Review: Martin Campbell's 'Green Lantern' Looks Good, Feels Empty
by Jeremy Kirk
June 16, 2011
Being green is another way of saying amateurish, unpolished, showing the potential of something that could have been there given the time, effort, and willpower to craft a solid product. That fits in nicely when talking about Green Lantern, the latest movie based on a DC superhero and a film that is decidedly incomplete, an origin story, thrilling adventure, and space opera epic that never fully delivers any of those. Half-baked, goofy, and plastic all the way, it's the kind of by-the-numbers comic book movie you may have expected from Hollywood studios before they started taking the idea of transferring stories from the paneled page to the silver screen seriously. In a nutshell, Green Lantern doesn't work, but it gives an aura of potential, a promise of a better film that makes what's delivered all the more frustrating.
It's not entirely busted by the casting. Ryan Reynolds, charismatic and risible as always, plays Hal Jordan, a test pilot who shows no fear in the sky. His life is headed towards a self-fulfilled trainwreck when he comes in contact with a crashed alien, a member of the Green Lantern Corps who bestows his powerful ring to Hal before dying. With new-found powers generated from the ring, Hal must learn to use the gift to protect his world and prove to the corps that there is humanity left in the human race. Dastardly scientists and a gigantic space blob that sucks out people's souls end up standing in his way.
Most of that synopsis is the story told on Earth, but much of Green Lantern deals with the planet Oa and the various alien lifeforms that make up the corps. From massive skyscrapers to each and every one of those lifeforms to the powerful Guardians of the Universe, director Martin Campbell brings it all to life through an overabundance of CG. To be fair, it would be difficult to create Oa and everything it includes using a combination of CG and practical effects. Practical effects by themselves would be impossible. So the entirety of the planet is crafted by those 1s and 0s that have created so many cinematic worlds before Green Lantern. Like the casting, this isn't where Green Lantern falters, either. The special effects here are a bit hokey. You're going to be dealing with a modicum of goofiness when bringing colorful alien worlds like this to life, and for the most part, Campbell and crew pull it off.
Unfortunately, it's in the parts of creating Green Lantern that don't have to be so flashy where the film does end up falling way short. The relationships in this are flimsy at best. Oftentimes they're noticeably broken from a screenplay standpoint. Many of the characters appears to be floating about in their own story line that has little or nothing to do with the other storylines.
This is most noticeable with Dr. Hector Hammond, played by Peter Sarsgaard, a scientist brought in to study the deceased alien. The character ultimately becomes one of the villains of Green Lantern, and the acting put in by Sarsgaard and the look of Hammond after he goes through some transformations are all pieced together well. It's how he fits in with the overall narrative that just feels odd. Campbell makes the decision of cutting between Hammond studying the alien and Hal working with his ring, but it's long before these two characters even appear together.
The connection between Hal and Carol Ferris, his long-time friend with which a love/hate relationship broods, is also completely disjointed. A lot of that problem could stem from how lifeless actress Blake Lively appears to be as Carol, but it doesn't appear she's given much help from the screenplay, either.
And then come the daddy issues. Every DC mainstay seems to have one. Hell, every notable superhero has to have some kind of parental problems they have to work through. With Hal Jordan, it's his father who was also a pilot and who, as shown in a don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it flashback, perished an awful fate while in the seat of his own plane. Hal is trying to work through these issues, trying to both live up to his father's name and pull himself free from the shadow his father's fate has left for him. However, all of this is handled in the most mundane way possible to the point that it seems the images in the film, 3D and all, appear about as deep and as weighty as a single comic book page.
There has to be mention of Mark Strong as Sinestro, a fellow Lantern and mentor to Jordan. Sinestro's look is spot-on from the comic, and Strong fills the role perfectly. Sadly, he isn't given much to do, and a shift in the character way late in the game - like post-credit sequence late - is a minimal amount of payoff for an arc we aren't even quite sure we saw in the first place. Nonetheless, the character's return for a potential Green Lantern 2 could solidify him as a formidable comic book villain.
And all of this along with the Green Lantern build-up including one of the worst, most hurried training montages ever crafted, is shoved into a 105-minute package that could have and should have been longer. The acting, with a few exceptions, is there. The special effects, bellyful of CG and all, is actually quite stylish. Even the CG suit doesn't take you out of the film as much as you might have initially expected. It's just that the story, the structure, and the way the whole thing rushes past like a freight train leaves you with an uninterested and empty feeling. Green Lantern looks good, but it feels cheap. The light may not have completely gone out for this film, but it's dimming.
Jeremy's Rating: 5 out of 10