As a fan of comic books I inherently hope every comic book adaptation is going to be something that I can enjoy as a fan, but also as a critic, someone who grades films on their merits and not just my personal preference. Green Lantern looked set to fail me from early trailers and a much need ten million dollar boost to the CGI effects didn’t inspire confidence that this was going to be something to set the bar, if anything it’d be lucky to kiss its underside. But with a second trailer things looked brighter and so with hopes renewed, I walked into GL a tabula rasa of expectation and waited to see what I walked out with.
Hal Jordan looks like this before he gets the suit...The plot briefly explains the Guardians as immortal intergalactic peace keepers who have harnessed the energy of will power to fuel their rings that in turn can generate whatever the wearer wills into existence. When an ancient nemesis, the fear entity Parallax, is awoken and quickly dispatches it’s former defeater, another Green Lantern called Abin Sur (played by Temuera Morrison), a new ring bearer is chosen: enter Ryan Reynolds’ Hal Jordan. Jordan is the sort of a character that isn’t at all a stretch for Reynolds; sardonic, ironic, self deprecating and flawed; he’s the tough guy with issues. A screw up with a heart of gold and a dilemma that he needs to overcome if he’s ever going to beat the bad guy and get the girl. In short, he’s the archetypal hero figure and Reynolds is the perfect choice to play him, with a foot in the superhero genre for some time now, just waiting for his big break as the lead.
Down on his luck and in need of pep, Jordan’s inevitable love interest could have really been anyone with good looks and the ability to play forlorn and disappointed. The almost two dimensional nature of the role is filled out nicely by Blake Lively, but again there is nothing to stretch her or make her Carol Ferris character at all 3D or interesting. Her one promising rant is swiftly glazed over and she’s quickly sidelined to plot device territory as anything other than a sassy love interest/damsel in distress, who could be the key to bringing the troubled, at times moody, Jordan back on track to the hero role he’s been chosen to fulfil.
The film moves pacely enough through the first act, establishing all the key points and staying brainless but linear with some overbearing, but sufferable CGI given the grand nature of the plot. When Jordan is selected as a Green Lantern candidate after a string of bad luck on earth, Peter Sarsgaard is similarly established as his nemesis running parallel on the villainy front, and oddly it’s Sarsgaard who comes up trumps as the more compelling figure; his overbearing father (Tim Robbins) a far more tangible trigger point than ghosts of Jordan’s past.
The second act sees proceeds take on a darkness that piques an interest that intensifies, yet is never properly fulfilled. Character becomes secondary to effects and strangely the best parts in this film seem to have bypassed the leads and went straight to bit characters like Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan as Lanterns Tomar-Re and Kilowog. Mark Strong is excellent as Sinestro and most notable is Peter Sarsgaard as the standout and brilliantly mental baddie: Hector Hammond. Even Temuera Morrison gives a stoic turn as legendary Lantern Abin Sur, while leads Reynolds and Lively seem cardboard going on predictable by comparison.
Begrudgingly, a lot of the naff and script weakness could be overlooked this far into the film. The plot while comforting in its cliché and rushed throughout the second act could have been forgiven to a point, as it remained both entertaining and linear with some nice performances from the second stringers to push it along and make it likeable enough. The premise is ridiculous but buy-able and the CGI (Lantern Home world Oa and the legions of alien lanterns in particular) is at times a massive eye sore but sufferable when you succumb to the scale and interplanetary nature of the film’s design. So when Jordan is pushed through the inevitable training montage and the epic sci-fi cum fantasy back story seems hurried and painfully at odds with his more pedestrian human affairs, you can switch off and forgive it, up to a point.
HERE BE SPOILERS!
That point however, ends come the third act, when any finger hold on coherency is jettisoned in favour of enormous CGI, the complete abandoning of any sense the plot ever had (immortal intergalactic peace keepers with millions of soldiers to spare, who are prepared to let planets get eaten and leave Jordan to face enormous odds alone? Then eventually decide to deal with the problem by using the same method that created it?) and the sinfully timed exiting of Sarsgaard when he could have made things so much more interesting.
HERE ENDETH THE SPOILERS!
.. and like this afterwards. No, honestly...There are some moments of pure CGI splendour, but amidst the wreckage of the, GL’s credibility ground to a screeching halt. With Sarsgaard replaced by an amorphous CG blob and any decent character work out the window, it seems that a decent ending was scrapped in favour of throwing as much special effects at the audience as possible and hoping they enjoyed them. Green Lantern drifts into emotionally tired inevitabilities with no real grab on the audience, desensitised by a complete lack of impending doom and the underdeveloped overly predictable arc that Reynolds’ Hal Jordan motors through with nary a question of outcome. This might have been good if you’d never seen Richard Donner’s original Superman, or any other superhero film for that matter (Raimi’s Spider-man, Nolans’ Dark Knight). But these pre-existing films where well-rounded characters with flaws, dilemmas and sought after love interests; eventually attained through redemption, have already set the bar and told the same story, in their case a million times better.
Warner Bros spent $300Million establishing Green Lantern as a potential superhero franchise to replace Harry Potter when he eventually goes to his grave this July. Taking a leaf out of Marvel’s book there’s no doubt that GL will return, things having been set in motion already for a sequel and potential sidequels using other DC characters.
But while this may be a popcorn no brainer with big effects as its selling point; remove said effects and you’re left with a tired concept, overdone and done better by other directors who have already brought something fresher and better to the genre. GL brought a higher price tag, but as the man says; quality over quantity every time.