When I first read the IGN review of Green Lantern and the following critic reviews, I expected the worst. DC’s track record of superhero movies that aren’t Batman did not inspire much hope. (Looking at you Supes, sorry). Regardless I went to see it. In the end, I was not completely floored as with The Dark Knight nor was I greatly disappointed, as with Superman Returns. Green Lantern left me wanting to see more from the hero, which is what a decent origin story is meant to do.
Green Lantern follows the tale of the very first human Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. The Green Lantern Corp is comprised of individuals from the 3600 sectors of the universe. Each are given a ring that channels the green energy that is will power. The task of the Green Lantern Corp is to patrol the galaxy and enforce order and peace. Earth and humanity in general was seen as too young of a species to be given such power and was left alone during the choosing of Lanterns. That is until a mortally wounded Lantern named Abin Sur crash lands on Earth and tells his ring to choose the most worthy of humans. Hal must now grapple his own fear and irresponsibility in order to become a worthy Green Lantern and help the Corp battle its greatest opponent, the embodiment of fear, Paralax.
Like Thor, the overall concept of Green Lantern sounds and frankly is, pretty outrageous. But what made Thor work was the time the movie spent explaining and showing Thor’s world of Asgard, the people he interacts with and how Thor sees himself in that world. Green Lantern…..not so much.
Perhaps the biggest flaw in the movie is the lack of time it gives itself to properly form and develop. Both Thor and X-Men: First Class seemed to know exactly the amount of time to give each of their characters to showcase their traits, wishes, desires, flaws, and placement in the overall plot of the movie. And those movies had almost twice the amount of characters as Green Lantern.
The movie glosses over several elements that would have been really great to see play out. Hal’s training on the Green Lantern home planet, Oa for example. Hal activates the ring and is sent to Oa for training and a basic course on the Green Lantern Corp. This would have been a great time to really slow down the movie and walk the audience through the planet of Oa, go into detail about the ring, and introduce some other Green Lanterns. However after only three or four scenes Hal is back on Earth with only a fledgling understanding of the Green Lanterns.
Hal himself is pretty glossed over as well. He is established as irresponsible, fearful and trying to measure up to his late father. But many of those traits are just discussed rather than actually shown. The most irresponsible thing Hal does is show up late to a test flight. His father is mentioned briefly in conversations, but no real details really emerge about him or his relationship with Hal. And other than an understandable freak-out when his plane goes down, Hal doesn’t come off as too fearful either. More time on all of these traits would have been helpful.
The villain Paralax gets a similar treatment. Built up as the greatest threat the Green Lantern Corp has ever faced, Paralax ultimately doesn’t get a chance to do much. There is a scene where Sinestro takes several Lanterns to battle the menace but the fight only lasts a few seconds, and the full battle not really shown, just alluded to afterwards by Sinestro. When Paralax possess a human, a former friend of Hal’s Hector Hammond, very little time is spent on him as well. Hector has all the workings of a good villain, resentment, jealousy, and fear but no real development. By the time he’s committing his evil acts the audience is left scratching their heads at his sudden shift into villainy.
That is not say the movie isn’t without its shining moments. The millions of dollars invested in the special effects was money well spent. Oa, like Asgard in Thor, has never looked better. The planet looks vast and whets the audience’s appetite to see more.
The fight scenes, though brief, are extremely creative and fun to watch. There is a scene where Hal must stop a falling helicopter but rather than fly up and catch it like Superman, he uses his ring to create a race car to catch it and guides the plane on a Hot Wheels-like racetrack to safety. During his battle with Paralax, Hal creates a springboard with his ring to launch a gas truck towards his foe then creates a gun turret to shoot the gas tank with. Flamethrowers, swords, fighter jets and giant fists are also at work in the movie. The movie successfully shows what you can do with a ring whose only limit is your imagination.
Ryan Reynolds shines as Hal Jordan. He really captures Hal’s cockiness and jerk behavior on Earth, his bewilderment, excitement and fear on Oa, and his heroic noble side as a Green Lantern on Earth. Mark Strong as future foe Sinestro gives a solid performance. Though his time in the film is brief, Strong gets Sinestro’s sense of superiority and his willingness to use fear against Paralax down pat. Michael Clarke Duncan as a Kilowag was perfection along with Geoffrey Rush as Tomar-Re. If the focal point of the movie was these four characters learning to work together, it would have been so much stronger.
Ultimately Green Lantern made the right moves. It had the concept down, it had good actors, it had great special effects and creative fights, but doesn’t seem to know how to use them to their fullest potential. I definitely want to see more Green Lantern and the stinger near the end of the credits gives promise of that but I do hope the makers behind the film gives the film room to breath and come into its own.