Most helpful critical review
238 of 292 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 2011
Green Lantern has received quite a bit of flak from reviewers for not being mainstream enough to relate to modern audiences. And that's a shame, because if Green Lantern is guilty of anything, it's of being a SUPERHERO movie.
Back before all these directors started streamlining films, revising backstories, and taking out Spider-Man's technologically-advanced web shooters, comic books were a glorious hodge-podge of the near possible, the impossible, and the just plain fantastic. Because superhero settings include every superhero and villain imaginable, they have to accommodate magic, aliens, superscience, and alternate dimensions in one heady mix. This makes for a very rich comic book series that can be intimidating for new audiences - which is precisely why movie directors cut out so much.
But you can't cut all the crazy out of Green Lantern and still stay true to the comics. And so, with tons of exposition, Green Lantern rabbit-punches viewers with world-shattering fact after mind-altering fact in the first five minutes: aliens exist, there's a giant yellow monster imprisoned in a planet, ancient humanoids predating humanity have been guarding the universe with green willpower, and there's a dizzying variety of highly advanced technical races from across the galaxy. Green Lantern makes Superman's backstory look quaint. His name doesn't help either - Emerald Flashlight has to say an oath that activates a ring that's charged by a lantern that's powered by a planet that's actually the embodiment of all sentient beings' will. No wonder critics got confused.
)o()o()o( "I pledge allegiance to a lantern, given to me by a dying purple alien." - Hal Jordan )o()o()o(
Director Martin Campbell knows all this. He makes fun of the ridiculous circumstances in which Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds and his fab abs) finds himself, ranging from a dogfight with two robot jets to a dogfight with a giant soul-eating monster. Part of what makes Green Lantern so entertaining is that it embraces its pulpy roots: there's the childhood sweetheart (smoking hot Blake Lively as Carol Ferris who just happens to be a successful businesswoman and fighter pilot), the nebbishly awkward villain (Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond), and tough-as-nails "red Spock" Sinestro (Mark Strong). The real villain of the piece, Parallax, sounds like a 1980s video game effect - oh wait, it is! This is not a movie to be taken too seriously.
)o()o()o( "It's not a magic ring--it's a ring powered by advanced technology!" - Hal Jordan )o()o()o(
And yet, Green Lantern is no movie trifle. The challenge with a superhero who has powers like Green Lantern is that the possibilities are literally endless - the rings are powered by the hero's will, which means he can technically imagine anything. This also means that an abusive hero might imagine black holes and solve all of his problems that way. Green Lantern cleverly constrains these god-like powers by imposing plot-related restrictions on Hal's creativity. When all Hal can come up with to stop a helicopter from crashing into partying guests is a Matchbox car in a ramp, it's because he played with one in his nephew's room the day before. When he's trying to use the sun's gravitational pull as a weapon, it's because he used the Earth's gravitational pull as a weapon against the two jets earlier and because his tutor Kilowog points out that gravity is a...uh, harsh mistress. Hal Jordan might always manifest boring weapons straight out of a first-person shooter, but that's because he's harboring a lot of guilt over his military daddy's death.
)o()o()o( "You thought I wouldn't recognize you just because I can't see your cheekbones?" - Carol Ferris )o()o()o(
Speaking of daddy issues, Green Lantern is one giant ball of forest-colored father/son conflict: Hal and his military pilot father, Hammond and his successful senator father, dead Abin Sur and grieving Sinestro, Abin Sur and the newly created Green Lantern, Parallax and his newly adopted avatar Hammond...it's clear the Green Lantern writers were looking for some emotional hook, and that hook was spelled out D-A-D. Green Lantern tries very hard to be deep.
Unfortunately, Green Lantern can be pretty shallow at times. Parallax, remember, is an ancient being predating much of humanity's evolution, but he falls for the oldest trick in the book. We're supposed to believe that Parallax really, really, REALLY hates Abin Sur and everything associated with him. After he kills Abin Sur, you have to ask why Parallax wants to go after just Hal Jordan when he could be eating so many other Green Lanterns for breakfast.
When Green Lantern goes big, it's glorious, but when it pulls in tight, the plot turns an earth-shattering battle between god-like beings into a schoolyard shoving match. But really, that's pretty normal from superhero comics. It's just that today's movie superhero fans expect a guy in a cloak that's just like you and me without any of the world-spanning baggage.
Green Lantern's guilty of being true to Green Lantern, spandex, mask, ring and all. For those who find it implausible, maybe a superhero powered by a jade-colored light source isn't for them.