OneMetal film REVIEW: Green Lantern

Green Lantern

DC have not had a lot of luck adapting their properties to the screen. Superman and Batman have made the transition both totally unscathed and almost unrecognisable in various incarnations, but a lot of the second stringers have been genuinely dire, with movies like Jonah Hex, Constantine, Catwoman, and even the bizarre and ill-advised Shaquille O’Neal vehicle Steel failing to impress. Green Lantern is a character that isn’t especially well-known outside of comics fandom, but if Iron Man and Thor can be mainstream film successes, surely a huge, intergalactic tale of superpowered cops and weird aliens should be able to make it to the screen, right?

The short answer, is yes, but not like this. While elements of Green Lantern are appealling, and while most of the cast seem to be to be trying so hard to make the whole thing fun that they’re likely to strain something, the overall result is such a shambolic lurching mess that the few elements that are enjoyable are lost in a mire of meandering plotting and endless exposition. Worse, the film eschews the far more interesting space-based stuff to keep the film firmly grounded on Earth (and therefore, you know, cheap) for the majority of its runtime.

What a lot of Lanterns.

Ryan Reynolds plays Hal Jordan, a reckless manchild test fighter pilot (qualities I imagine are often associated with the job). Emotionally crippled by the death of his father at a young age, he hurtles through every manchild cliche so quickly that it’s genuinely surprising that there isn’t a scene of him watching cartoons in his pants. His boss / charisma-free love interest is Carol Ferris (played by the ironically-named Blake Lively), a one-note attempt by idiots to write an empowered woman (she’s a successful businesswoman and a fighter pilot), yet her whole role in the film is for men to fight over her, or to cower while imperilled. Rounding out the film’s never-explained love triangle and central trio is Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard, looking like a ginger Julian Assange), a nerdy biologist who feels crushed by his overbearing senator father. Yes, instead of a galaxy-spanning epic, Green Lantern is a film about the messy collision between superpowers, daddy issues and outright misogyny. Buried proved that Ryan Reynolds can carry more drama than the light and fluffy rom coms and action flicks that have made up his career to date, but in Green Lantern he seems to be in default ‘grinning and wisecracks’ mode. Most of the performances are weak – though Stellan Sarsgaard and Mark Strong seem to be trying – and actors like Tim Robbins are wasted on glorified cameos.

So, the plot: The Green Lantern Corps are intergalactic peacekeepers, each with a ring that focuses their willpower into constructs of green energy. When its bearer is mortally wounded, the ring picks Hal as its new owner, who must step up and overcome his fear if he’s to fulfil his destiny. Except sometimes it’s more his daddy issues that he has to face. Or sometimes they’re the same thing, and sometimes they’re completely different. A better writer (or team – there are four writing credits on this thing) would have been able to tie it all together in a meaningful way, rather than the very vague ‘fear is bad, parents mess you up’ message that meanders in and out of frame throughout the film. The most interesting parts of the film – Hal learning to use his powers and training with other Green Lanterns – are sadly sidelined for a lot of boring exposition.

A determination to complete as much of the film as possible with CGI rather than practical effects makes Green Lantern look bizarre and unfinished for far too much of its runtime. A lot of the effects are rough, but even the absolutely vital effects like Hal’s suit (inexplicably 100% CG) look shiny and incomplete all too frequently. Worse, he frequently has a CGI mask imposed on his face, and when your character is already reduced to a floating head in a sea of pixels, flattening and hiding the main character’s browline makes for a complete inability to read expressions.

When a purple guy with a clearly villainous moustache is your most nuanced character, you're in trouble.

There are moments in the outer space scenes that look suitably epic, but they are few and far between. For the most part the CGI is just jarring. Most of the Green Lanterns are well-designed but poorly-realised. The Guardians, the taciturn and immortal Smurfs that oversee the Green Lantern Corps, feature lip-syncing that would embarrass most videogames. By the end of the film, the villain Parallax looks like a skull with snake / dragon /arm / leg / things radiating from the centre – like something a 14 year-old boy would draw in the margins of his textbook during a particularly dull lesson. There is a post-credits sequence that reduces Sinestro (50’s sci-fi name aside, he is the only halfway interesting character in the film) to a cackling idiot. Fans of the comics will know where his story is leading, and to see it reduced to a 10-second snippet totally undoes the restrained performance that Mark Strong managed to deliver in the middle of all the prosthetics and mocap suits.

