Movie Review: Green Lantern (2011)

Green Lantern
(PG-13, 114 minutes, 2011)

Three years down the road, I finally took a couple of hours to watch the live-action cinematic debut of Green Lantern. I’m not particularly familiar with the character, having only seen the superhero in Green Lantern: First Flight, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, and select episodes of the Justice League animated series.

Since the movie debuted in June of 2011, I have heard nothing but disdain and hatred for the film. From discussions with fans, I understand that fandom was buzzing with the hope that Green Lantern was the Iron Man of the DC Comics film universe. At this point, DC had primarily put Superman and Batman on the screen in multiple iterations, and had played with characters like Steel, Catwoman, and Supergirl, among others, but DC lacked any degree of cohesiveness or consistency with their cinematic properties. With Marvel’s Cinematic Universe Phase One dominating the playing field – Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor were released, and Captain America: The First Avenger was right around the corner – the argument makes sense, as does the disappointment.

(As an aside, I own a copy of Supergirl, and while I enjoy the outright cheesy campiness, I recognize that it’s a poor movie. It was very difficult to stay engaged for the last act of the movie. I don’t have any desire to watch Steel or Catwoman.)

That said, I don’t think it was the huge atrocity that the geek community made it out to be.

n the scope of the movie, Ryan Reynolds sold me on this Hal Jordan, a cocky pilot who has to evolve into a man of galactic responsibility. His disbelief at finding Abin Sur, his child-like wonder at the power of the ring, and his astonishment at discovering an entire universe and peace-keeping force beyond the horizon of Earth felt genuine and sincere. The response from the government was also expected, although the facility that was used to examine the remains of Abin Sur was a bit farfetched even for a comic book movie.

Green Lantern‘s downfall for me was two-fold. First, the CGI costume did not work for me. It was a bold gamble, but it was plainly obvious that it was CGI, and made it seem like Reynolds’ head was floating in a bad 1980s blue screen environment while even the alien creatures were more believable than Reynolds’ costume and mask. The rest of the CG work was fantastic and believeable as Jordan’s power was limited only by his imagination, and I think that re-introducing Green Lantern in the Man of Steel franchise might be more manageable now that the studio has mastered a purely animated Superman cape. The second fault of the film was the busy and meandering plot. The movie starts on simple terms, but quickly escalates to Jordan fighting on multiple fronts with an infected Hector Hammond, his training and conflict with the Lantern Corps, and the galactic threat of Parallax. It was just too much to squeeze into a less-than-two-hour origin story, and perhaps was a bit too beholden to the previous origin stories.

Honestly, this seems to be a problem with DC properties in live action cinema. They seem to want too much too soon in an attempt to win everyone instead of just telling a simple understandable story with understandable characters. For me, the beauty of the Christopher Nolan-era films (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and Man of Steel) was that the filmmakers and studio chose a direction and then committed to it, for better or for worse. Even within the Christopher Reeve and Michael Keaton eras of Superman and Batman, the fandom accepted “good” films lacked a degree of thematic consistency from the first to the second. If Superman Returns is considered, then the Superman line’s themes vary wildly.

(As another aside, I love the first two Reeve Superman films, the two Keaton Batman films, and Superman Returns. I find Superman III, Superman: The Quest for Peace, and Batman Forever a bit less enjoyable but still watchable, and Batman and Robin to be pretty much intolerable after one viewing in 1997. I’m considering revisiting all of them in the future.)

That half-hearted overly-busy approach to Green Lantern made it a watchable movie, but not a fantastic one. I want to see more of Hal Jordan (or even Jon Stewart), but I think the Green Lantern would be better served in the cinematic mindset of the Bale/Nolan Batman films. DC needs to be consistent and committed to a course instead of stumbling about the oceans hoping to find treasure.


My rating: 5.5/10
IMDb rating: 5.7/10