Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Temuera Morrison, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, Michael Clarke Duncan, Geoffrey Rush
Directors: Martin Campbell
Release Date: 17 June 2011
Stewart R: And so the endless months of DC’s press, promotion and merchandising push comes to a head for 2011 as their big bet finally hits 3D and 2D cinema screens worldwide carrying their, and Warner Bros', hopes of a new, blockbusting franchise. They, and die-hard fans around the globe really do have hopes that they can turn this Summer green and ‘will’ as many bums onto seats as possible so that the adventures of Green Lantern can capture the imagination of young and old alike.
A-lister in waiting, Ryan Reynolds plays Hal Jordan, cocky test pilot with mountains of potential, something to prove and lingering issues over the death of his father. When his persisting fear of perishing as his father did begins to see his life unravel on Earth, larger, galactically important events unfolding out in the cosmos conspire to point him in a new direction. And so was born the first human member of the Green Lantern Corps: an army of empowered peacekeepers that patrol the universe at the behest of the Guardians and using the power of Will to create physical constructs to help them do so. At the same point that Hal is being deputised, the Corps and the Guardians are facing one of the greatest threats they’ve ever faced as Parallax, the very embodiment of the energy of Fear, is set free and sets course for Oa, the Corps homeworld, to exact its revenge.
That very description seems like an awful lot to try to convert and put into a film measuring an hour and three quarters in length but you’d think it would be doable. Heck, that’s not too dissimilar from the succinct and highly enjoyable Green Lantern: First Flight animated film from a couple of years back. This, however, is an example of the Hollywood machine in full flow and with a hushed whisper of ‘demographics’ echoing in the makers' ears we end up with a whole lot more being crammed into the running time which leaves it feeling slightly bloated at the seams. What it does well, it really does well, but in the same stroke, those podgy bits of plot poking out at the sides are not given the attention or treatment that they deserve and it ends up being a little hard to gauge just who this film is aimed at. There’s moments of sheer excitement which will wow kids (and adults too) but they’ll likely find the gaps between a little too long as love story development and Hal’s attempts to ignore and then deal with his fears drag things out, those sections supposedly appealing to the older audience.
The screenwriters and director Campbell - he who directed Goldeneye, Mask of Zorro and Casino Royale to reasonable success - opt for the safest option of all by going with the traditional superhero origin story route in showing us how Hal becomes a Green Lantern and, in taking this safe path, they manage to rob the film of the great potential it had. The tried and tested formula checklist is printed and neatly ticked off as we go; 1) Troubled protagonist who’s not meeting his potential? Check. 2) Love interest who snaps venom and lobs puppy dog eyes at the protagonist in equal measure throughout? Check. 3) Outcast childhood friend/acquaintance to both protagonist and love interest who ends up with powers of his own and a taste for revenge? Check! It goes on like this for at least an hour of the film and some 34 years after Star Wars (yes, I’m mentioning it here) it still seems to suggest that film companies continue to believe that audiences are simply incapable of grasping a comic book or science fiction story without having exposition and clichéd story heaped atop a spoon, coated with CGI sugar and then rammed into their willing gobs.
I get a feeling that this is a film strangely at odds with itself and the stories that it’s trying to tell. We could have either had Hal deputised into the Corps and whisked off to Oa to train in his powers, be the unready human that the Corps don’t trust to get the job done and then proving himself worthy in the last explosive zero-gravity act with audiences whooping at the space-soaring spectacle of it all. Or we could have had Hal deputised, remaining on Earth to discover his powers alone, develop the weird love/jealousy triangle that unfolds and triumph over adversity on home soil, cue the trip into deep space for Green Lantern 2, ‘oh look Oa, and the Corps, ooooooh!!' And the audience whoops at the space soaring spectacle of it all. Over two films, both those plot lines could have worked but in one single film - which is essentially what we get - it doesn’t translate half as well as it could have and that’s the great shame.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no hater of this live action Green Lantern; there are some good laughs from some neat comedy dialogue, a nice line in realising that superhero anonymity in these knowing times is not as simple as comics of 50 years ago made out it was, and some effective acting from the cast. Reynolds does a reasonable job in the lead role and convinces in his transformation from the self-depreciating fly-boy to unflinching superhero. Peter Sarsgaard for me excels as Hector Hammond who’s own transformation into a feeble bodied yet psionically powerful antagonist should have probably been the peg on which this film hung it’s villains' cloak. Anyone playing a member of the Green Lantern Corps does a fine job as well. In an example of great casting Mark Strong as Sinestro and Temeura Morrison’s Abin Sur offer up so much promise yet find themselves unfortunately robbed of screen time. Blake Lively appears to me to be a miscasting as Carol Ferris, being not nearly ‘lively’ enough and Tim Robbins’ strangely hammy performance grates in a character role that adds nothing to the story whatsoever.
The CGI and makeup effects are however a triumph, with the ring constructs working tremendously well on screen - I did have concerns initially on how well they would translate - and this being one example where post-shoot 3D treatment holds up well. The odd glimpses of Oa are suitably lush and filled with alien wonderment much in the same way that the vistas of Asgard were a few months back, it's just a great shame that more time isn't spent meeting more of the strange and bizarre members of the Corps in this alien setting. Where I would have recommended seeing Thor in 2D earlier this Summer though I would recommend the extra cash for a 3D showing of Green Lantern in order to suck in the parts of this film which do really work well.
At the end of the day I’ve come away from my viewing of Green Lantern disappointed that the creators don’t appear to have realised that they were taking far too much on for a debut feature for this comic book character. A streamlined and cut-down origin - probably away from the confines and comforts of an Earth setting - could have really set this up as a long-term franchise investment for them and importantly for the viewing public. By no means is it a complete failure and there’s enough entertainment to be found over the course of nearly two hours to merit seeing it on the big screen and in 3D. In fact I would suggest that option over waiting for the DVD or Blu Ray which may rob a viewing of the spectacle which helps to make it watchable. It’s not terrible and it’s not brilliant and it gets a 5/10