Sunday, June 19, 2011

Review: Green Lantern

Rating: 5/10

Directed By: Martin Campbell
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Tim Robbins
Written By: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg
Edited By: Stuart Baird
Music By: James Newton Howard
Produced and Distributed By: DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures

Budget: $200 million
Runtime: 114 minutes
Rated PG-13 for "intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action"

A summer filled with so many films has to have a few disappointments, and Green Lantern may be that disappointment. It isn't bad, though critics say otherwise, but it isn't good either. The reasoning is simple enough: it's no different a superhero story than what audiences have been paying for since 2001, but every year this formula works less and less. Hence, our first look at a DC superhero not Batman or Superman is entertaining but not engrossing enough to hold up against what Marvel has to offer.

 I started with low expectations for Lantern (I wrote about the marketing of the film in this blog!), but the WonderCon footage boosted me. Oa looked awesome, as did the idea of having thousands of Lanterns in the same film. Green Lantern is actually very similar to Thor in that it is about a superhero who works best when NOT on Earth; a hero whose coolest stories are NOT about something threatening the human species. Thor did an OK job of giving us enough Asgard scenes to satisfy the appetite. Lantern doesn't do a bad job, but the possibility for something better is very much there.

One notable complaint I read beforehand is that the pumped up Oa footage is only about 15 minutes, with everything else set on Earth. This scared me because Oa, along with all the aliens, are awesome. So much so that in April, Warner Bros. actually increased the film's budget by $9 million so extra visual effects teams could be brought in to finish shots on time. Luckily, in my opinion, the critics are being a bit snobby. There are a significant number of Oa scenes with Sinestro and the Guardians, and while there is a little too much Earth, there isn't too little of Oa. And Oa, as expected, rocks. The visual effects throughout the movie are awesome, but the same is said for every movie this summer. Oh, and Mark Strong as Sinestro is superb - he along makes me want the sequel.

Every problem with this film is in the Earth scenes. Black Lively's character seems to be there because movies are expected to have a female lead who can entice a romantic subplot. Enter the typical superhero formula: strong male lead with a bunch of supporting characters who really don't serve a purpose besides needing more names for the poster. Peter Sarsgaard, in particular, could have been removed completely. It just gets down to the fact that when there are extra-galactic police organizations involved, I don't care about stupid human villains. I want alien bad guys tearing apart galaxies, not the usual "childhood friend is jealous and takes the bad route to Hal Jordan's good route." Sarsgaard, to his credit, does a great job in the role, though a creepy to the point of unsettling one, but every time he's on screen (including the completely pointless scenes with he and his father, Tim Robbins) all you can think is how much you want to get back to Oa.

It starts off strong, with the first seven minutes or so being all Oa and Abin-Sur backstory, which is really cool. Then you're introduced to Ryan Reynold's Hal Jordan, fighter ace and jackass. Reynolds, actually, does a good job. His personality works well with the character. My biggest complain comes with the film's climax. First, there's the premise: super villain Parallax (think Galactus from the second Fantastic Four, except smaller) is sucking the energy out of civilizations with plans to invade Oa. Suddenly, he decides that instead of Oa, the most powerful planet in the universe, he's going to head for Earth. Why!? I would think that Avatar proved audiences are OK with a movie not taking place on Earth. It seems like studios fear audiences will disconnect if an American city isn't being destroyed.

Having the climatic battle on Earth is something I could have overlooked IF the filmmakers had granted us a battle between Parallax and the Lantern Corps. There are thousands of them, including three that are semi-fleshed out as characters, and midway through the film we're granted but a ten second glimpse at squadron combat. Instead, Hal Jordan petitions the Guardians to let him defend Earth by himself, blah blah blah character development as he accepts his new universal (literally) responsibility and all that stuff. It's disappointing. There's no reason Hal can't defend Earth with Sinestro, Tomar Re, and Kilowog at his side. They show up in the end anyways, but it's conveniently after Parallax is defeated! All of the story elements and character arcs needed for Lantern to be a "movie" could have been achieved with those three there from the start. The only difference would be that we'd get a super awesome kick-ass Lantern battle. We don't.

Admittedly, I want to mention a good point, because I did not hate the film. The way the ring's will power energy is portrayed is done very well. They do a great job of having Hal conjure up a wide array of items in battle, rather than just using swords and gun and bats the whole time. He actually gets pretty creative, which is cool because that's the coolest thing about the Green Lantern. "The only limits are what you can imagine," says Tomar Re, and that should probably be the motto for the movie overall.

Maybe the problem with Green Lantern is that there is so much riding on it. I'm not overly critical because it's an origin story, and we all know how those end up. I'm glad they decided to wait on the Sinestro storyline because it allows for more development on that character. Yet, whether there will be a sequel seems to now be in doubt. DC credits four writers, along with another two for story and who knows how many that weren't listed. This happens a lot, but it makes you wonder whether it detracts from the quality. Not only was Green Lantern bogged down by a cluttered studio system, but DC and Warner Bros. pumped it up so much that they actually started writing the sequel last August!

I don't regret seeing Lantern, which many will probably disagree with, because the movie was entertaining. It had decent battle sequences, and what we get to see of Oa and the Lantern Corps. rocks, hard. There's much left to be asked for, which is disappointing since this film determines the future of other DC properties. It's a summer blockbuster, and serves that responsibility well. It won't total up as great as Potter or X-Men, and Capt. America and Transformers are still to be determined. Hey, no summer is perfect, especially one as big as this one. In the end, when it comes to DC superheroes, at least we've got The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel to look forward to without doubt. If you want entertainment, check out Lantern, but know it won't make any top five lists.


  1. Good review! Haven't seen this one for myself, and I can't say that the initial reviews made me want to go see it, but I enjoyed your take because it seemed to be a little less critical than others that I've read. Hope you're having a good summer!


  2. Thanks! I like to think I'm a bit more open to the entertainment value of movies than some critics are. My summer is going, as always. Looking forward to being back at Vassar this fall!

  3. The mythology is nonsensical and the plot takes forever to get going. But once it does, the movie takes advantage of a strong cast and a director who knows what he’s doing. Good Review!

  4. Thanks! I'm not so big on the director, but I suppose he didn't do a BAD job with it. It could've been so much more, though...