Green Lantern Lights Up to Entertain
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- 2011 17 Jun
DVD Release Date: October 14, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: June 17, 2011
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action)
Genre: Drama, Action, Adventure
Run Time: 105 min.
Director: Martin Campbell
Actors: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, Jay O. Sanders, Angela Bassett
“I know what I must do, it’s just that ... I'm afraid to do it,” Frodo says in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future,” Galadriel responds.
It’s a potent theme: There is a special calling for each of us, and a giftedness granted to fulfill that calling. Outward weaknesses can conceal inner strengths, not only to others but to ourselves. We may not see ourselves as conquerors, but something, or Someone, sees something more. You have been chosen. Will you rise to the challenge?
Green Lantern, director Martin Campbell’s (Casino Royale) stab at bringing another DC Comics hero to the screen, is no Lord of the Rings. Its mythical universe and battle for survival don’t convey the stakes the screenwriters intend, while its scenes of endless exposition laying out the back story of the Green Lantern Corps will tax even the most forgiving viewers.
Nevertheless, Green Lantern does a nice job of selling its central theme: When you’re chosen for a great task, you need to embrace your calling, conquer your weaknesses and tap into strengths others see in you—even if you’ve never known you had them.
Ryan Reynolds (Buried) stars as Hal Jordan, a pilot who’s struggling to live up to the memory of his father. Dad died in a fiery plane accident as his son looked on, and Hal’s hot-dogging and generally irresponsible lifestyle as a grown-up have turned him into what he calls “a total screw-up in nearly every area” of his life. Carol (Blake Lively, The Town), a childhood friend, old flame and fellow pilot puts up with Hal, but she, like most other adults, views him warily. Only Hal’s nephew sees him as a heroic figure. (The relationship with the nephew is established in an early scene, only to be forgotten.)
Hal gets a moral wake-up call from Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), a member of the Green Lantern Corps, which is responsible for keeping peace in the universe. Abin Sur crash lands on earth, where his ring—the source of Abin Sur’s power—seeks out a new lantern. The ring chooses Hal, who has to learn how to activate its power (“speak the oath” turns out not to be as simple an instruction as Hal thinks). Once he’s up and running, he becomes Green Lantern, decked out in a mask and body suit, but still looking a lot like Hal. His mask fools Carol for about two seconds—a sly acknowledgement that the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously.
The human interaction is part of the fun of Green Lantern. Whenever the story ventures to the distant planet of Oa, where the Lantern Corps and a group known as the Guardians of the Universe prepare to battle the shape-shifting Parallax, the film slows considerably, with speeches and lessons about the negative power of fear. “Fear is what stops you and makes you weak,” we’re told. “You reek of fear” says Sinestro (Mark Strong, The Way Back) to Hal. No problem with that. It’s a simple idea. But Strong can’t make Sinestro’s long-winded rallying cries, loaded with back story and explanation, connect with the audience. The movie has to return to earth, and to Hal and Carol, for characters that are relatable, or who are, at least, not laughable.
Laughs are infrequent in Green Lantern, and not always intentional, but the movie does have a lightness of spirit throughout much of it that makes it less somber and more fun than it might have been otherwise. That’s in no small part due to a performance by Peter Skarsgaard (Knight and Day), who looks like he’s having a blast as Hal’s human foe, Hector. Less interesting is how Hal uses his power as the Green Lantern (“I materialized a racetrack, saving hundreds of people”), which is more confusing than impressive, and a climactic showdown that ends with one of our heroes madly typing on a computer. Still, Green Lantern is easy to enjoy, even though some of its dialogue might have benefited from another draft. (The screenplay is credited to four writers.)
At root, Green Lantern is a story about a man who must fulfill what he’s called to do to save the human race, and his realization that he’s been chosen to fulfill that purpose. It’s not a landmark film, nor the best of the summer, but it’s lively often enough to make thoughts of an inevitable sequel almost painless.
- Language/Profanity: “Jesus”; “Oh my God”; “a-shole”; “go-dammit”; “son of a b-tch”; “what the hell”; middle finger extended.
- Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: A few scenes of drinking, including at a bar.
- Sex/Nudity: Hal wakes up next to a woman in bed and runs off to work; Hal says, “Let’s get these pants off” and removes his belt in preparation for suiting up for work; Hal shown in underwear, bare-chested; Carol reminds Hal that she’s seen him naked, and implies that Hal’s been around the block with many other women; kissing.
- Violence/Crime: Reckless driving; flashback to the fiery death of Hal’s father; Hal is assaulted by three men; sword fight and fist fights; Hector forces a student onto the floor; later, he injects himself with a substance; a helicopter crash; fireballs and special-effects battles; a villain consumes his victims, draining them of their life force.
- Religion/Morals: Fear is said to be a great enemy; Hal offers himself as a sacrifice to spare humanity.
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