Movie review: Green Lantern

Jun 18, 2011

After dinner this evening, Lyssa, Jason, and I once again invaded our local movie theatre to catch the late showing of Green Lantern, the latest comic book movie of the summer to hit the silver screen. It was a bit of scramble to get tickets because we got there late but we just made it. I have to confess, as a fan of the comic I greatly enjoyed this movie. That might make all the difference between enjoying Green Lantern, and walking out of the theatre at the end feeling a little cold...

Obligatory disclaimer: I have my likes and dislikes about the comic which will undoubtedly show in my review. I would not be honest if I didn't tell you to take my opinions with a grain of salt.

Below the cut be spoilers... proceed at your own risk.

Over the years, there have been a few retellings of Hal Jordan's origin story; the most recent took place just before the epic DC universe shakeup known as Blackest Night. As they go this is a pretty good one. The story picks up with Jordan being blindsided by the crash-landing and subsequent demise of Green Lantern Abin Sur, which is true to every telling of that particular story. The movie's characterization of Jordan, Carol Ferris, and Sinestro were very good. Kilowog didn't have the force of personality one would expect from the comic - he didn't come across like a drill instructor, but more like a coach and thus was somewhat disappointing. Parallax, the incarnation of fear, was more interesting in the movie than in the comics, I thought. Parallax had a more coherent background as well as a reason for wanting to see the destruction of the Corps which does deviate from canon and will undoubtedly enrage some harder core fans. The manner in which Hector Hammond gained his abilities changed from the comic's canon but it was done in such a way that it hung together with the rest of the movie's plot. Also, his motivations seemed a bit better developed in the movie, mostly because pacing required it to be up front.

Thankfully they stayed away from the "I can't show off my super powers" trope in the movie. At one point Hal Jordan shows off to his best friend by recharging his ring and activating his on-duty uniform in a scene which was picked for one of the trailers. There were a few nods to the canon of the comics that fans will pick up on and hopefully enjoy. Hal Jordan is, to put not too find a point on it, something of an asshole early on and the actor Ryan Reynolds pulled this off well without being overbearing about it. Reynolds' portrayal was also very true to the character in terms of Jordan's irreverence, tendency to screw around at the worst possible times, and momentary lack of self confidence that is almost his undoing (again, for reasons of pacing they had to really make it stick). Carol's callsign is Sapphire, and her helmet bears a sticker of Star Sapphire's insignia on one side. The setting was the Coast City we all known and love, and yes, it received the matchstick city treatment.

On the other hand, not much character development takes place during the movie. If you're not already familiar with the comic's canon you'll probably won't care much about some of the plot details, nor for most of the characters either. For example, the significance of the yellow power ring is lost (plus, its origin is different but that's splitting hairs). The Guardians of the Universe refusing to get involved in the battle against Parallax won't be particularly frustrating for the viewer, and Hal Jordan's monologue was kind of weak when it really needed to pop. Jordan's flashbacks to the circumstances surrounding his father's death, while touching, were also placed in such a way in the story so as to come off as contrived at best, irritating at worst. They could easily have left the scenes with Hal and Thomas Kalmaku (engineer of Ferris Aircraft) on the cutting room floor because they didn't really add anything. There were the obligatory scenes with the gathered Green Lantern Corps on Oa, and while there were a few recognizable characters in the background, they were all just that: background. Backdrops for the scenes. Eye candy that went by fast enough that nothing really had time to register. Also, the subplot with the yellow ring seemed bolted onto the side of the rest of the story - there for the hardcore fans but extraneous for everyone else. There's setting up for a sequel, and then there's adding stuff to the script to hit you between the eyes with the fact that they really want there to be a sequel.

Overall, I give this movie three Green Lantern Corps rings out of five. If you love the comic, you'll probably like the movie. If you're not so much of a fan, it'll probably leave you wishing that it had been something more.