Green Lantern (2011) Review

Like many of the popular DC characters that have been converted to the big screen, Green Lantern was borne from a simpler decade, when a party mask counted as a disguise and secret organizations still had rhyming oaths and decoder rings. Some would argue that the Green Lantern property couldn’t be updated to accommodate modern sensibilities, but this film will silence the doubters. Not only does it hold up admirably under contemporary scrutiny, it’s also one of the better developed comic book movies to date.

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a cocky test pilot, who is a womanizer and is also irresponsible. Ironically, he comes from a family with a storied history: Hal’s father was a revered and beloved pilot who died in a tragic plane accident when Hal was a boy. The memory of his father’s death scarred Hal for life, filling him with doubt as to his own life, which has adverse effects on the people in it, like childhood sweetheart Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). After crashing his plane and threatening a government contract for Carol’s company, Hal’s life takes a turn for the bizarre when a foreign energy source summons him to an alien crash site where a dying, purple creature gives him a ring and a lantern. Hal quickly discovers that he’s just been inducted into a secret group of universal peacekeepers known as the Green Lanterns who can wield the limitless power of Will to craft whatever comes to mind. Great power, however, attracts great enemies and one such foe known as Parallax, who uses the limitless power of Fear, threatens to destroy whole planets, including Earth.

There’s a lot about Green Lantern that will understandably put off moviegoers initially. Grandiose abstract concepts such as Will and Fear being rival forces in the universe and then being represented physically as glowing orbs of energy in space will probably not inspire audiences. It also doesn’t help that one of the main aliens in the Green Lantern Corps looks decidedly old fashioned in the way that people from the forties imagined aliens – mostly humanoid looking, but sporting a thin moustache, purple skin and a severe widow’s peak. Finally, Green Lantern powers aren’t as simple as having gadgets, super strength or razor claws. The only limitations a Green Lantern has is the strength of his or her conviction. Adapting these concepts to the big screen for modern audiences while still adhering to the source material is not an enviable task, yet the filmmakers here manage it with grace.

The reason Green Lantern works is because of the unshakeable commitment of the actors to their roles, smart setups by the filmmakers to help audiences accept moments later in the film, and constantly subverting scenes that strain believability by drawing more attention to them, not less. So when Mark Strong as Sinestro steps onscreen with his pointy ears and bulbous forehead and speaks lines about fear infecting his comrades, it may feel goofy at first, but because he plays it straight, audiences simply accept it after a few moments. Also, since Green Lantern powers are based on whatever he or she is thinking of, some of the more outlandish constructs can seem like they came out of nowhere, but upon closer inspection Hal’s constructs actually represent his experiences. For instance, Hal’s toying with his nephew’s miniature racetrack early on is paid off grandly once Hal becomes a Green Lantern. Finally, when audiences titter at how little the Green Lantern mask disguises Hal, the characters in the film will agree in a surprising way.

The entire film really is a pleasant surprise. The 3-D effects are top notch and some of the best effects anyone will find in a live action film. The CGI is believable enough that audiences are never distracted by it – for the most part. The acting is also solid all around, especially in the supporting cast, like Peter Sarsgaard who transforms elegantly and grotesquely from skittish lab rat to power drunk villain. Blake Lively has a beauty that was made for the movies and while her role is more or less limited to the concerned-girlfriend-and-sometime-damsel-in-distress, her interactions with Ryan Reynolds are dynamic and expand her character by hinting at a history that feels like it really exists. Of course, Ryan Reynolds is a wonderful leading man and handily carries the film. There are still many throwaway lines that fans of Reynolds have come to expect and enjoy, but overall this is a refreshing and sometimes vulnerable performance.

It’s foolish to think that there are comic book properties that cannot be translated to film. Any comic book fan will immediately recognize the similar camera angles present in both mediums and the only factors really separating them are motion and sound. Green Lantern survives the adaptation to film superbly. In fact, the biggest blemishes of the film are the points that are under-developed and leave audiences asking questions. Nevertheless, Green Lantern is a solid film and a satisfying experience.