Movie Review – Green Lantern (2011)


Does it always have to be an origins story? On the basis of Green Lantern, the filmmakers would have done better to have skipped the explanations and started with the sequel.

Ryan Reynolds plays cocksure test pilot Hal Jordan: daring, charming, and emotionally stunted. When a dying alien “guardian” crash lands on earth, it sends its ring of power in search of its successor. The ring brings back Hal, inside whom it sees something Hal doesn’t know is there. Less fortunate is a local biology teacher brought in by the government to examine the alien’s corpse. Poor Hector (Peter Sarsgaard) turns into an ineffectual supervillain after being infected by fear energy left behind in the fatal wound. Hal will have to grow up and man up if he and newly acquired powers are to stop Hector and, more significantly, the enormous evil alien about to stop off and destroy his planet on its way to visiting destruction on the home world of the guardians.

Green Lantern has a good cast, but casting is not a substitute for writing. Reynolds is really good, really charming; much better than the film. Sarsgaard does something with little. Tim Robbins as Hector’s smarmy politico father and Angela Bassett as a government scientist have nothing to work with. Mark Strong is saddled with the thankless part of the guardian head honcho, which should be a good part but comes with particularly bad dialogue.

Well, it’s a mostly good cast. Blake Lively plays Hal’s childhood friend, love interest, fellow test pilot, and savvy businesswoman, and fails to convince in all of those roles.

A selfish man who learns to accept the great responsibility that comes with great power is a timeless story, but the film packages Hal’s character arc as a dull Saturday morning cartoon. Hal’s flying visits to the guardians’ world squander even the possibilities for cartoonish fun offered by the comic book flight of fancy setting. The thousands of guardians from as many worlds are rendered in a cgi crowd scene blur and most of Hal’s time there is spent getting beat up by a couple of his fellow guardians under the guise of training. No time is allowed to Hal or the audience for exploration and wonder.

Next to Reynolds the best part of Green Lantern is the fight scenes, or rather, one particular aspect of them. It’s a fun gimmick: the ring turns its wearer’s willpower into green energy that can be instantaneously shaped and re-shaped into any form. The only limit? Imagination. Most of the film’s too few flashes of wit come in what Hal imagines will help him in his fights.

1 star


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Ryan Reynolds was also charming in the romantic comedy The Proposal.

10 responses to “Movie Review – Green Lantern (2011)

  1. Brutal review, but absolutely correct. You gotta give this great cast a little more to work with. Good actors can’t make an average film good if they don’t have the room to display their range.

    • I read a couple of reviews by fans of the comics series that described how-and how substantially- the Hal Jordan/Green Lantern character was changed for the movie. It confirmed my suspicion that the screenwriters’ true inspiration was “Iron Man” and its commercial success. Good model, bad copy.

  2. The mythology is nonsensical and the plot takes forever to get going. But once it does, the movie takes advantage of a strong cast and a director who knows what he’s doing. Good Review! Check out mine when you can!

    • Funny enough I think I would enjoy a sequel. A well-adjusted Green Lantern having inter-galactic adventures could be a lot of fun.

  3. The model was indeed Iron Man. In that both are secondary characters from their respective comic. However, Iron Man caught lightning in a bottle when that movie , being written as it went along managed to succeed both critically and at the box office. It seems to be a new trend to not only reboot but make movies on ideas and not a script which this movie clearly did.

    • Thor is a carbon copy of the Iron Man script and I liked that because, as aforementioned, Iron Man is a good body of work to copy (or be influenced by) and Thor succeeded in what it tried to do. I can’t say much about the Green Lantern live-action film ’cause I hadn’t seen it, and don’t know if I ever will but the animated film Green Lantern: First Flight is interesting because it’s a carbon copy of Training Day. :O)

      • The Hal Jordan of the “Green Lantern” movie is Tony Stark lite (playboy discovers responsibility as owner of super-tech suit, inheritor of father’s profession works through father issues). Of the other similarities, the banter between Hal and Carol, the on-again, off-again girlfriend, stands out as an obvious attempt to replicate the Stark/Pepper Potts dynamic.

        If only they’d emulated the snappy pacing, sturdy plot structure, supporting characters who had something to do….

        • The biggets problem with the film, as I see it without having watched it but having listened to Green Lantern fans is that toom much of the film takes place on Earth. Green Lantern is supposed to be on other worlds and in different universes and he rarely ever comes down to Earth. Nowadasy, sci-fi screenwriters tend to involve Earth and human beings as much a spossible instead of focusing on cool sci-fi aspects, like anything doesn’t take place on Earth.
          The reason why I hate the 2 Transformers films is because it has more than the original two humans in it. It shouldn’t have giant cities populated by people, just giant alien robots and their giant alien robot enemies.

          I call it a lack of imagination when we base aliens and robots in our own world but change nothing about our world, save for District 9 and Monsters. It’s annoying and pathetic.

          Anyone agree?

  4. I agree. They should arrive, eat people, reduce a couple of cities to ash and leave. No in-between. ;)


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