Green Lantern

Green Lantern

A

Green Lantern is silly, frantic and a little nonsensical. It’s also kinetic, great-looking and totally entertaining. Critical consensus has led audiences completely astray with this film. It is, in fact, my favorite movie I’ve seen this year, though certainly not the best.

Director Martin Campbell has, in my opinion, done something fairly novel with the lagging superhero genre: he’s made the least ponderous comic book adaptation I can think of. Most similar films try to convince you of the seriousness and import of what you’re seeing on screen, for better (X-Men: First Class) or worse (Spider-Man 3). Campbell’s snappy directorial style, complimented by a screenplay by comic authors Marc Guggenheim and Michael Green (among others), never pauses to let the weight of what’s happening set in. That’s embodied perfectly by the scene in which Hal Jordan first learns to use his Lantern ring. “Now we will fly,” Tomar Re tells him, and then they do. How does he pick that trick up so quickly? It doesn’t matter; as viewers we’re as low on explanations as Hal is, and it serves to make the whole film that much more exciting.

Evidence of Campbell’s breakneck pacing is perhaps most clear in the way scenes transition between one another. The individual moments in Green Lantern don’t have a chance to exhaust themselves; in fact the scenes end perhaps a beat or two early. For instance, when Hal’s showing off his new powers to his friend Tom, we barely have a chance to dive into the scene before a single line — “isn’t the superhero always supposed to get the girl?” — ends up cutting to a different moment entirely, one that happens to be focused on Hal’s love interest. In this way, Green Lantern‘s structured more like an elaborate, free-associative improv comedy exercise than a typical film; it allows energy to build throughout scenes instead of within them, culminating in an exciting climax where Hal Jordan battles the monstrous Parallax for the fate of Earth.

Green Lantern derives a lot of its fun from previous comic-booky films. It’s a bit of the old science fiction serials of the 1930s and ’40s like Flash Gordon (established very well in the opening prologue, full of camp yet menacing) mixed with Richard Donner’s Superman. The latter’s influence pervades the film, so much so that Green Lantern makes his heroic debut by saving a crowd of people from an errant aircraft. Composer James Newton Howard’s fantastic score even picks up on the Superman similarities, echoing John Williams’ iconic work by giving Green Lantern a theme that incorporates a descending series of fifths played triumphantly by the trumpet.

On the visual front, the effects in Green Lantern are tremendous. Parallax in particular looks incredibly menacing; his amorphous body can’t even contain the people he’s consumed, leading to various limbs of victims jutting out of him on a whim. I also loved all the scenes on the Lantern homeworld of Oa, and I wish the script had allowed for us to see even more of the other members of the Corps. The few parts of the movie where all the Lanterns gather together can’t help but recall the Mos Eisley Cantina. Hal Jordan’s constructs, too, are nicely visualized by the film’s CG artists. Critics who said Hal found nothing interesting to do with his ring must have been watching something else.

Don’t get me wrong — not all of Green Lantern is perfect, or even great. I found that most of the scenes featuring Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) ended up slowing the movie down a bit; their trimming would have led to a sharper product. Similarly, Blake Lively (aka Carol Ferris) doesn’t really pop in every scene, though she certainly finds her character in later interactions with Ryan Reynolds (the man himself, Hal Jordan).

Green Lantern certainly sets its sights lower that, say, X-Men First Class. However, I think it also hits more of its targets. In my estimation, Green Lantern does pretty much everything it sets out to do, and it does those things very well. Better movies will come and go this year, but for pure superhero entertainment GL‘s a real winner.

tags: green lantern, martin campbell

  • Marc

    Perhaps I’ve been deemed overly critical by others, but I have to disagree on a few points here. Where you find “whimsy” in the scenes ending a beat early? I find a weak script. Where you enjoy the “menacing” amorphous blob of a villain? I find a lackluster CG budget. Where you found Hector to drag the script down, I was begging for more of it.

    Ultimately, I think my love of the character may have shrouded my experience in minutiae, but that being said I’m not unhappy with the film; It’s big, loud, dumb, but fun. And while it will inevitably be crushed under Cars 2 this weekend, I hope WB sees enough potential to warrant a tighter scripted sequel.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see why it’s weak to construct scenes that leave viewers wanting more, and I certainly don’t see how Parallax does not look awesome. I get where all the Hector love is coming from, but that character belonged in a different movie. He was too serious for GL.

    And I wouldn’t count on a GL sequel any time soon.

  • Marc Alan Fishman

    It’s not that the scenes made me want more… it’s that they made me wish they delivered. Kevin Smith, Aaron Sorkin, Tarrantino… all pile dialogue into a scene that makes me want more, or at very least, leave me thinking the characters exist in a universe where the plot at hand isn’t the ONLY thing that needs to be said/shown. The parralax design was just too much for me personally. I honestly would have loved the lost guardian to have been yellow eyed and creepy, and… TURN into the smoke monster from Lost, versus having it all out there all at once. Again, I know I’m nitpiking a movie that was clearly going for a “popcorn” feeling… but it’s the same way you show your love for TF by being critical of what makes it tick.

  • Anonymous

    No, I see what you’re saying. You’re definitely not being too nitpicky for my tastes. :) My opinion is that there’s no such thing as too critical, just the wrong kind of critical. But it’s cool to disagree, and I get where you’re coming from. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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