BULLSEYE or MISFIRE: Green Lantern Review

By Dr. Know on June 17th, 2011

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, and Tim Robbins.

Directed by Martin Campbell.

Screenplay by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg based on the comics by Gil Kane and John Broome.

Produced by Donald De Line and Greg Berlanti.

So there’s been a lot of banter about Green Lantern ever since it was announced Warner Bros. was finally forging ahead with another superhero flick, one that wasn’t Batman or Superman for a change (we’ll try to forget about Catwoman).

Warners, I’m sure most of you know, even went so far as to create an entire new film division, DC Entertainment, one which would strictly service the library of characters in the DC Universe. Comic book heavyweights such as Jim Lee and Geoff Johns were appointed lofty positions in the company. Johns even acted as creative consultant on Green Lantern. With that being so, you’d think things would be moving in the proper direction, right?

So was Green Lantern a BULLSEYE or MISFIRE?

STORY: According to Lantern lore millions of years before the Earth was formed, a group of super-intelligent beings called the Guardians of the Universe used the green essence of willpower to create an intergalactic police force called the Green Lantern Corps. They divided the known universe into 3,600 sectors, with one Green Lantern dude assigned to a sector each. One highfalutin Lantern, Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), of Sector 2814, defeated the fear-essence being, a massive, unimpressive blob called Parallax and imprisoned him in the Lost Sector on the ruined planet Ryut. However, in the present day, Parallax escapes and is seeking vengeance on the corps, Abin Sur specifically. Months later, after killing four Green Lanterns and destroying two entire planets, Parallax envelopes Sector 2814 and fatally wounds Abin Sur, who hightails it to Earth and crash-lands. The dying Abin Sur then commands his ring to find a worthy successor on the planet.

Ferris Aircraft test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is chosen by the ring (strangely enough because he’s proven himself to be nothing more than a jackass so far) and transported to the crash site, where Abin Sur makes him a Green Lantern, telling him to take the lantern and speak the oath (yeah, like we all know it). At home Jordan is possessed momentarily by the lantern itself, and he parrots the oath of the Green Lanterns with its supernatural/sci-fi help. Now it’s time for our hero to learn about the corps and what it does, but just as important it’s time for Hal to learn about himself.

After shaking off the initial shock, Hal meets up with would-be love interest, Carol Ferris and fellow pilot (Blake Lively) for a brewskie or two. They reminisce, have the usual boy/girl-why-didn’t-it-work-out-for-us chat. Naturally, Hall mucks it up and he leaves the watering hole. On his way back to his car, he gets blindsided by some thugs and Hal inadvertently swings to punch one of his attackers, letting out a huge fist of green energy. A surprise to all, including Hal. Afterwards the ring ships Hal off to the Green Lantern Corps home planet of Oa, where he meets and does his Jedi-like Green Lantern training with Tomar-Re (voiced by Geoffrey Rush) and Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan). He encounters Corps leader Sinestro (Mark Strong), who doesn’t like the fact that a human — a race in their infancy compared to other alien species — has become a Green Lantern. With Sinestro seeing him as nothing more than a Joe Schmoe, Jordan wimps out and returns to Earth, keeping the power ring and lantern all the while, of course.

In parallel, after being requested by his father Senator Robert Hammond (Tim Robbins) to a covert government facility, scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) performs an autopsy on Abin Sur’s corpse. A piece of Parallax inside the cadaver infects Hammond, transforming the nerdy the scientist and giving him telepathy and telekinetic powers, costing him his sanity. After discovering that he only got the gig because of papa’s influence, Hammond resentfully attempts to wipe out dear ol’ dad by telekinetically sabotaging his helicopter at a party. Naturally, Jordan is forced to jump into action and use his ring to save the senator and the other clueless party guests—including his hottie Carol, who just happens to be the Ferris Aircarft’s general manager. Shortly thereafter, Jordan discovers Hammond was the cause of the near-catastrophe at the party and swiftly encounters Hammond once more. Amid the confrontation, Hammond succeeds in his second attempt to kill his father, burning the poor bastard alive.

Later on, thanks to the corps filling him in, Jordan realizes Parallax is on his way to Earth (as does Hammond with those new-found telepathic powers) and it’s up to Hal to man up or all will not only be lost for himself but Earth as we know it.

ACTING: When I first heard Ryan Reynolds was cast in the role of Hal Jordan, I thought the producers had made a wise choice (although I feared he may never play Deadpool again at length over at Fox). Reynolds easily embodies the physical qualities of the Hal Jordan character, while adding just the right amount of nudge-nudge, wink-wink humor to the role. Definitely helped lighten the tone where scenes were running the risk being overly-melodramatic. There wasn’t I second of the movie I didn’t believe he had the superhero goods.

Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond was a complete and utter waste. Not that I don’t think Sarsgaard is a good actor. I do. It’s just this role, no matter how much a part of Green Lantern canon it is, was practically redundant. Sure, the little weasel forces Hal into his first Earthly act of heroism as his alter-ego, but that could’ve been done in a variety of other ways. Other than that, he’s a waste of space. A silly character. No overall effect on the outcome of the story.

The likes of Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett are totally underused here. Their roles could’ve gone to complete unknowns and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. The same can be said for Mark Strong as Sinestro. His role was here for nothing more than to set up the conflict between himself and Hal Jordan, which will more than likely come full circle in the sequel…should there be one.

FX: Just awful wall-to-wall CGI. I mean, I know the ring is supposed to give its user the ability to muster anything they imagine, but everything looked like an Xbox game on steroids. Not an ounce of believability to anything the Lanterns created . Also, the production design could’ve benefited from having actual sets instead of green screens, which were used to later drop in CGI landscapes. I know Oa is a fictional world, but at least put some real sets in place, then fill out the landscapes with digital as needed. You would think Stephen Sommers directed this as opposed to Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), someone who I thought had an eye for grittier realism.

And don’t get me started on the character/undulating mass that was Parallax. Zero personality. Just a giant, monolithic cancer that devours everything. When it attacks Earth (of course, it’s Hal Jordan’s hometown of Coast City and not some remote area of the planet) the scene of people scurrying from the virus-like blob was laughable.

STUNTS: A little bit of wire work – later digitally erased – with Reynolds as the title character, but nothing impressive. The helicopter crash at the party was another CGI foul up. This is the type of movie that makes me nostalgic for a pre-CGI era where only stuntmen could save the day.

T & A: Sorry, boys, Blake ain’t gettin’ naked in this one. PG all the way. Too bad. It would’ve distracted me from her otherwise overly-dramatic portaryal of Carol Ferris.

BLOOD & GUTS: Bupkiss. Not only would that not work for the tone of this movie, but see the PG rule above that applies to T & A. At these budgets no way it’s happenin’.

Ultimately, was it a BULLSEYE or MISFIRE?

Although I’m not a reader of the Green Lantern comics I was really looking forward to this movie. Sadly, at the end of the day, I have to say it was a drastic misfire. The chances of this one launching a franchise, in my opinion, are null and void. Then again, I may be in the minority; the box office receipts may say otherwise come the Monday morning after opening weekend.