What They Say:
Hal is a gifted and cocky test pilot, but the Green Lanterns have little respect for humans, who have never harnessed the infinite powers of the ring before. But Hal is clearly the missing piece to the puzzle, and along with his determination and willpower, he has one thing no member of the Corps has ever had: humanity. With the encouragement of fellow pilot and childhood sweetheart Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), if Hal can quickly master his new powers and find the courage to overcome his fears, he may prove to be not only the key to defeating Parallax he will become the greatest Green Lantern of all.
Coming into the Green Lantern movie has been an interesting experience. While most comics fans have wished for a more Marvel approach to the movies, Warner is adapting various DC properties without a sense of real continuity between them at this point in time. When the first trailer hit, fandom largely looked at it and either laughed, cried or a combination of both. I felt on the outside with it because I liked what I saw, I appreciated the humor that was showing a version of the lead character that definitely existed in the comics history and made it accessible to a non-comics fan fairly easily, even if many did just see it as Reynolds playing the same character he always has. Some folks were swayed back a bit with the Wondercon footage that came out this year but the number TV spots, trailers and featurettes seemed to push the die hards away even more.
Green Lantern is a fairly straightforward origin story as we’re introduced to the cocky and reckless test pilot of Hal Jordan. Facing a legacy issue where his father died in a test pilot accident himself back in the early 90’s, he’s got his issues and it’s strained relationships with friends and with a potential love of his life in Carol Ferris, the daughter of the owner of Ferris Aircraft where he’s a pilot. While he struggles with this, events are unfolding out in the vast galaxy where a creature known as Parallax, which has been imprisoned in a lost sector of space for ages, has found his way free and is intending to get his revenge on those that imprisoned him. Those people are the Guardians of the planet Oa and their intergalactic police force that keeps order in the galaxy known as the Green Lantern Corps.
Parallax’s freedom has him drawing the life force of entire worlds as it moves in a cloud-like form across the stars, using fear to absorb their energy to become stronger. One of his main targets though is a Lantern called Abin Sur who was responsible for securing his imprisonment and that bit of revenge causes Abin Sur to be mortally wounded, crashing on Earth where the Ring he wears as a member of the Corps will seek out the best candidate for replacement among the local population. It’s an ancient and trusted ritual within the Corps that has survived for ages. Suffice to say, it calls to Jordan and he finds himself in a strange situation where he’s being gifted with incredible powers and responsibility, but he fears that he’s not going to be able to handle it. It’s a problem that’s plagued him throughout his life, from work to friends to relationships.
Events do tie together as Abin Sur’s body contains a fragment of Parallax and that ends up infecting a human scientist named Hector Hammond. This starts to change him and works as a draw to Parallax itself. And while this unfold, Hal copes with discovering what Abin Sur gifted him with as he’s drawn to Oa and gets an introduction to the Corps itself and its varied cast. The training aspect is a bit short and rough, but the scale of it as we see the Guardians and their ways, the sheer number of Lanterns that there are and the variety of them all. As it jumps through the storylines that unfold, including the relationship ups and downs with Carol, the feature covers a lot of ground.
Green Lantern definitely has its clunky moments, especially early on with the way that Hal and Carol act around each other and the number of things it wants to introduce. Once it gets rolling, things do settle down some and the setting its established doesn’t flinch from being what it is. The film opens with the big moments, talking about the way the universe works under the Guardians and other races, spending a good bit of time with them and the Corps before going to Earth to focus on Hal and his life as a test pilot. That can throw some people, but what needs to be remembered is that while this is a superhero film, it’s one that’s unlike all others out there so far. The only one that comes close in the general idea is that of Thor where it works with something very different than your traditional human or altered human characters. Gods and aliens asks the audience to accept something different than those norms like Batman or even Spider-man.
I’ve seen some reviews saying that it’s hard to ask the audience to accept this kind of world, which is an odd statement to make considering kids and adults embraced things like Star Wars and Star Trek with its myriad aliens and mysticisms that were introduced over the years. Green Lantern plays in this field and often has a stronger science fiction feel (though a bit less on the science, since it’s superhero science) than a traditional superhero. In fact, outside of some minor moments overall, we don’t see Hal deal with the more mundane aspects of what superheroes traditionally do. No criminals are stopped, no terrorists foiled, no buildings and massive airplanes saved. Green Lantern is about saving the world, protecting this sector of the universe and working with a group of likeminded individuals that span said universe.
Having read a fair number of Green Lantern comics since the 80’s and enjoying the animated versions, I came away really enjoying this interpretation by Reynolds. From my perspective, many fans are just used to the “modern” version of Hal, the one that has experienced a whole lot over his life and is a senior member of the comics universe. Going back to the beginning, here, where Hal has to deal with overcoming fear, finding his willpower and being the young, cocky and reckless test pilot that he is, Reynolds captures that well. Blake Lively is alright as Carol Ferris, but she gets into the role more once Hal reveals what’s happened to her and she becomes a part of his trusted circle. I loved the little nods towards continuity with her such as the Sapphire call sign and some of the colors she wears.
What really won me over was Mark Strong as Sinestro. While the variety of the fully CG Green Lantern characters may be problematic for some (I loved the majority of them in their look), Sinestro is the one that was going to be the hardest sell along with Abin Sur. Sinestro in particular has a very distinct, classic look from the sixties that is difficult to translate into reality but they did a great job here and Strong really gave him a great presence and personality, making me want an entire movie just about him as the senior, experienced and self assured over confident Corps member. Abin Sur doesn’t get as much depth overall, but the visual design for him and how he’s portrayed works really well. These are good selling moments for me that showed a good adaptation of a version of the source material.
Green Lantern is a superhero film unlike others in how far it wants you to get into its concepts. Batman is a human character, Superman is humanized through a lengthy time on Earth with human parents first. Iron Man and Hulk are just men changed by experiences. Only Thor asks you to really believe in a bigger mythology similar to this. The movie definitely has its weak points with some clunky dialogue and a lot going on within the 105 minute run time, but once it gets past some of the initial setup, and especially when it has Hal visiting Oa, things start to come together well. Many comic fans have lamented the way most movies excise the things that make them special when being adapted to films in order to be “real world.” That works for some characters but it would be detrimental for this character, which is a science fiction story with superhero trappings. I loved the special effects, I loved the variety to the aliens and I thoroughly enjoyed a lot of the performances. There’s a lot of fun nods for the comics fans and there’s a great little bonus after the initial round of end credits that made me grin and has me really wanting a sequel to be underway now.
On a personal note, I went to this movie with three other people. My daughter, who is eleven, has been reading a few of the Green Lantern comics in the last week and has enjoyed a lot of the DC Unvierse animated movies as well as things like Iron Man, Batman Begins, Thor and so forth. She’s following my footsteps in that regard. She brought her friend who has never read a comic or seen any of these movies. And I had my girlfriend with me who has seen several of these types of movies since meeting me but has never read a comic before. The kids absolutely loved the movie and were pretty much engaged with it throughout and my girlfriend liked it a whole lot as well. Considering what a lot of other reviews have been like, I had a lot of fear as to how they’d react to it, but without the influence of the internet over it, they went in with no preconceptions for the most part and came away enjoying it a lot. This is a release-date Blu-ray purchase for me to be sure.