Review: Green Lantern

Oh boy. This is a tough one for me to review, because I am such a huge fan of the character. Personally, I enjoyed this movie but I think that’s mostly because it’s a reasonably competent representation of the character I love and the comic books I already have a lot of affection for, and not because it was a good movie.

And I don’t think I am being too harsh on the film because I’m a fan, either. I look at comic films as something for me to enjoy as a fan, but also as a way to introduce a character to the non-comic reading public in a fun and exciting way. And in a summer full of comic book movies, Green Lantern does little to stand out.

On a technical level, the film was made very well. The effects were great, the acting was serviceable (with standouts being Mark Strong and Peter Sarsgaard), and the mythology was treated well. I even dug the all-CGI story. The biggest problem this film has, and the one that holds it back from being truly great is the writing. The story somehow manages to be both convoluted and bland. I wouldn’t relish the task of trying to introduce a giant mythology in one film, but I certainly wouldn’t want to do it in two scenes that last a total of five minutes! As a result, the audience is given a ton of information, and little reason to care about it. Like Attack of the Clones as opposed to A New Hope.

Green Lantern tries to capture the magic of Superman: The Movie, to the point where I’m pretty sure James Newton Howard uses a similar chord progression for the few notes of theme we get, and the fact that Hal Jordan’s superhero debut is in the form of saving his love interest from a falling helicopter. However, it also tries to be as humor-filled and fun as Iron Man, attempting to let Ryan Reynolds be sarcastic and irresponsible so as to capture what we all loved in Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. But this doesn’t work either, because the writing isn’t strong enough and Reynolds just isn’t on RDJ’s level yet. As a result the dialog is clunky, and at times feels like it was written by a middle schooler.

The film also has a lack of focus in what it shows us, and that is where it most clearly does not take the correct lessons from Superman and Iron Man. Both of those films (and other great origin stories) focus entirely on their main character. All plot points flow from that point. This is their movie and no one else’s. Green Lantern tries to have a deep supporting cast, but the characters are merely window dressing. I never would have learned their names if I didn’t already know them. Things in this movie happen so fast that even the characters don’t have time to react!

I think the reason for this may lie in the fact that this film has four (credited) screenwriters. And it shows. When I say this film has a lack of focus, what I mean is that this Green Lantern film was assembled from scenes culled from a movie twice as long and was clumsily cut to fit the running time the studio told them they needed. I could write a whole second post on how they should have structured this film, but I’ll spare you. As a result, this movie has no idea what kind of story it wants to try and tell. So it tries all of them. The film never gives us any sense of place or person. Who the characters are or where they are standing is of little importance. They’ll be gone in 30 seconds anyway.

I assume that most of you who really wanted to see this film already have. If you haven’t, save your money. This film isn’t so much a failure as a disappointment for what could have been.