Green Lantern – Review


Martin Campbell ought to tithe 10% his salary to Jon Favreau

For all the success of comic book adaptations into film, almost every single one of them has come from the Marvel side of the comic book sphere. Outside of the success of Batman and Superman, DC Comic heroes tend to get short-changed in terms of quality films. That is until Green Lantern, which has bucked the trend and should be the DC film franchise version of Iron Man. Why?

It owes nearly everything to that film in terms of style and character.

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a test pilot who lives life by the seat of his pants, much to the dismay of his boss and childhood friend Carol (Blake Lively). A bit of a ladies’ man, Jordan’s life changes when a dying alien gives him a ring of immeasurable power. It feeds into human will power, allowing him to create shapes as he sees fits as well as the ability to fly, et al. Drafted into the mighty Green Lantern Corps, defending the universe, Jordan becomes the first human being to become a Green Lantern.

The Corps, led by a group of immortal beings that figured out how to harness will power in its pure form, are charged with defending the universe from those that prey on fear and evil. And just in time, too, as a being of immeasurable evil is bearing down on Earth and it’s up to Hal to defeat him. Along the way he has to find his own inner courage to be able to overcome his own fear and become the man that a ring chose to become the hero he must be.

If it sounds familiar then it is; this is a collection of nearly every cliché from the Superhero film writing manual. There isn’t anything new or original to the genre; Martin Campbell and four credited writers aren’t looking to try and do something unique and original. This is a fairly perfunctory tale of a man becoming the person he was meant to be as opposed to the person he is. But it’s actually for the best because Martin Campbell is fairly good with this type of story.

That’s the key that drives this film: it’s in its director. Campbell is good with genre films that don’t have anything new or different story wise. He’s a master at crafting a film that is engaging genre material but isn’t anything special, story-wise. It’s the best way you could describe his relaunch of the James Bond franchise with Casino Royale and Green Lantern shares similar elements to that in setup, etc. But it’s in comparison to Iron Man where we find an appropriate comparison.

Jon Favreau crafted a fairly unoriginal story around a brilliant, nuanced performance from Robert Downey Jr. and Campbell is trying to do the same with this film. Campbell takes many of the same cues and overall plot structure from Iron Man and uses them for this film; he’s created a film that is eerily similar to Favreau’s from a plot structure and in tone. This is a breezy, fun comic book film that feels similar to Iron Man but with a hero in green as opposed to red & yellow. The only difference is that there’s brilliance in Downey and a better written character in Tony Stark than Ryan Reynolds is given with Hal Jordan. Hal is a generic character with no real defining characteristics outside of a typical character Ryan Reynolds has played. There’s no nuance and substance to it; we can cheer for Hal because he’s the lead but not because of anything about him.

Reynolds does admirable work as Hal but this isn’t a powerful or dynamic performance that would bring the character into something more meaningful. The film has to rest on his shoulders and he does it well enough to keep it entertaining, as Campbell crafts a coherent and easy to follow story, but doesn’t quite have that extra gear to make it brilliant. It stays at good and is content to be there.

Despite all the brilliant CGI work and some inspired action sequences, Green Lantern never hits the high notes others in the genre has. It doesn’t try to, either, more content to stay in that category of “good but not great” more than anything else. And it’s not a bad thing. Making a film like The Dark Knight is hard; Iron Man not so much. And another film as good as Iron Man isn’t a bad thing.

Director: Martin Campbell
Notable Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Temeura Morrison, Angela Basset, Tim Robbins
Writer(s): Greg Berlanti & Michael Green & Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg based on the DC Comic book character of the same name

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