***1/2 (out of 5)
June 17, 2011
Ryan Reynolds as HAL JORDAN
Blake Lively as CAROL FERRIS
Peter Sarsgaard as HECTOR HAMMOND
Mark Strong as SINESTRO
Temuera Morrison as ABIN SUR
Directed by: Martin Campbell
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Friends, fanboys, critics, lend me your eyes. I have not come to bury “Green Lantern,” but to defend it.
Even before many regional press screenings, the bad buzz heated up on the Internet about Hollywood’s latest superhero movie. In many ways, it reminded me of the hate that spewed forth for films like “Tron Legacy” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” not too long ago. I don’t like to spend half of a review defending the enjoyment of a film, but it’s necessary in this case.
People, please. “Green Lantern” is not as bad as many are saying. In fact, if you take it for what it is, the film is quite enjoyable and fun.
And this begs the question… What is it?
There are two approaches to a superhero movie. The first, and most often embraced by adult fanboys and critics, focuses on the darker side. It deals with heavier issues, grim reality and often can be a platform for sometimes very keen sociological and political allegories. Great films that fall into this category include “The Dark Knight” and at least a couple of the “X-Men Movies.” I like these movies, but I also recognize that not every superhero movie is going to be – or should even strive to be – this.
The other category is simple fun entertainment. They tend to be a little cartoony (which is to be expected, considering that’s where they were born), and they tend to aim for a younger audience that couldn’t care less about Nazi allegories and men brooding around in caves.
Films like both versions of “Iron Man,” “Thor,” “The Fantastic Four” and even the “Spider-Man” films to an extent fall into this category. They’re harmless; they’re fluffy; they aren’t deep character studies. These movies exist to entertain and have relatively two-dimensional characters. They rely on spectacle and action to drive them home. They’re effects-heavy, and they often have a strong dose of comic relief in them.
“Green Lantern” falls into this latter category, and there’s nothing wrong with it. In fact, as someone who read the comics in the late-70s and early-80s, I am thrilled that a movie of this superhero was even made. And for my memories, which existed at a time when comic books were still aimed at kids and not trying to cling to a continually aging and increasingly cynical audience, they did a good job.
The movie begins with an admitted long-winded explanation of who the Green Lantern Corps is, who the Guardians are and how they all fit together. Sure, if you know your DC Comics history, this will all be review. But like “Thor,” there are plenty of viewers who don’t have this pretext and need to be brought up to speed.
The story focuses on Hal Jordan, a maverick test pilot who is chosen to become part of an intergalactic peacekeeping force. He is given a ring that can create anything from the power of his will, and he must use this to help defeat a growing force of fear and evil that threatens to wipe out Earth.
Yes, there are some awkward scenes in this film, and yes, some of the dialogue is pretty cheesy. I know Blake Lively isn’t a great actress (though she does look quite fantastic with auburn hair), and Ryan Reynolds hams it up a bit. But I expected as much. Like I said, this was made for a family crowd and only earns its PG-13 rating for some intense action sequences.
In this respect, “Green Lantern” does not flow like the critically acclaimed superhero movies of recent years. Instead, it flows like an episode of a Cartoon Network series adapted from the comic books. Seeing the Green Lanterns come to life with their power rings creating green weapons from nothing is something I’ve been waiting to see on the big screen for 30 years.
There are problems with the film, to be sure. But on the whole, it’s a lot of fun, and it sets things up for a great sequel. Because Green Lantern is such a secondary DC hero, it’s necessary to set some groundwork. Origin stories can be tough, and like the very similarly paced and presented “Thor,” “Green Lantern” works in its own context.
The bottom line is that whenever the Green Lanterns are doing their Green Lantern thing, I was enthralled. I loved the trips to the Guardians’ world of Oa. I loved the ring effects. I even enjoyed the overly stylized suit. Yeah, I know that’s not how he looks in the comic books, but it still looks cool to me. Like many films in the summer blockbuster season, if it looks good and holds together from scene to scene, I’m a happy fanboy.