By Brian Lafferty
November 7, 2011 (San Diego) – The comic book superhero genre won’t be going away anytime soon and that’s all right with me. Thanks to Warner Bros., The Dark Knight and Watchmen rank among my most favorite theater experiences. There have been many other comic book movies that left me excited for the next installment, eager to discuss them with friends.
Unfortunately, The Green Lantern is not one of those movies. Critics were quick to tear it to pieces like the Thracian women ripped up Orpheus. The Green Lantern isn’t that bad, but it’s still a weak film in which the faults outweigh the merits. It looks ambitious, but a certain laziness envelops it. Sure, director Martin Campbell (of Casino Royale fame) and his team tried, but it has no soul like Thor or X-Men: First Class. These movies were deep experiences with rich characters. The Green Lantern is pure formula and surface, albeit a visually engrossing surface.
The Green Lantern Corps is a massive intergalactic agency tasked with protecting the Universe. Members are chosen by a ring with the power to manufacture anything that the wearer can imagine. The film opens with the inadvertent release of the large, destructive, and evil entity Parallax, which mortally wounds the highly respected Abin-Sur. Abin-Sur travels to Earth and his ring chooses troubled fighter pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) who battles his inner demons, his feelings for the pretty Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), his jealous nemesis Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), and ultimately Parallax.
The Green Lantern is two different movies in one. When the Green Lantern is in it, it’s breathtaking. The film overall is lazy, but the special effects and the construction of the planet Oa are crafted with an acute and utmost attention to detail. The ring effects are constructed with a feel akin to fluid spontaneity. It’s as if the characters truly improvise, even though you know in the back of your mind that the filmmakers spent months on these effects.
When it’s just Hal Jordan as himself, the mind wanders. Ryan Reynolds can’t carry the film’s banal and lackluster Earth scenes. Every time these scenes cropped up, I kept waiting impatiently to see Green Lantern. To be fair, the non-Green Lantern scenes don’t occur often but they still have a heavy weight that crushes the film.
One major reason why I believe studios have capitalized on comic book movies is the recent strides made in the evolution of special effects. There’s no way The Green Lantern could have been made even ten years ago. Case in point: Hal’s suit. It is not rubber like Batman’s. It’s composed entirely of will. It is CGI but it never looks like it. Little things like “veins” and “muscles” have ”ooze” coursing through them.
The cinematography is stunning in all scenes, even the Earth scenes. The scenes in space contain radiant colors, which the slick transfer heightens. Although set in the present day, the lighting and production design in some interior scenes echo the 1930s and 1940s. Cinematographer Dion Beebe likes his chiaroscuros, which are rays of sunlight shining from the windows.
The Blu-Ray comes with the theatrical cut and an extended version. The only difference is a small sequence added at the beginning showing the death of Hal’s father in 1993. In the theatrical cut, only snippets are seen when Hal nearly crashes his jet. At first, this is a positive, as the revelation in the theatrical cut comes out of nowhere. But in the end it doesn’t add anything that isn’t already known and it doesn’t make Hal any more haunted than he already is.
The Blu-Ray comes with a Maximum Movie Mode. It serves the same purpose as an audio commentary except it’s a picture-on-picture video placed at the bottom of the screen. Green Lantern comic writer Geoff Johns talks with the crew, mostly with production designer Grant Major. You can also view small featurettes called “Focus Points.”
The Maximum Movie Mode took me about two and a half to three hours to get through. It was exhausting, due to the information overload. I learned a lot and it has so much insight, but I felt like I needed a nap afterwards. I recommend you watch the Focus Points separately; they can be accessed via the special features section of the main menu.
It’s clear the filmmakers focused a lot of attention on the look and special effects but they missed the point. They should have known why movies like The Dark Knight, Thor, and the first two Spider-Man movies work: it isn’t the effects that make the superhero movie, but the superheroes themselves. Superheroes may not necessarily be people, but they are characters that audiences should care about.
A Warner Home Video release. Director: Martin Campbell. Screenplay: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg. Original Music: James Newton Howard. Cinematography: Dion Beebe. Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, Jay O. Sanders, Taika Waititi, and Angela Bassett. 114 minutes (theatrical cut). 123 minutes (extended cut). Rated PG-13.