If it’s your fondest wish to see these characters realised on screen then you might get something out of Green Lantern, but most people will leave this film baffled and annoyed. There isn’t a single fully-functional element of Green Lantern, from the cast to script, score to direction to effects – everything is sub-par. Maybe if the filmmakers and studio had committed to the idea of the big dumb space opera Green Lantern needed to be in order to distinguish itself from all the other superhero films, it wouldn’t be such a letdown. As it is, it’s a joyless unfocused mess.

Bottom Line

A huge missed opportunity, Green Lantern squanders any goodwill generated by the cast with an unfocused story and sub-par action. It's not Catwoman bad, but it's definitely Fantastic Four bad.

1.5/5 - Might have limited appeal

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7 Responses to “Green Lantern”
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  • Will Lakeman
    Will Lakeman says:

    I enjoyed reading a harsh review of this film far more than I’d enjoy watching it, so congratulations.

    With all this CG, I don’t understand why they don’t just cut out the middlemen and make a fully animated movie. At least then the resulting product might not be quite as awful. The 80s cash-in Transformers movie still stands up pretty well today (if only for its uncannily accurate prediction of junk planet Britain), but the live action reboot was a colossal waste of cash. I also prefer the X Men cartoon to any of the movies.

    Rant over, at least til live-action Akira comes out.

    June 20, 2011 at 22:03 OneMetal Team Member

  • Gerald Wiley says:

    I do agree that the 90s X-men cartoons, on Fox Kids of all places(!), beat the pants out of the first three live action films, despite the best intentions of Bryan Singer. And the less said about the the Wolverine spin-off the better.

    That said, with the storming success that is X-Men First Class, and the exhilarating if exasperating Thor, I had hoped that we might be in for a select summer of superhero movies. Alas, it seems that Mr Convery has indeed trawled the pond and unearthed something of a travesty here…

    And a live action version of Akira? I wouldn’t hold your breath, even after the Hughes brothers’ firing by Warner Bros. It could well turn out to be even worse than this…

    June 20, 2011 at 22:51 OneMetal Team Member

  • Will Lakeman
    Will Lakeman says:

    I think there is a joke trailer somewhere online for ‘Akira USA’. It’s going to be horrible.

    I couldn’t even make myself watch the Wolverine spin-off. The only superhero movie I’ve really enjoyed recently was ‘Kick Ass’

    June 20, 2011 at 23:14 OneMetal Team Member

  • Oliver Longden
    Oliver Longden says:

    Absolutely horrible and the special effects were shit. It was almost impossible to concentrate on anything involving the Green Lantern because of the unsettling way Ryan Reynolds face jumped into the foreground like even the 2D version was trying to be 3D. Also the misogyny on display was genuinely frightening with Blake Lively’s character written and directed in a way that suggests the film makers don’t really believe women are sentient in any real way. Those were definitely the worst bits apart from everything else about the film.

    June 21, 2011 at 09:00 OneMetal Team Member

  • Oliver Longden
    Oliver Longden says:

    Also I hear the live action remake of Akira has been re-imagined as a rom-com starring Gerard Butler in which he develops strange psychic powers after a gangland motorcycle crash which let him get inside the head of the waitress at his local cafe, the one he had a massive crush on at high school. Also Akira will be played by a digitally reconstructed version of Macaulay Culkin from 1991.

    June 21, 2011 at 09:05 OneMetal Team Member

  • Dave Convery
    Dave Convery says:

    Also, when Akira’s not on the screen, all the other characters should be asking “Where’s Akira?”.

    June 21, 2011 at 09:22

  • c82 says:

    PETER! PETER !! Not Stellan! Other than that, good job.

    November 3, 2016 at 15:41