By Todd Matthy
There’s a lot of negativity about Green Lantern. Some deserved, some undeserved. It didn’t help that a trailer was released before the effects were done. But, comparisons to Jonah Hex are a little unfair. The cast is great, the effects are breathtaking, and the story’s clear. However Green Lantern has one major flaw, it’s reverence to the source material.
Green Lantern is the story of a cocky pilot named Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) who after ruining a couple of experimental planes for his employer discovers the wreckage of an alien named Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison). Abin Sur is a member of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police force who’s primary weapon is a green ring that can construct anything it’s bearer thinks of. The stronger the bearer’s will power the stronger the construct. Abin bequeaths the ring to Jordan, which transports him to the Lantern’s home planet of Oa for training, Meanwhile the government has confiscated Abin’s remains and recruited a scientist named Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) who after examining Hector’s body becomes a telepath in service of Parallax, the living embodiment of fear.
The biggest flaw with Green Lantern is the inclusion of Parallax. Parallax is a great idea and a major part of the Green Lantern mythology but it’s too big to be the villain in the first installment of a franchise. Parallax would’ve served much better as the boogieman behind the yellow impurity that makes his move in the third installment. As a result a lot of scenes that could’ve been used for character development are sacrificed because of the need to explain Parallax and his history. It hurts the films momentum and therefore it’s quality.
Green Lantern’s strength is in its cast and characterization. When you first see Ryan Reynolds’ Hal Jordan you immediately know whom this character is and what he’s all about. Mark Strong absolutely nails Sinestro, the senior Green Lantern. Stern and rigid, Strong makes you believe that Sinestro is the ideal Lantern. He tolerates none of Hal’s nonsense and makes it his business to humble him. It will be very interesting to see what happens when Sinestro inevitably turns his back on the Corps as he does in the comics. Peter Sarsgaard’s Hector Hammond is a creepy Einstein, something Sarsgaard conveys through his body language that makes you uncomfortable even before he undergoes his horrific transformation. I enjoyed Michael Clarke Duncan voicing of Kilowog, the Green Lantern’s drill sergeant. I wish we got to spend more time with him, but alas. Blake Lively does a serviceable job as Hal’s girlfriend, Carol Ferris. The problem is she doesn’t get too much to do and has very little time to do it. The real test for her will be if or when she becomes the Star Sapphire (a Green Lantern type group powered by love). Finally, there is Angela Bassett as Amanda “The Wall” Waller. I’m sorry to say Bassett was not the right choice for this role. She just does not project the stance and authority the character has in the comics.
Special effects wise, Green Lantern is like a laser light show, bright and electric. I love the way the Green Lantern costume gets brighter the stronger a characters will power is. I liked the make up job on Mark Strong’s Sinestro. Unfortunately Kilowog and Tomar-Re (Voiced by Geoffrey Rush) look too much like their CGI generated. They need more texture. Saarsgard’s make up reminded me of the make up in Mask only with creepy yellow eyes as an added touch. The fight sequences, flight sequences and Lantern constructs are awesome to behold. Parallax’s design however is terrible. Why did they choose to make him look like the X-Men’s Shadow King rather than the cross between a serpent, a dinosaur, and a fly he is in the comic book?
If you can get past the exposition, Green Lantern is a fun cross between Top Gun and Star Wars with a good cast and deep mythology. It may not be Iron Man but it’s definitely not Jonah Hex.