Review: Green Lantern

Genre: Action | Sci-Fi

Director: Martin Campbell

Writers: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Temuera Morrison, Angela Bassett, Michael Clarke Duncan, Geoffrey Rush, Taika Waititi

MPAA Rating: PG-13


In a universe as vast as it is mysterious, a small but powerful force has existed for millenniums. Protectors of peace and justice, they are called the Green Lantern Corps. A brotherhood of warriors formed by the different races from entire universe sworn to keep intergalactic order, each Green Lantern wears a ring that grants him superpowers. But when a new enemy called Parallax threatens to destroy the balance of power in the Universe, their fate and the fate of Earth lie in the hands of their newest recruit, the first human ever selected for the Corps: Hal Jordan.

Hal is a gifted and cocky test pilot, but the Green Lanterns have little respect for humans, who have never harnessed the infinite powers of the ring before. But Hal is clearly the missing piece to the puzzle, and along with his determination and willpower, he has one thing no member of the Corps has ever had: humanity. With the encouragement of fellow pilot and childhood sweetheart Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), if Hal can quickly master his new powers and find the courage to overcome his fears, he may prove to be not only the key to defeating Parallax he will become the greatest Green Lantern of all.

Runtime: 105 min

View the trailer HERE

“The ring, it chose you. Use its power to defend our universe. Become one of us… become a Green Lantern.” – Abin Sur

Heading to the theater to see Green Lantern, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I, like many GL comic book fans have been waiting years to see the Lantern Corps. on the big-screen, and have been excited to see that finally happen. At the same time, there’s an understandable amount of apprehension, due to the fact that comic book adaptations are such a mixed bag, from the unbelievably great, to the unbelievably bad, and no one wants to see their favorite heroes given an unbelievably bad adaptation. I’m not going to rehash the story of the film in this review, you can read the synopsis above for a primer, I’ll simply dissect the film and give you my thoughts below.

The start of the film gives a brief lesson on Lantern lore while traveling through space to Oa, which is gorgeously recreated for the big-screen, the production design throughout the film’s moments on the Lantern’s home planet are fantastic and I really wish they would have explored the planet and the lanterns more than they did. Hal Jordan’s Lantern uniform has it’s flaws, but is far better looking than the very first trailer showed and problems have been thankfully dealt with prior to the film’s theatrical release, which I was happy to see. I do like Ryan Reynolds, and after seeing him in Buried, I knew that he could pull off a role without being ultra-snarky and sarcastic 99% of the time, as so many people are used to, so I wasn’t as worried as most people about him being able to portray Hal Jordan without messing it up. Reynolds did do a good job, and managed to strike a decent balance in personality to satisfy most fans. Hal’s transition from test pilot to hero is hampered a bit, through no fault of his own, but due instead to a clunky script.

Don’t get me wrong, the script is not god-awful, it’s actually done quite well, it just feels overstuffed at times, and I’m not sure if it’s the writing in and of itself, or the fault of director Martin Campbell, but it seems that every character transition, and even the simple location changes in the film are really messy. The overall pace of the film is great,  but at times, those transitions just make the film seem as though it were edited by someone with attention deficit disorder.

A lot of people were concerned with Blake Lively‘s portrayal of Carol Ferris, especially after her wooden dialogue in the first trailer for the film, and I was no exception. Was she as bad as we had feared? I don’t think so. Was she great? Hell no. Look, I like Lively and have nothing against her at all. All of the interviews she’s given, from last years Comic-Con, all the way through the press junkets she’s given just prior to the release of the film have endeared her to me (and not just because she’s beautiful), she’s likeable, she seems to genuinely dig the mythology of the Lanterns, and she’s chomping at the bit to see her character evolve into Star Sapphire in the future. That said, there were times that I seriously thought she had to have been reading her lines from cue-cards that contained only one word each “Hal” “You’re” “Late”.

Aside from Lively’s wooden dialogue, the chemistry, or lack thereof between her and Reynolds was palpable. I just didn’t believe for a second that Carol and Hal ever really meant anything to one another, and one scene where Lively is meant to be upset and crying was more laughably unbelievable than emotionally distressing. Conversely, Hal’s relationship with his young nephew and their conversation after the worried kid hears about Hal’s crash during a test flight was actually touching and showed a chemistry between the two actors that made you believe that his nephew thought of him as a hero, and Hal, showing a nurturing side, truly hated himself for making the kid worry about him.

