Green Lantern (2011)
Director: Martin Campbell
review by J.C. Hartley
I always liked the Green Lantern. I think green might have been my favourite colour and I thought his costume was pretty cool. He was also a bit
of an angsty hero which appealed to my young maudlin personality. This film and Marvel's
Thor have been presented in the press as an attempt by the publishers' to
promote minor characters within their respective universes. Of course, the majority of the mainstream press knows jack-shit about comics. Both
characters are major players in their universes, Green Lantern having recently been brought to the fore by Geoff Johns, ahead of the massive,
and latest in a long line, post-Flashpoint, new DC universe not-a-reboot reboot. If that last sentence means nothing to you, don't worry,
an ignorance of comics is no hurdle to enjoying movies based on comic books, although I'm just enough of a nerd to wonder why someone who had no
experience of comics would consider watching a comicbook movie.
I'm not a droopy tweenage girl and consequently have no interest in seeing the Twilight franchise. Conversely, my kids grew up with the Harry
Potter books, so I am interested in seeing those films. I just think superhero comics are so niche, albeit a fairly hefty niche, that I wonder at
film producers' temerity in expecting them all to translate into mega-bucks at the cinema. Batman, fine; Superman, of course; Spider-Man, yes okay;
Hulk, yeah people loved him on TV; but Daredevil, Captain America, Green Hornet, Green Lantern, Millie the model? Of course, Marvel has boxed clever
with the build up to 'The Avengers' event, and Iron Man was unexpectedly successful,
so who knows anything?
A bunch of aliens crash on a hinterland planet, reference the film Alien and accidentally release a great evil imprisoned there. This tentacled
skull-thing is Parallax, which is that line-of-sight shift you get if you look at a pencil at arm's length and close each eye in turn, so why the
octopus of fear is called that is anyone's guess. Parallax was defeated by the Green Lantern Abin Sur, a sort of intergalactic policeman, so Parallax
takes him out pretty sharpish. Abin Sur escapes but is mortally wounded and seeks refuge in the sector of the universe containing Earth.
Perky test-pilot Hal Jordan suffers a panic attack while testing two new robot-planes to destruction. He remembers his Dad who was also a test-pilot
and died in a freak accident. He has a row with his ex Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), who runs the company he flies for and generally shows himself up
as a commitment-shy fuck-up.
Meanwhile, Abin Sur makes it to Earth and orders his ring of power to find his successor. The ring summons Hal. Eventually Hal is whisked to the planet
Oa where the Lanterns live under the broody watch of the Guardians of the Universe. Befriended by alien fish-man Tomar-Re, trained by Kilowog, and
disdained by head Lantern Sinestro (Mark Strong, Kick-Ass), Hal continues to
fuck up. "Your constructs are weak; you reek of fear!" says Sinestro who won't give him a break. The power rings, powered by the great battery, allow
the wielders to construct solid holograms as weapons or defences with the power of their imaginations, fear acts against the success of the simulacrums.
Eventually, true to form, Hal gives up and heads back to Earth.
Meanwhile, shy scientist Hector Hammond, after a bit of string-pulling by his disappointed dad, has been summoned by the feds to perform an autopsy
on Abin Sur. Unfortunately, a bit of Parallax is lurking in the corpse, which infects Hector and makes his head swell like the Elephant Man and gives
him telekinetic powers. Hector does some anti-social stuff and Hal is called upon to do some heroic stuff. The Guardians decide to make a yellow power
ring to fight Parallax's fear with fear. Hal returns to Oa to ask for help as Parallax is heading for Earth; the Guardians and Sinestro turn him down
but are so impressed by his plea that they give him time to risk his own life. After Hector is consumed by the now-monstrous Parallax, Hal lures the
creature into space for a showdown.
The whole philosophy of fear thing could have been done a lot better. Yes we plainly see that Hal is fearful of commitment, and driven to live up
to his dad's reputation. It is not the banishment of fear that makes the Lantern's strong it is the acknowledgement of it and finding the courage
to face it. Hal is a fearless, reckless test-pilot, and although clearly flawed he does not come over as the fearful character Sinestro dismisses.
Hector on the other hand is a wuss with bad hair.
Green Lantern is a bit of a mishmash film, but not as bad as the hugely negative reviews would have you think. Coast City is as artificial
as the conceit and Oa looks small and unconvincing. Compare this conception with the location work in Thor, and Asgard's lofty turrets etc.
The nice thing about Green Lantern is that Hal's best friends scope him out as the superhero immediately, and who wouldn't as he only wears
a stupid bandit mask. There's some weird stuff as when Hector's mental powers reveal the backstory of scientist Amanda Waller just before he apparently
kills her. In DC comics, Waller is quite a complex character, like Marvel's Henry Gyrich and Val Cooper, so unless a Green Lantern sequel was planning
to use her again why show this early-life flashback? Again, in the source material, Sinestro goes bad, as will anyone with a giveaway name like Victor
von Doom or Edward Nigma. At the end of this film Sinestro is seen putting on the yellow power ring the Guardians have made.
Of course the poor critical and box-office showing has put a sequel in question. Best things are, Ryan Reynolds who carries the film on his charm,
and the fact the film chooses not to take itself too seriously, although that can equally be counter-productive. I wasn't one of those that got all
excited about Reynolds' Deadpool in the origin-film Wolverine but he's not at
all bad in this. Despite some positive noises being made I would be amazed if a live-action sequel to Green Lantern appeared. Clearly, Marvel
are beating DC in translating their characters to the screen, and while DC obviously have a stake in Christopher Nolan's hugely successful take on
Batman, and 'Man Of Steel', the latest Superman reboot, they aren't as artistically involved as Marvel in realising those stories for the big screen,
and the superhero fascination isn't going to last forever.