Green Lantern always seemed like the perfect follow up for a public now accustomed to the midnight stalkings of The Batman and the Boy Scout heroics of Superman. He’s got his own super gadget, capable of spitting CGI constructs of all shapes and sizes, a deep sense of duty and a “never say die” spirit making him the quintessential American hero, coupled with a slightly sarcastic edge and tempered with a super sized heart. How can you lose with a guy like this! The abridged version of his origin story goes like this. Fighter Pilot Hal Jordan crosses paths with dying alien Abin Sur who sees great heroism in him and, with his dying breathe, bequeaths him his lantern and power ring, making him the first human in the Green Lantern Corps. The movie version of this tale is very true to the original, which should be enough for fans of the comic to stand up and cheer straight out of the gate. Without giving too much of the plot away, Hal quickly learns he is now part of a bigger universe (far bigger than a world with the Avengers in it) and must conquer his demons in order to join this interstellar Corps and maybe even get his messed up Earthly life back on track. Easier said than done, and with the monstrous, fear eating Parallax making a B line for Earth, Hal had better decide what is most important to him..and fast.
The marketing minds behind Green Lantern seemed to do their darndest to make us think this would be the most unholy of train wrecks. All the earmarks were there. The over complicated take on what was a very simple, very elegant super hero suit…the amorphous, world devouring, smoke like villain…the wise cracking, happy go lucky leading man…all a recipe for destruction in our eyes, especially if those eyes had been burned in the past with similar trappings dropped as warning for future travelers. At the heart of this project, if Warner Bros couldn’t nail the character of Hal Jordan, the whole exercise would be pointless..and painful. Perfection achieved. Ryan Reynolds either has a great understanding of the character or was coached to death as he hit all the right notes. This Hal has a self destructive streak only overshadowed by his willingness to sacrifice himself for the innocents around him. He’s a ladies’ man, an awesome uncle and a flawed, human being with a noble heart that isn’t afraid to speak his mind. This is exactly what I wanted in the title character. This alone deserves applause.
My next point baffled friends at the screening I attended, as I began it by saying I enjoyed Green Lantern more than Thor. This may have been achieved by a slim margin, but it all comes down to the matter of your hero’s adversary. In Thor, we are presented with many directions in which we can point our distaste, but in the end, the Frost Giants were patsies, Destroyer was a tool (literally) and above all, the story begged for you to sympathize with the deeply flawed Loki. I’ve got no one to really HATE here and so, I don’t need to mentally cheer on the good guy as much as I’d like. This seemed to also be the case with Green Lantern (in a different way) as the trailers had me assume Parallax would be a sort of 5th Element, world ending monstrosity that would be making its way to Earth, only to actually manifest at the very end and perish all too quickly. It was easy to dismiss the possibility that Hector Hammond would be adequate leading up to that finale, as all we’d seen was a dude with a giant head screaming. Rocky Dennis does not make for an awesome villain. I’ve never been so glad to be wrong. Again, I won’t spoil the movie for you by going into detail, but Hector proves to be a fairly creepy villain on his own merits. This is not to discount the Parallax entity, which in my opinion steals the show. This isn’t some Galactus shaped space cloud! This is a straight up monster that gets up close and assures you will fail right before ripping you to pieces! As I look down at the horrid lump of yellow plastic passed off as the movie’s key creature at your local Toys R Us, I have to wonder if the goal was to lower our expectations so that, when the actual movie creature was revealed, we would be all that much more happy about it. For once, it is a very satisfying bait and switch!
No matter what the abysmally negative reviews may be saying, I challenge those writers to argue that Green Lantern is not a beautiful movie. Scenes on Earth were always engaging, very real and cinematically added to a feeling of watching an epic tale. Scenes on the Green Lantern Corps home planet of Oa utilized vibrant colors against a stark, almost stone-hengian landscape surrounding a future-scape we only see from a distance. Green Lantern fans will be grinning from ear to ear when we first meet the Guardians. Their private corner of Oa can only be described as fantastically artistic.
I’m not going to go deeply into acting performances as I felt the cast, as a whole, performed in perfect synchronicity, from the leads right down to the pseudo sidekicks and characters we’ll, no doubt, see more of at a later date. It seems all are reigned in to make the whole a stronger piece. Weather that is on purpose or not, we’ll never know. Even Ryan Reynolds, whom we most likely expected to be squeezing the laughs from us like pulpy orange juice is funny when he is able and very nearly earnest when he is not. It is hard to take Reynolds seriously after all the hysterical times we’ve had with him, and especially when he is wearing a glowing green second skin, but the man does his damndest to convey sincerity and very nearly pulls it off. Very, very nearly. Actually, to make a quick note, Blake Lively and Mark Strong act their asses off, to an excellent degree, so I was lying about the “equality” just before. Mark Strong goes so far as to steal any scene he is in with Reynolds. No contest. I’ll also point out that Geoffrey Rush voices Tomar-Re, Michael Clarke Duncan voices Kilowog (poozer), Clancy Brown voices Parallax and Angela Bassett plays Amanda Waller. How can you say no to that cast?!
I can see the arguments one can make against this movie fairly clearly. There’s a whole lot of mush going on between Hal Jordan and the stunningly beautiful Carol Ferris, no doubt to widen the demographic this uber geeky film is set to attract. It all works but is a bit more mindless than the actual action sequences…and certainly forced. Some might say just as forced as a PG-13 rating for a movie that could have very easily been PG without taking anything away from it, but I digress. You’d probably rather the on screen romance end up with a healthy bit of gymnastics in the bed room or just get back to showing the billion other Lanterns we only caught a glimpse of in camera sweeps. For comic fans reading, you will get some dead on views of packs of Green Lanterns, and even some time with Kilowog and Tomar-Re , but don’t expect much more than that. It seems there may have been additional footage of these moments left on the cutting room floor. I will say no more, as my name is not Spoiler Man. In the film’s defense, there is plenty of action to be had and not so much that you are sick of green CGI by the movie’s end. IMPRESSIVE! How often can you say a movie gave you equal portions of everything you go to the movies for and left you wanting more? Green Lantern is an excellent origin story without the drag and emotional weight of that hero’s learning curve to interrupt your fun. This is a first chapter striving to be a bit more. This is also a thoughtful film that gives due respect to its comic origins without getting lost in the nonsensical devices we have come to accept out of love for our heroes, but still audibly groan at while reading. This is miles of geeky fun without questioning your intelligence or counting on your loyalty to take one for the team in the hopes more DC movies will be made on the back of its success. Ignore the sour tones of the Tomato Meter. Green Lantern is a damn good time!