The Green Lantern was not a superhero I was familiar with as a child. When I thought about him at all, I often got him confused with Green Hornet, so that the picture I had in my head was of a guy in a black car with a green ring that worked sort of like the ones on Captain Planet and the Planeteers. This year’s crop of superhero movies cleared up the confusion for me. I never would’ve guessed that the actual story for Green Lantern went more like this:
A test pilot receives a ring from a dying alien that gives him the power to create anything he sees in his mind and the duty to fight alongside a corps of galactic guardians against a massive amorphous being powered by fear.
I was unsure of what to expect from the film after I saw the trailers, because there were some promising jokes that made light of the alien/superhero angle but also a super lame, ultra serious poem/oath that sounded like it was written by a fifth grader. I had high hopes, given that there were fighter planes involved, but sadly now that I’ve seen the movie I have to report that Green Lantern isn’t even the best superhero movie I’ve seen this month.
Green Lantern’s major problem was that it takes itself too seriously. The concept of men with magical powers who flounce around in tights is inherently silly. To make it work in today’s cynical age you can take it one of two ways: grit it up (a la Batman Begins and Casino Royale), or roll with the comedic aspect (like they did in Green Hornet and Iron Man). Green Lantern tried for both and failed at both. It has a few funny jokes, but mostly wallows in glowing green grit.
Case in point: you’d think if these people could create anything they imagine,
they’d imagine themselves a comfier headquarters.
Another problem Green Lantern has is that it pits the forces of two emotions: willpower and fear, against each other. But how do you show fear getting to someone? Surround them with yellow smoke? Rip glowing skeletons out of their bodies? Make them have flashbacks to their pilot daddy’s death like every clichéd fighter pilot movie ever made? All of the above?
To be fair, the glowing skeleton thing is pretty scary.
Ryan Reynolds, who plays test pilot turned galactic crimefighter Hal Jordan, tries to emote his struggle with fear on screen, but director Martin Campell is more interested in the special effects than the story. He hardly ever focuses on Hal’s face, instead showing his giant green fists or the gattling guns he made from willpower from every conceivable angle.
Which, by the way, look exactly as fake as his glowing green CGI suit.
And finally, there’s Hal’s girlfriend. Blake Lively has said in interviews that she chose this role because Carol Ferris wasn’t your typical damsel in distress, but apart from one scene in the beginning where she’s knocked out of a dogfight almost instantly, you’d never know she was a fighter pilot. She spends all her time hanging around offices in slinky business suits and heels waiting to be captured by someone evil. She’s basically only there to encourage Hal to overcome the fear that we can’t see, and (of course) make out with him.
You’re so special and wonderful, Hal, etc.
I have to give the movie props, though, for including what is probably the best line of dialogue in any superhero movie ever. After having so many dimwitted supporting characters in movies like Superman, Green Hornet, and Batman fooled by a pathetically tiny face mask (or glasses), I almost died of laughter when Carol recognized Hal the instant he showed up to try and schmooze her in his disguise.
“Oh my God, Hal?! I’ve seen you naked! Did you think I wouldn’t
recognize you just because I can’t see your cheekbones?”
Green Lantern also gets a decent rating on the evil villain sympathy scale, because although the scary amorphous space cloud thing is the ultimate villain, Hal has to face off against a childhood friend, Hector Hammond, a resentful xenobiologist living in his senator father’s shadow who becomes infected with evil alien fear juice during an alien autopsy. Though he looks laughably goofy with his scraggily hobo hair, his 70s porn star mustache, and his bulging, balding head, Peter Sarsgaard somehow manages to bring a little gravity to the role.
Yes, my forehead looks like it was inflated with a bicycle pump. But I’ve never felt better in my life!
So if on a scale from 1 to 100, X-Men: First Class would be a million and Green Lantern would be about a 55. A passing grade, but is a mere pass what we really want to aim for? You’ll probably like it better than I did if you were a fan of the comic or the cartoon, but overall I predict Green Lantern will make it’s money back and then be quickly forgotten in the wake of the new Harry Potter movie and Captain America.