Review: Green Lantern (2011)

DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell.

CAST: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Geoffrey Rush (voice), Tim Robbins, Taika Waititi, Jay O. Sanders, Michael Clarke Duncan (voice), Angela Bassett, Jon Tenney, Dylan James, Gattlin Griffith.

SYNOPSIS: Highflying test pilot Hal Jordan (Reynolds) unwillingly becomes part of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic squadron who keep the peace throughout the universe. With Earth facing a dark nemesis, Jordan embraces his newfound identity and unleashes an incredible power in the hope that he can save his planet.

Martin Campbell’s exciting and refreshing take on the Bond franchise blew everyone away back in 2006, but there is nothing particularly new or groundbreaking with his first foray into the hallowed lands of (DC) superhero territory. Green Lantern isn’t quite the abysmal mess I’d been led to believe, but it is an unfortunately predictable film set within a patchwork of two very different worlds.

It would be all too easy to place the blame on the film’s core, Mr Ryan Reynolds, but the quality of this film is not Reynolds’ fault. He does the best with what he is given, but is not helped by the initial painting of him as a roguish playboy. Jon Favreau got the right mix when showcasing Tony Stark as an international ladies man, but Campbell never follows through with the idea after we meet Hal kicking a girl out of his bed. In fact, he makes it very obvious Hal only has one girl on his mind – Carol Ferris (Lively). Ironic, then, that Hal and Carol are barely given enough screen time together to make us understand their connection. There isn’t much chance to forge any chemistry between them, but both parties do the job well enough.

In a film full of special effects, Green Lantern relies very heavily on Ryan Reynolds – a man who is impossible to dislike. Reynolds manages to avoid making Jordan’s plight laboured and tragic, identifying more with Tony Stark than Bruce Banner, to mention his Marvel rivals. The script allows him to provide the audience with one or two laughs, especially when poking fun at DC and fellow Warner project Batman, by mimicking Christian Bale’s growl in one specific scene. However, this film does not show Reynolds on full-speed laugh-a-minute mode and with a little more work on the script, he could have been given the chance to better portray the cockiness Jordan is meant to exude.

The villains of the piece are a bizarre bunch, with otherworldly Parallax and Hector Hammond (Sarsgaard) as far apart as physically possible. One of the film’s major flaws is how it tries too hard to link the two worlds. When the action is set on Earth the film slows down and struggles, with the best set pieces being on Planet Oa, the home of the Green Lantern Corps. The origins of the Parallax are surprisingly rushed resulting in a lack of empathy with this character, but with Hammond initially starting out as a hermit Professor, sympathy with his downfall is far easier. Always very likeable and enjoyable, it’s obvious Sarsgaard enjoyed his moment of madness playing against type as Hammond, but he would have been a far better and more effective villain had more time been invested in him. Hammond unintentionally becomes a comic character due to some pretty nasty editing and unfortunately it makes the film turn into ‘How to be a Villain 101’, even though we know Campbell is entirely capable of portraying extremely effective villains after Casino Royale.

One big question you’ll ask yourself during this film is to do with money. Where exactly did it all go?! The effects are hit and miss, resulting in some of the supporting characters appearing a little less invested in and not cared about (although Michael Clarke Duncan was perfectly cast as the voice of the massive Kilowog). Some of the 3D is put to good use, especially during Hal and Tomar-Re’s flying scene, but apart from that I would have been just as happy to see the film in 2D, as again the film was a little dark (is this problem ever going to get sorted out?!). The main moments of attack do impress, though, with the siege on a large city and especially the final moments regarding the sun remaining grandiose, but there is something about Parallax that leaves you slightly underwhelmed. I preferred some of the smaller details, the constant movements within Hal’s suit and the ‘fear snatching’ idea. Hal’s full body scan and Lantern modifications were a nice touch – if not merely a chance for the ladies in the audience to admire Mr Reynolds in nothing but his briefs.

Talking of women, Blake Lively takes another huge step into the limelight with her role as Hal’s long-time friend and work colleague, Carol Ferris. We’re slowly starting to see Lively make her mark after roles in The Town and upcoming projects such as Oliver Stone’s The Savages, but her role here requires little more of her than to be a more mature and intelligent version of Gossip Girl alter ego, Serena van der Woodsen (apparently the brunette hair is meant to make us distance her from the character she is synonymous with). Carol is a refreshing change, not simply a damsel in distress like a lot of superhero films have their girls. She’s more Betty Ross than Mary Jane, for sure, but the audience aren’t stupid enough to believe Sarsgaard, her and Reynolds are all meant to be the same age.

In a film full of hundreds and hundreds of CGI characters, there are very few supporting players actually worth a mention. The Geoffrey Rush-voiced Tomar-Re and Mark Strong’s red-faced Sinestro are worthy of most praise, Rush’s smooth Australian voice always wonderful to listen to and his alien form an interesting mix of horse and fish. Kind of. The ever commanding Strong does stand out, but this will never be a character you will remember him for, nor does he seem to know exactly what is going on. But this is far from his fault. Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett pop up as Hammond and Doctor Waller respectively, but this won’t be the role Oscar winner Robbins will be most proud of and Bassett doesn’t get enough screen time to play with. Her character could have been quite interesting but is never developed, leading to her merely feeling like a spare part.

Jordan’s best friend Tom (Waititi) makes it appear like the director wanted Richard Ayoade but couldn’t get him. The result of this is Tom being quite an odd character, serious half the time and tongue-in-cheek the other half. By choosing to play Tom as tongue-in-cheek for the entirety of his time onscreen, the relationship between him and Hal would have been a lot funnier and fast paced, letting Reynolds flex his comic muscles like we know he can, but as a result parts of their friendship unfortunately appear forced and unnatural.

Green Lantern’s mixture of in-depth Corps history (courtesy of Tomar-Re and Sinestro) and an easy to follow, dumbed down summer popcorn script isn’t enough to satisfy the fan boys. Campbell kept the Bond camp happy back in 2006, but doesn’t do enough to appease the DC clan. The writers behind the film mainly work in television and this really shines through, with any sense of momentum lost by cutting to military or domestic issues that weren’t particularly necessary. The amount of unfortunate superhero clichés also leads to it becoming just too darn predictable. However, Campbell did break away from tradition by not killing the film with back-story, something that often weighs down a lot of superhero flicks. By weaving Hal’s story into his initial flight sequence it keeps the narrative moving forward rather than dragging it down.

In this current, overcrowded world of superheroes, Green Lantern is rather forgettable. We know Ryan Reynolds is better than what he was given here and Campbell shouldn’t have been so intent on making Hal Jordan like Ryan when Ryan is more than capable of making himself like Hal. We also know Martin Campbell directed Casino Royale and that is what makes this film so disappointing. It’s summer pulp and the kids will love it as it’s a little darker than other films of its type, but there is a great deal of room for improvement, with an end scene in the credits making way for a sequel and current news talking of a trilogy.

But the feeling I was left with was overwhelming.

Give me Deadpool.


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