Yup, back in familiar territory now with an unfamiliar superhero. Can’t think of anything else to write here. Do me a favour and skip your eyes below to the large film title, would you? Lovely.
Green Lantern (2011)
I knew it. I fucking knew this would happen. Green Lantern gets universally panned by the World, his wife, their dog and its fleas and I actually end up enjoying it. So now I look like either a) a person who wouldn’t know a good film if it kneed them in the throat or b) a mental case who might as well be screaming about how all Post Office employees are actually sinister half dragon/half cyborg amalgamations* for all the respect and attention I’m going to get for not tearing Green Lantern a new one. Still, I’m not afraid of my own opinion, so here we go.
Cocky test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is given a power ring by a dying alien who crash-lands on Earth. The ring grants Jordan superpowers and he is recruited into the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic peacekeepers who fight evil wherever it rears its ugly head. When a threat known as Parallax threatens Earth and Oa, the Lantern homeworld, Jordan must come to terms with his new responsibilities and save the day. Also Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong and Blake “I’m naked on the Internet” Lively are in it. The plot is pretty hackneyed, although I believe calling Green Lantern a “superhero film” is a bit of a misnomer. It’s more of hokey space-opera than anything else. Ryan Reynolds has been attracting a lot of negative attention for his Hal Jordan portrayal, but I think that’s more down to the writing than anything else. Reynolds has proven himself a decent actor in films like Buried and as such I can only blame the shallow-as-fuck characterisation for all the hate. Peter Sarsgaard is actually decent as Hector Hammond and is a credible villain, despite looking like the Elephant Man. Mark Strong is Mark Strong with a funny head (and that is a good thing, although he only seems to exist to give speeches) and Blake Lively your standard female love interest. Nothing new here, move along.
It’s a shame that in this cynical age comic book adaptations feel the need to be dark and gritty in order to be taken seriously. Not every superhero film has to appeal to adults or the ludicrous late teen market and this film doesn’t try to. Green Lantern is at best, ridiculous. The very notion that a ring bestows the power to create anything out of green energy it will have disillusioned teens snarking all the way home to update their Facebook statuses, decrying the film for being too childish and not having a scene where a big-titted assassin casually rips out a man’s spinal column, her already skimpy outfit made see-through by the ensuing torrent of blood.* I would have fucking loved Green Lantern as a kid. Plus, I think the fact that the powers are based on will and imagination are a better lesson to teach the young’uns than “get bitten by a radioactive spider” or “expose yourself to space-radiation” or even “get massively rich and then take it upon yourself to stop crime”.
One of the big problems is that the film can’t decide on a tone. At times is appears straight-faced and others self-deprecating and vaguely parodic. A good example of this weird mix is a helicopter crash sequence. In it, Jordan saves the day and the girl by constructing a Hot Wheels type racetrack to bring the ‘copter to a safe stop. After a bit of nerdy friend interaction, he flies to said girl’s balcony to check that she’s okay and try out the whole superhero persona. She recognises Hal almost immediately, saying that she’s seen him naked: did he really think a mask covering his cheekbones would disguise him? It’s a nice moment, but pretty out of place with the rest of the film.
Despite all these glaring flaws, I enjoyed Green Lantern. I thought some of the effects were genuinely impressive, some of the constructs clever and the found the suit to be pretty badass. I think audiences are suffering from superhero fatigue and Green Lantern doesn’t do itself any favours by being completely unremarkable. The concept was always going to be a tough sell, hence why this film feels especially committee shaped and why they cast wisecrackin’ Ryan Reynolds. It’s really not as bad as the critics and fanboys have been saying. It’s below average, but fun enough for what it is. I’ve not read the comics, but I’m sure there are much better stories to tell and now we’ve got the origin story out of the way maybe the Green Lantern universe can be opened up and explored in more depth. The film is an enjoyable mess and I’m hoping for a sequel to capitalise on some of the unique ideas on display here. There are some damn fine superhero sequels out there, let’s hope Green Lantern gets one.