This years summer blockbuster season seems to be dominated with big superhero action as Thor, X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern and Captain America: The First Avenger fight it out in the cinemas. Both Thor and X-Men: First Class have already had their shots and they have generally received positive reviews (and I would recommend watching both of them). Now it’s the turn of DC’s Green Lantern to light up the screen in an emerald glow. The only problem is that it falls significantly below the standard already set in this years superhero films.
The film deals with the journey of Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) as he is given a Power Ring (which can create anything he can think of, but is powered by his will power) by a dying alien, who happens to be a member of the intergalactic police force, know as The Green Lantern Corps. Along the way our hero must come to terms with himself, explore the world of the Lanterns, defeat the big bad and get the girl. So basically the usual superhero shenanigans and this is possibly the reason the film doesn’t work. It plays with the same toys as every other superhero origin film and it doesn’t seem to try to sell what is unique to the Green Lantern mythology. Yes he looks different and his powers are different, but ultimately Hal Jordan is just a simple archetype whose character arc in the film has been seen many times before. In fact Hal Jordan is a kaleidoscope of other superhero characters and he just comes off flat and repetitive. He deals with his fears and his daddy issues (Batman), whilst being wise cracking and charismatic (Iron Man) and coming to terms with his powers and responsibilities (Spider-man). It’s a well-worn path that has been done much better, in fact this year’s Thor also deals with this, but it seemed fresh and unique, with a lot of heart.
Not only is Hal Jordan himself a major problem with the film but also the film’s antagonists don’t do any better. The first is essentially a special effect called Parallax, a creature wielding the yellow power of fear. He basically looks like a giant octopus made out of smoke with an alien head, in fact he is reminiscent of the big smoke monster in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and we all know how that turned out. Parallax is neither scary nor intimidating and no amount of scenes showing his destructive might, will change these facts.
In fact all threat of the bad guy dwindles as the audience realises how by the numbers this superhero film is. However not merely content with one intergalactic threat bent on the destruction of The Green Lantern Corp/Earth, the filmmakers give the menace a human ally in the form of Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard). Hammond is a childhood rival of Hal’s, well they both fancy the film’s love interest Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) anyway, and in a scene that might as well have neon signposts flashing “this is important” he is infected by Parallax and gains mental powers and some head increasing prosthetics. Much like Hal, Hammond has daddy issues and the film tries to show the audience the difference between succumbing to fear and fighting it, which just comes off as insulting as Hammond looks like a mutant freak and Hal is played by Ryan Reynolds. In fact the whole problem with Hammond is not only Sarsgaard’s portrayal of him as laughably camp (Not in a good way and again reminding me of a the Fantastic Four films and the diabolically camp portrayal of Dr Doom), but also the fact that by the end of his character arc (again as predictable as the sun rising) he is still just a bitter and evil man and if he is just going to be such a one dimensional character it just seems so wasteful that he gets scenes involving his dad or any type of back-story exposition.
In fact this wastefulness is a crime that Green Lantern commits frequently. There are too many scenes that just serve no purpose (Seeing Hal’s family for example). It is a massive shame that the film devotes so little time to Oa, the homeplanet of the Lanterns. Whilst we are on Oa we are ‘treated’ to three specific places,The Guardian’s council (think Mount Olympus), a cavernous place with a giant green Lantern symbol in the middle, which I can only assume is the central power battery (that ones for the fans) where the Corps meets and a random bridge where Hal practices using his Power Ring (I suppose we could count the random bedroom he wakes up in when he first gets there). We do get a mini tour of Oa, but the planet is neither visually interesting nor memorable. We get to see the rest of the Corps including Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan) the combat trainer, Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush) the guide and obligatory exposition character and a slew of other Lanterns (fans will enjoy the little cameos). Most of Oa’s scenes have Mark Strong’s character Sinestro talk to the Guardians and basically bitch at them for not doing anything about Parallax. To be fair his character is the only one that holds any interest and is the only Lantern that is given anything resembling character development, but again it has no weight.
So all in all Green Lantern doesn’t do anything new or even tries to differentiate itself. It just plods along and isn’t a very enjoyable film. Most of it is either extremely dull or just laughable. It does have some good CGI work, but it doesn’t really hide the films flaws. It has flashes of creativity (the way Hal uses his Power Ring especially) but they are so brief that they get forgotten in the mediocrity of it all. I have refrained on commenting about Blake Lively because there is really nothing to say other than she is miscast and looks very young next to both Reynolds and Sarsgaard (who are all apparently playing childhood friends). I can see a sequelon the horizon if it does well financially (and they did do that little fan moment sceneafter the credits), but this franchise is more in tone with the Fantastic Four films. This is not a good first outing for the character and if anyone wants to seen a good origin story with a ridiculous premise just watch Thor.
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