Should I Watch..? 'Green Lantern'
What's the big deal?
Green Lantern is an action fantasy superhero film released in 2011 and is based on the DC Comics character of the same name created by John Broome and Gil Kane. The film follows a cocky fighter pilot who comes into possession of an alien ring that grants him extraordinary powers as the world is threatened by an ancient alien evil. Directed by Martin Campbell, the film stars Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong and Tim Robbins. The film had been stuck in development hell since 1997 with production only really beginning in the aftermath of Marvel's hugely successful Cinematic Universe (the MCU) launch in 2008. The film was released to a chorus of criticism with many highlighting the confusing script, over-use of CG and inconsistent tone. The film was considered a box office failure with global returns of $219 million, barely enough to cover the film's sky-high budget. Publicly slated by Reynolds, who would return to superhero films with the much more entertaining Deadpool in 2016, the film has become synonymous with bad comic-book adaptations.
What's it about?
Many billions of years ago, the Guardians Of The Universe harnessed the green essence of willpower and used it to create an intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps. Dividing the universe up into sectors, each one assigned a Green Lantern to protect it from evil, the Corps were threatened by a malevolent entity known as Parallax. He was eventually imprisoned on a remote planet by the Lantern Abin Sur but unfortunately, Parallax recently escaped and mortally wounded Abin Sur who crash-lands his escape-pod on planet Earth.
Arrogant fighter pilot Hal Jordan, fresh from upsetting his superiors and co-pilot Carol Ferris, accidentally discovers Sur's craft and the dying Sur gives Hal a mysterious ring and a lantern. Telling him to recite the oath and appointing Hal a Green Lantern, Sur dies and leaves Hal wondering what to do next. But time is running out for Hal as Parallax is on his way to Earth and a danger closer to home rears his ugly (and rather large) head...
Hal Jordan / Green Lantern
Dr Hector Hammond
Dr Amanda Waller
Senator Robert Hammond
Tomar-Re / Narrator
Michael Clarke Duncan
Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim & Michael Goldenberg *
Release Date (UK)
17th June, 2011
Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Superhero
What's to like?
It's easy to mock a film so notorious a failure as Green Lantern but I went into it with an open mind, not knowing a huge amount about the character. The film certainly doesn't skimp on the visuals, taking you on a wild ride from one corner of the universe to the next and the countless colourful alien races seen inbetween. To the uninitiated, it feels reminiscent of some scenes in the Star Wars saga such as the cantina on Tattooine or the Galactic Senate seen in The Phantom Menace. Of course, they're all digital but there isn't one dodgy puppet in sight.
Reynolds' performance feels a touch misplaced but you can see elements of Deadpool beneath the ridiculous dialogue. The Hal Jordan character is a pretty unlikeable one, making it difficult to cheer for him throughout the movie. I felt much more sympathy for Sarsgaard as the malformed Hector Hammond who is belittled by everyone including his own father. I would have liked to see a bigger and better confrontation between him and Hal as Parallax is kinda tacked on at the end. The green constructs also look great, forming out of mid-air and making the film feel like a more serious version of Jim Carrey's The Mask.
- The film had a troubled background with script re-writes, tension between Campbell and Reynolds and significant studio interference during editing. Reynolds, who hated working on the film, was pleased to see the film fail as he did not want to return for a planned sequel.
- As Deadpool, Reynolds famously asks for his suit not to be green or animated - a notable dig at Green Lantern. The decision for the suit to be CG instead of cloth was a creative one, designed to imitate another construct by the ring.
- The film was planned as part of a trilogy designed to kick off a series of films leading to a Justice League picture. Due to the film's failure, these plans were scrapped until Man Of Steel was released in 2013. The director of that film, Zack Snyder, turned down the director's chair for Green Lantern because he had already committed to another comic-book adaptation, Watchmen.
- Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed Amanda Waller as one of the characters. She would later appear in a more prominent role in Suicide Squad played by Viola Davis.
What's not to like?
Lets start with Reynolds who veers from irritating fly-boy to over-grown man-child to noble hero at a moment's notice. He's impossible to get behind, which is important for a superhero movie. Lively isn't given enough to do, Sarsgaard feels underused and under-developed and Strong's Sinestro isn't given the full push to become the bad guy we all know he is. What made things worse was how easily these improbable plot turns were absorbed by the human characters. If I'd been trapped in a ball of green energy, transported to a spaceship with a dying alien inside who gave me a magic ring and lantern then at the very least, I'd have a couple of questions assuming I wasn't filled my underwear in fear. But no, Reynolds takes everything in his stride like he almost expected such things to happen to him.
A film with as deep a mythology as Green Lantern should at least spend some of its time explaining things to those unfamiliar with the character. I almost understood how the ring worked, what the Green Lantern Corps was and why Hector turned evil. But I hadn't a clue about the wizened blue guys on top of rocks (they could have been Smurfs for all I knew), why Parallax needed to feed on more souls when he seemed fairly powerful anyway and what exactly did Carol Ferris see in Hal Jordan? Speaking of whom, why include all the stuff about his dad dying - was it just to garner sympathy for him? Nothing made any sense and in a film about an alien police force creating stuff out of thin air, some sense would have been appreciated.
Should I watch it?
Green Lantern is not the worst superhero film ever made but it sure is one of the most frustrating. With miscast roles and a hero that can literally do anything he wants but never seems to, it's disappointing that the film doesn't really have much of a story to tell and underwhelms when transporting us to distant alien worlds. There was so much potential here and it squanders every last bit of it, becoming a faintly boring visual spectacle and nothing more. At least Reynolds redeemed himself as the Merc with the Mouth.
Great For: forgiving fans of the character, proving how far behind Marvel DC are when it comes to films, arrogant fighter pilots
Not So Great For: general audiences, anyone unfamiliar with the character
What else should I watch?
One of the few good things to come out of Green Lantern was the sharpening of focus at DC when it came to producing their own version of the MCU. Starting with Man Of Steel, the company have steadily released a number of interconnected films that led to their attempt at emulating Marvel's massively successful Avengers Assemble. Justice League brought together the likes of Batman, Superman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, The Flash and Cyborg to fight some sinister force but by this point, audiences had learnt their lesson. After underwhelming efforts like Suicide Squad and Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, audience recognised that DC films are the poor man's Marvel. Only Wonder Woman was released to genuine praise and box office success and, I suspect, that's because Marvel hadn't gotten around to a female-led film by that point.
Of course, not everything Marvel has touched turned to gold - some of it turned into Daredevil, Ben Affleck's spectacularly awful effort and a film so toxic, it's meant that Marvel daren't return to the character for anything other than a TV show. Things improved dramatically with the release of Iron Man and the birth of the MCU which continues to pull in vast sums of money all over the world. If Marvel is Coca-Cola then DC are definitely Pepsi, unfortunately.
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© 2018 Benjamin Cox