a giant ‘you screw up’ scene. Carol never turns into a shrewish harpie who calls Hal a coward, so much as subtly insinuating he should grow up. Even the secondary villain Hector (ol giant head) isn’t treated like crap by the lead characters, so much as being too timid to make anything of himself. There’s actually a really good scene where Hal is trying to tell Tim Robbins to stop being such an asshole to Hector, and Tim Robbins ignores it because he thinks he’s starring in Bull Durham 2: Ball Strike!
This film really is a blockbuster through and through. It’s not especially deep (see The Dark Knight), it isn’t political (see Wolverine V) and it isn’t filled with deus ex machinas (see Kick Ass.) Instead, it’s a fun science-fiction film. Now I’m sure some of you will try and convince me that all science-fiction has to be deep, angsty, and based in realism. I call it science-fiction if space is involved. Am I wrong? Rhetorical question, I’m stubborn and opinionated.
Interestingly, I’d say Green Lantern harks back to Star Wars… if Star Wars saw Han Solo as the lead. Granted Harrison Ford did the wise-ass better, but I’d say they stuck to the comic nicely on that score. While Green Lantern came before Star Wars, the last batch of Green Lantern comics (by Geoff “blood, guts, and maybe an intervention” Johns) have been deeply inspired by it. The long and short of this paragraph is that Green Lantern is a fun journey into a series of Sectors (the Guardians put the universe into Sectors because they didn’t understand how Han Solo can do the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs) and a big battle with a giant cloud who’s actually an immortal teddy bear looking dude harnessing the power of fear in the form of a weather anomaly.
And now I should probably talk about the acting.
For the most part, I’d say it’s very good. Reynolds plays it mostly serious, any humour being quips designed to poke fun at the incredibly strange world that Hal finds himself in. Blake Lively is pretty good too, even if Carol is a tad underwritten due to, I’d say, about thirty minutes being cut from the film. Mark Strong finally manages to portray an antagonist who’s been written competently, providing Sinestro with overconfidence and contempt that serves well for a forthcoming sequel. Note that’s less a criticism of previous Mark Strong performances, so much as the dodgy scripts. (COUGH – KICK ASS – COUGH.) Peter Sarsgaard is also good, even if there’s a few too many ‘cackle insanely and scream’ scenes featuring him. He gives off a creepy vibe and he’s hardly bad, it’s just that we spend a little too much time on his pain. Tim Robbins is Tim Robbins. The guy playing Comic Relief Man is fantastic, providing nice comic relief and ripping Hal for a lack of imagination. (I forgot to mention that the ring Hal gets only works if you can imagine cool shit.)
Did I see any problems?
1) While I liked the CGI and felt it gave the piece a fresh feel, the work on the mask seemed off. I can rationalise that as Hal not being comfortable in himself and the costume reflecting that… but in the end, it should’ve been better. Don’t get me wrong, it was great for the first film when everyone is finding their feet. But it niggled at me.
2) The tone can swing between comedic and dramatic too quickly. My theory is that a fair bit was cut to make the pacing snappier. On the one hand this is good, as there isn’t much filler. Yet on the other hand, it does seem like we’re getting condensed scenes from longer material. Having read the script (for I am a studious fellow), I figure this material likely included cameos of people who could’ve been ring bearers and very possibly more Sinestro. Then again, in the script Carol was torn between Hal and Green Lantern. So I may be wrong. Or right. It’s a tie.
3) Minor quibble here. When Hal fights Hector for the last time, he tricks Hector into wearing the ring. I was hoping it’d be Hal using his imagination, instead of giving Hector the ring and having the ring backfire on Hector. It would’ve been nice to see Hal then hit Hector with a giant fist or a tank of sharks, to show that he was taking advantage of the rings capabilities. Instead, and even if it was part of his plan, he actually gives the ring up for a second. Felt false given his ‘I MUST BE GREEN’ vibe in the scenes prior to that.
4) Lots of convenient moments where Hal knew how to find the villains. Granted in the end I don’t give a crap, considering it’s a comic-book film… but I can see how some critics (and Mark “THIS PAGE ISN’T AWESOME ENOUGH” Millar) would be affronted at this.
5) It ended.
I’m aware you may resent me for the last point, but when you’re having a good time during a film like I was here you don’t want it to end. And that hatred may grow considering I did give this a positive review in the end. Whereas recent comic-book films have gotten a tad serious, Green Lantern is a big, shiny blockbuster in the style of Star Wars that sets out to entertain and achieves it. While many critics have gotten their panties in a bunch complaining that it’s inconsequential, they’ve forgotten that there’s nothing wrong with a well-written blockbuster. There’s plenty wrong with an awfully written blockbuster (POTC 4, for example) and a vile piece of trash (Transformers), but Green Lantern falls into the very good spectrum through solid use of Chekhov Guns, likable lead performances, a sense of the fantastical and a ‘Hell yeah’ moment where the lead character decides to kick a teddy bear cloud’s ass.
But hey, I’m the guy who loved Indiana Jones IV.
And you know what, I stand by that. I also stand by my view that the vitirol that critics have shown this film strongly indicates that they’re affronted by a comic-book film that dares simply to be fun. Not every film within a genre needs a deep meaning, some of them just need to be excellently assembled and tell a good story with the requisite number of explosions and moments of daring do.
Or, to put it another way, they need to be more like Star Wars: A New Hope.
Which critics trashed too. So before you take their word, or my word, as gospel… just go and see this film. Because the last thing the internet needs is people who judge films before they see them.
Ya know, unless that film is Rise of The Planet of The Apes. That looks hilariously bad.
So to sum up: Green Lantern kicked ass. It’s not big, it’s not particularly clever, but if you want to go and see a film about a Space Cop who uses a giant green fist to beat up potential butt rapists….this is the film for you.