In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night. The Green Lantern Movie Just Wasn’t Right.
Since my days running BlueTights.net, I’ve feverishly campaigned for a Green Lantern film adaptation. Behind Superman, Hal Jordan is by far my favorite superhero. In fact, if you catch me on the right day, he will often beat-out Superman on that list. So it goes without saying that when I heard that Warner Brothers was making a Green Lantern film – one centered on Hal Jordan, no less – I was quite excited. My excitement was not to last, however. And heads-up… there’s spoilers after the jump.
As trailers were released, I tried to keep my excitement up about the Green Lantern film starring Ryan Reynolds as cocksure test pilot Hal Jordan. But the closer the film got to release, the more I found myself admitting that something important was missing from the trailers – heart. I went to see the film last weekend, hoping for the best, but expecting something less than that. And in the end, the film was merely “okay” – at best. It wasn’t the complete disaster that many critics online are claiming, but it certainly had it’s fair share of problems.
The most exciting part of this film, for me, was finally having the chance to see so many of the icons I love come to life on the screen. I’ll admit, it was exhilarating to hear the oath being spoken by a living, breathing man, and I actually quite liked the look of the controversial all-CG uniform. It contextualized the costume nicely, but retained much of the traditional appearance that comic fans wanted.
Unfortunately, when you get beyond the novelty of seeing all of these familiar icons on screen, the film does start to fall apart. Underneath many of the film’s problems lies a patronizing screenplay. I actually found myself turning my face away from the screen more than once out of embarrassment. For example, in the very first scene that Hal Jordan and love interest Carol Ferris (played unconvinvingly by Blake Lively) share together, the dialogue makes it very clear that the two have a past, and that it involves them sleeping with each other. But assuming you were too stupid to catch on, the writer’s do everything but draw you a picture a mere 20 minutes later in the film. And this goes on. The screenplay wastes no opportunity to assume that you need things spelled out for you.
Ironically, for all of it’s forcefulness with dialogue and plot details, the film did contain some subtleties that I appreciated as a fan of the DC Comics universe. Early in the film, Hal Jordan takes his nephew a birthday present. It’s a small model of a jet, but it’s cast in transparent plastic. The boy excitedly screams out “It’s the X1!” I’m willing to bet that when the Wonder Woman film finally comes to fruition, her traditional invisible jet will in fact be tied to this early reference, at least in name. Later in the film, during his Green Lantern training, Hal faces off against Sinestro, and it’s clear that Hal is afraid. The first weapon that Hal creates with the ring is a saber exactly like the one on the back of his father’s flight jacket. It was a smart, subtle way to show that Hal’s fears are wrapped up in the death of his father without having to beat the audience over the head with the point. There’s even an implied reference to the (lack of) existence of Superman.
I really enjoyed many of the supporting cast, small as their parts were. Peter Sarsgaard’s Hector Hammond stood out as one of the most sympathetic characters in the film, while Mark Strong’s Sinestro was an uncompromising champion of the Green Lantern Corps and the memory of his fallen mentor, Abin Sur. Unfortunately, Strong’s heroic portrayal of Sinestro makes it all the more difficult to swallow when his actions later turn him against the core with absolutely no prior motivation to do so. He stands out throughout the film as the greatest supporter of the Corps, and in an inevitable but unearned twist during the credits, he is established as the villain for a sequel that may not happen.
The biggest problem with Green Lantern, however, is that it has no heart. It’s clear that director Martin Campbell and most of the cast has no real emotional investment in the material. It’s as though Geoff Johns gave the film crew a paint-by-numbers Green Lantern plot. All of the requisite pieces are there – Kilowog, Sinestro, the Guardians, Ferris Aircraft, Paralax – but there’s no soul in the film. Hal Jordan has no sense of wonder, neither in flying jets or in being a superhero. The creators have brought very little of themselves to the table, and it is for this reason that Green Lantern ultimately comes across as rushed, flat, and condescending.