The summer movie blockbuster season is truly with us, and on a raft of ebullient studio publicity and less enthusiastic word of mouth, arrives Green Lantern. Does it live up to the promises of the studio and the other films on offer this year, or will it disappoint. Join Geek Chocolate as we investigate.
With ambitions to become a potentially large space opera franchise now a certain boy wizard is about to hang up his wand, as it were, Warner Bros have finally unleashed another of their pantheon of superheroes in the form of Hal Jordan, comics’ Silver Age first Green Lantern, protector of our particular little spot in the universe.
Chosen by a dying Green Lantern warrior, Jordan has to find the courage within himself and discover his true potential in order to join the ranks of the Green Lantern Corps and save his world from Parallax, an alien entity which feeds on fear and is capable of destroying entire worlds. Once Parallax feeds on earth, he’ll have enough power to destroy the Corps’ home world and leave the universe undefended. So, for a man who has a problem with fear itself, he has a lot to do, and so does the film.
Based on what many regard as a second tier hero after the universally known Batman and Superman, Green Lantern has a large and grand mythology behind it, growing ever since the hero was reinvented in the early 1960’s and turning the property into a large scale movie that can connect to mainstream audiences is no mean feat. On certain levels, it succeeds, but on more important levels it struggles to keep the story going. This is a film with much to prove without taking audience love for superheroes for granted, and that proves its undoing to a major degree. Green Lantern kind of just sits there, waiting for us to love it without trying hard enough to sustain our attention.
One area that does succeed is casting Ryan Reynolds as Jordan. Surely no one must fail to realise the pro-active force this guy has been regarding comic book lore on the big screen and he’s obviously not about to phone in his performance. Reynolds pushes through a genuine sense of fun and warmth with the character that keeps much of the film afloat, even if he is forced to spend much of the second act moping about with Blake Lively’s Carol Ferris, who seems to give the opposite amount of effort, and is lifeless and inert, a malaise that also seems to have spread to the script.
The hero is set up for intergalactic action early on, but then the whole thing devolves into a loose chain of events where Jordan just hangs around debating whether he ought to join the Corps. While villainous things are happening light years away, Earthbound villain Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard, overacting and screaming a lot for no apparent reason) simply appears with zero back story preceding his hideous outward transformation, but it later transpires that he has a long history with Jordan and Carol, including an unrequited passion for her. This culminates in no one caring. Any sense of personal drama or attempt to make Hammond a tragic figure is left for dead and this affects the rest of the film.
Whilst director Martin Campbell has brought a fresh sense of danger to James Bond and Zorro in the past, here he doesn’t engage with the material. There is no passion on display, no sense of a desire to truly connect with the characters and have fun. The rest of the cast just seem to be going through the motions with the exception of Mark Strong’s Sinestro. As one of Hal’s alien mentors, he at least tries to give the role a little more beef than the rest of the characters with his obvious dislike for Hal and other humans. Jordan aside, he seems to be the only other character who the writers even attempt to give an arc to, which may be an obvious sign of what might come in a sequel (an end credits insert drives this home unnecessarily).
The effects of the world of Oa and the alien members of the Green Lantern Corps are mostly impressive but one might as well be watching the cut scenes of a video game instead of a film that is intended to compete with the likes of Iron Man or Superman. There is literally too much green-screen going on here (pardon the pun) and there seems to be a sense of “just get it up there on the screen and they’ll lap it up”, which is a crying shame as the source material and Reynolds deserved better. Parallax is suitably menacing but seems to leave much of the villainy to Hammond, who really doesn’t do very much until the end, when the film remembers it’s a superhero movie and dishes out some fun battling in space, which is surely what a Green Lantern has to do?
Regarding a sequel, while there is a script ready to go for a second instalment, the massive budget of this film (a rumoured $300m, all in) means that audiences are going to have to flock to this in droves to recoup it and justify a second production. The VFX and mythology will bring in the kids and comic fans, but many are going to be left disappointed by Green Lantern, especially with regard to the quality of the recent Thor and X-Men: First Class. Listless direction and poor writing leave this one almost high and dry, but not quite. The seeds are there for something good in the future if the filmmakers choose to learn the story and entertainment skills that Marvel seem to wield with such ease.
Green Lantern is a start. Not a good one, but it’s a start.