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“Green Lantern” needs a second chance to make a first impression

Posted on June 27th, 2011
Posted on June 27th, 2011

Review by: Coop Cooper

An intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps chooses a brash test pilot named Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) to become its first human officer. Unfortunately for Hal, his Lantern predecessor was killed by a planet-devouring entity dubbed Parallax who sets its sights on devouring the Corps-protected planets starting with Earth. Hal must overcome his crippling fear in order to save the Earth and prove himself a worthy keeper of the peace.

Green Lanterns have a very appealing and powerful weapon. A ring that harnesses the energy of pure willpower, then projects it into whatever form the wearer imagines. It’s like a portable hologram projector, except the holograms have a physical form. This weapon with unlimited possibilities is the reason we haven’t seen a “Green Lantern” movie until now. Portraying the power itself requires the most modern computer generated effects and a $100 million-plus budget. The power also provides the potential for unlimited silliness. I had nightmares about a feature film version where the hero conjures up oversized sports equipment (golf clubs, tennis racquets, etc…) to defeat villains like in the more campy cartoon versions of the Green Lantern character. Jack Black was rumored to be attached as the lead in a “Green Lantern” movie several years back if that tells you anything. Fortunately this version of Hal mostly constructs high-yield military weapons with his magic green light, but the concept still lapses into silly territory during key scenes. A giant “Hotwheels” racetrack to save a crashing helicopter? Even Hal’s best friend calls out his lame technique in that rescue.

Everyone in the human cast, including Reynolds, seemed miscast. Blake Lively as Hal’s love interest, Carol Ferris, wasn’t as bad as I expected but she simply didn’t fit the role. Reynolds should’ve never been considered for the lead. He is so comedically inclined, he struggles with serious scenes and ended up making Hal a jokey guy, something not congruent to the comic book. Reynolds would have excelled at playing a comedic Justice League member like The Flash or Blue Beetle, but he signed his multi-film contract and now we’ve all got to ride it out.

Parallax isn’t a particularly original villain in the comic book world and neither is throwing in a secondary villain to pick up the slack when the big bad isn’t around. Peter Sarsgaard plays Hector Hammond, an exobiologist who becomes infected by a fragment of Parallax’s evil power. At first it turns him into a seething jerk, then into the Elephant Man, deformed and murderous. He is so repulsive, pathetic and useless to the plot, I’m going to go out on a limb and say he could be the worst comic book movie villain of all time.

The crowning insult to the intelligence of the viewers happens in the climax where Hal battles Parallax alone. He has an entire corps of thousands of Green Lanterns in reserve and he begs to take care of the threat himself?… and they agree? Preposterous, but I can see two reasons for this choice: 1. A multi-Lantern battle at the end would have broken the special effects budget. 2. I suppose the filmmakers figured the audience wouldn’t respect him if he couldn’t win by himself.

Whatever the case, it turned out to be a big mistake. One of the most appealing aspects of the “Green Lantern” comic is that he’s not alone. Over 3000 alien comrades have his back and they often team up when the threat is too great for one Lantern, making Hal’s solo assault on Parallax completely nonsensical.

Since I obviously didn’t like the movie, I’m going to go out on a limb and make the argument that this film demands a sequel. I believe “Green Lantern” was heavily restricted by the burden of its unwieldy origin story and the need to innovate the special effects to simulate his elaborate powers. In fact, his greatest nemesis (the fallen Green Lantern, Sinestro) didn’t get a chance to develop into a bad guy in this film. A stinger halfway through the end credits hinted at his eventual turn, but fans want to see that evil yellow power ring in action. Hal also deserves a proper team-up with his fellow Lanterns and a chance to tackle some of the more interesting conflicts and unique sci-fi elements from the comic books.

Make another one and I’ll wait in long lines to see it, but this first film was simply embarrassing. If you want to see some truly great “Green Lantern” action, check out “Green Lantern: Emerald Knights” which just released on DVD. The writing and the stories contained in this animated anthology are much better than the live action film, and effectively captures the excitement and spirit of the comic book.

Green Lantern” rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights” rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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