Peter Sarsgaard, who portrays Hector Hammond was really quite impressive as Hal’s eathbound villain. Sarsgaard did a great job of exhuding a subtle creepiness, prior to his full-on evil transformation, and his tense relationship with his Father, Senator Hammond (Tim Robbins) was well done. Jay O. Sanders, whom I’ve always liked as an actor, did a good job as Carol’s father, Carl Ferris, but his screen time was severely limited. I wish I could say that Angela Bassett was great as Amanda Waller. I was excited to see her portray the future head of Checkmate, and someone that could eventually cut across DC films, much in the same way that Samuel L. Jackson has spanned his live-action Nick Fury across the Marvel film universe. Sadly, Bassett gets so little screen time, it’s impossible to say anything about her performance. It’s Angela Bassett, she’s awesome, but if Green Lantern is the only thing you’d ever seen her in, you would never know just how awesome she is.

As for the voice work of the somewhat ancillary Lanterns, Tomar-Re and Kilowog, Geoffrey Rush portrayed Tomar-Re as I had always heard his voice in my head when reading him in the comics, calm, caring and stoic. Rush’s inflection was so different from his gruff portrayal of Barbossa in the Pirates franchise that we’ve grown used to, and some members of the audience may not recognize his voice immediately. Michael Clarke Duncan did a great job as the snorting, testy training officer of the Corps. DC has always managed to get Kilowog voice casting spot-on, from animated films, tv series’ and video games, they’ve nailed it every time and Clarke Duncan voicing the big brute in this big-screen adaptation is no exception.

If there is anything that is completely and utterly perfect in the film, it’s Mark Strong. His portrayal of Sinestro is virtually flawless. I honestly wish they had almost mirrored the storyline in the animated Green Lantern: First Flight, instead of the direction they chose. The Parallax and Hector Hammond as villains storyline was fine, but the First Flight story did much more with the Corps. on Oa and the evolution of Sinestro from Corps. member to villain in an efficient way, without sacrificing much in the way of story or development of other characters.

The CGI characters in the film who get any decent screen time (Kilowog, Tomar-Re and the Guardians) are all done exceptionally well. The biggest problem is, they don’t get much screen time at all. Hal’s training session with Kilowog and Sinestro is very short, as is Tomar-Re’s quick act as Hal’s tour guide for his introduction to Oa. If you, like me were hoping to see multiple members of the Corps., alongside Hal, charging into battle as a team, you’ll be sadly disappointed. There is a moment where Sinestro leads a small contingent of the Corps. (sans Hal) towards a fight with Parallax, but it’s very short lived and some of the Lanterns within that contingent were never even introduced, so the audience has no reason to really care whether or not they win or lose the battle. The CGI constructs of the Lanterns were done really well, however I wish they had more variety throughout the film.

There is a post-credit scene that is an obvious set-up for a sequel that will have most fanboys drooling into their five dollar theater drinks, and while it is very cool, without too much previous development throughout the rest of the film, I think it really lacked its deserved emotional “punch”, especially for the uninitiated that aren’t already aware of its inevitability.

I think with a more cohesive script that isn’t plagued by having too many writers throwing in their two cents and a director with better focus, a sequel could be really great. All of the nitpicking criticism aside, Green Lantern is a really fun movie and it’s very accessible to those with limited or no knowledge of Green Lantern lore. Kids will totally dig it and the un-jaded will love it as well.

You’re probably thinking that all of my criticisms point to Green Lantern being a horrible movie, it’s not and I would definitely see it again, and I will likely add the Blu-ray to my superhero collection. At the end of the day, it’s a really fun movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has managed to not completely disrespect its source material, while remaining accessible to the non-comic book fans, qualities which make it a very good summer movie overall.

I give Green Lantern Three out of Five Stars

Jason Moore
Written by Jason Moore

is a member of the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films and the Founder/Editor In Chief of SciFi Mafia®