Green Lantern Review
After the roaring trade Marvel’s comic adaptations have done in recent years, you would think that rivals DC would be trying a bit harder to grab some of the pie for themselves. But with the exception of Christopher Nolan’s massively successful take on Batman, DC and parent company Warner Brothers have been floundering. Superman Returns, while profitable, failed to capture the public’s imagination sufficiently to warrant a sequel, so a reboot is now underway from Watchmen director Zack Snyder. Beyond their two biggest guns, Green Lantern is one of DC’s most popular and best-known characters and, after a comedic take starring Jack Black was thankfully aborted, it arrives here under the stewardship of Martin Campbell (Casino Royale). It’s received some pretty withering reviews on both sides of the pond, but in actual fact it’s a respectably enjoyable entry in the superhero movie genre, if an ultimately unremarkable one.
Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds, whose own name could be a superhero’s every day alter-ego) is a cocky US test pilot (is there any other kind?) who is given a green ring of immense power by Abin Sur, a dying alien whose spacecraft has crashed nearby. He is a member of an intergalactic peace-keeping force known as the Green Lantern Corps, based on the planet Oa, and his ring has to be passed on to someone who is without fear; naturally, it chooses Hal. Abin Sur was killed by an alien called Parallax, who has taken to murdering the Lanterns in order to feed on the energy from their fear, and its next target is Earth. Jordan must not only decide if he is able to join the ranks of the Green Lanterns, but also convince the leader of the Corps, Sinestro (Mark Strong), that his planet is worth saving.
There’s plenty else going in a plot packed with a lot of exposition - we’ve not even got to the various earthbound subplots concerning Hal’s onetime girlfriend Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), the scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) who gets infected by alien DNA, and his politician father (Tim Robbins) who runs the covert government committee overseeing the study of Abin Sur and his technology. But director Campbell does a remarkably agile job in spinning all of these plates. Hal’s journey from arrogant flyboy to responsible space cop is nicely developed, though entirely by-the-numbers. Campbell is helped a good deal here by Reynolds, who delivers his usual semi-deadpan performance, but it works well within the context of Hal’s character and he can be relied upon to slip in the odd welcome flash of sly humour.
The world of the Lanterns looks appropriately fantastical onscreen, and these are by far the most enjoyable scenes: whether it’s being inducted by Geoffrey Rush’s walking fish-alien, trained by Michael Clarke Duncan’s hulk-like drill sergeant, or talked down to by David Niven-lookalike Sinestro, it’s eye-popping stuff. Happily, Green Lantern appears to be genuinely proud of its 1950s roots, staying broadly faithful to its hero’s origins, and though the story is set in the present day, Campbell seems to have been inspired to shoot the whole film in a very retro-romantic way. Offworld, there are Mekon-like aliens and starry skies full of colourful planets and gaseous clouds; on earth, the action often takes place at sunset, an appropriately idealized and, yes, comic-book view of proceedings.
It’s not perfect though. The main problem, as is often the case, is the absence of a decent villain. Here there are two baddies – Parallax and Hammond – yet neither are particularly engaging. Parallax suffers from the same problem that Galactus did in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – a giant deadly space cloud is still just a cloud, and the big climax just becomes a reasonably effective special effects show. The film is overlong (Hal’s initial reluctance to join the Lanterns does go on a bit, and does his on-off romance with Blake Lively) and there’s no real standout action set-piece to rival, say, those of Superman. There’s also the odd character who seems entirely superfluous to the story (step forward Angela Bassett). But for the most part Green Lantern is solid superhero fun and, with the stage set for further adventures, it would be shame if a sequel wasn’t forthcoming.