Green Lantern (2011) a (mildly) belated review

I’ve mentioned before my love for what is arguably the first -and equally arguably the best– “modern” superhero film, 1978’s Superman.  This is a film that offered viewers an incredible array of material.  You had drama, you had tragedy.  You also had slapstick, romance, and (of course) high adventure.  Heck, there was even a quasi-musical/dance number thrown in, to boot!

What is most amazing is that with all those different elements, tones, and styles, the movie worked.  Through clever writing, directing, acting, and editing, all that stuff came together into a wonderful whole and the film never felt excessive or overwhelming (In the theatrical print…I’m not quite as enamored of the “extended” cut released to DVD).

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the 2011 film Green Lantern.  As I finally watched the film a couple of days ago, I couldn’t help but feel that the people behind the cameras were hoping to match Superman‘s mojo.  They offered a big story that featured a big cast and took you to quite literally the ends of the universe.  The movie also features a hero that would prove his worth before an awesome foe, all while re-connecting with the love of his life.

Unfortunately, all those ideas are thrown at the viewers without the skill of a Superman.  Instead of a fascinating whole, the film works only in spurts and seems content to throw out comic books characters after characters and hope that that alone makes the film interesting.

It doesn’t.

Now, I’m a fan of Green Lantern, particularly the silver age iteration as illustrated by the incomparable Gil Kane and, just a little later, Neal Adams.  I think the character’s back story and supporting cast are interesting and naturals for film.  However, did the film really need to have Dr. Amanda Waller in it?  Worse, given all the things thrown out (including Waller’s character herself!), did we also need to spend precious screen time showing her “origin”?  And while the character Tomas Kalmaku, unlike Dr. Waller, was a big part of the early Green Lantern comic books stories, he was mostly irrelevant in the film and did nothing more than take up screen time that could have gone to Blake Lively’s Carol Ferris.

The movie offers us two big villains, but given what ultimately happens with Hector Hammond, the Earth-bound villain, I can’t help but wondering if it might have been better not to have Hammond appear at all and instead focus the main conflict entirely on Parallax.

Or, even better yet, why present Green Lantern arch villain Sinestro in his “pre-evil” form at all?  He would have made a far better villain instead of being shown as a noble member of the Green Lantern Corps that (inexplicably) succumbs to evil after the credits roll.  That’s like giving us a new Batman film with the Joker featured prominently within it as a good guy and then teasing us only at the very end that he’ll be the bad guy next time around.

Sometimes, the next time doesn’t come around.

As for the acting, the two leads, Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern and Blake Lively as Carol Ferris, are…ok.  While they didn’t display the charisma Christopher Reeves and Margot Kidder had in Superman, I thought a better, clearer, and more focused story might have helped show them off much better.

In sum, count me among those that cannot recommend this film.