Very few comic books have been adapted to film relative to the plethora of available stories waiting to be unearthed. This has particularly been the case with DC comics.
Despite other attempts to adapt works from its comic book archives such as Watchmen, V for Vendetta and Jonah Hex, Green Lantern is DC Comics' first attempt to make a superhero film beyond the company's primary moneymakers Batman and Superman. Over the years, DC has not invested its resources into creating superhero films beyond these two, until Green Lantern comics became increasingly popular over the last seven years. That popularity has since translated into numerous lines of action figures, statues, t-shirts and eventually two animated movies, video game and a forthcoming animated series.
Green Lantern - directed by Martin Campbell and starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins and Michael Clarke Duncan - is a story about a test pilot named Hal Jordan (Reynolds) who receives a ring capable of emitting energy based constructs; the ring's capabilities limited only by the ring bearer's imagination. Jordan becomes a Green Lantern, one of 3600 intergalactic peace-keeping officers charged with maintaining order across the universe. Powered by the collected "will" of sentient life across the vastness of space, the ring's only criteria for choosing a new Green Lantern is that such a person be fearless, a credo which evolves as the film progresses.
Set within a contemporary period, Green Lantern tells the story of a man coming to understand the depths of his capabilities as an individual. Interestingly, this development is cultivated much in spite of himself, as the reluctant Jordan is encouraged to stand firm for once in his life in the face of his fears. His close friend and former romantic flame, Carol Ferris (Lively), functions as the instigator of Jordan's heroic emergence, pushing him forward towards the man he can be contrary to his trepidation. In this respect the story feels like a partial commentary on humankind's inability to stand outside itself and see ourselves as we are, often needing context from those closest to us in order to see our true selves. It also speaks to combating fear which rests at the heart of this story, seen simply in the humbling act of admitting fear altogether. It's here we see the birth of a hero in Reynolds' iteration of Jordan, as someone overcoming a fear of taking action altogether. Ultimately, we find being fearless is synonymous with being untested.
Running just under two hours, the film dedicates much of its time towards introducing the audience to the main character through a standard "origin story." I feel the film does an adequate job of retelling the comic's origins and explaining key fixtures of the main character's beginnings. In this regard the movie was successful in not only telling a story of how a fearless, irresponsible screw-up received one of the most powerful weapons in the universe, but how he grew beyond his own fears to become one of earth's greatest heroes.
Reynolds more than adequately portrays the title character, hitting the required notes and managing to pull off the cocky, fly-boy antics of his comic book counterpart. The actor confidently portrays Jordan and does so as well as anyone possibly could. Moreover to his credit, considering the film's reliance on CGI, Reynolds was additionally tasked with acting in front of a blue screen and forced to react as though the CGI locations and characters he encounters are directly in front of him, testing his acting abilities more than any other time in his career. Reynolds deserves a nod of recognition for his work in the film, offering believable reactions to the awe the Green Lantern's home planet of Oa demands.
It is Mark Strong's performance as Sinestro, though, that stole the movie. When Strong was on screen he was enthralling, stepping deep into the role of an inspiring general of soldiers while delivering the same intensity he conveyed as Lord Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes. His (sur)namesake doesn't do his performance justice, as his Sinestro was compelling, believable and alludes to his eventual fate opposite his current Corps members. Despite not being in the film nearly enough, when he was, the character's bravado, arrogance, strength, will and emotion all were apparent in his portrayal. He played off against Reynolds' Jordan very well in the scenes they had together, contrasting Reynolds' perceived weakness with unwavering strength, fear with absolute confidence and his inabilities against Sinestro's skills. What's interesting in the dynamic is how the roles reverse towards the film's end once Sinestro tastes fear and succumbs to it.
Despite these two strong castings, Lively's performance as Carol Ferris is altogether forgettable. There seemed to be little chemistry on screen between Reynolds and the Gossip Girl star, leading me to care little whether or not they end up together by the end of the movie. Moreover, Lively was stiff and monotonic in her delivery. As a viewer, I was unable to differentiate between when the Ferris character was angry, sad or harbouring fuzzy feelings if not for a tear or two. Her portrayal was largely dull and uninteresting and I shudder to think of Lively as a prominent villain in later films when she becomes Star Sapphire, as her attempts to emote are comparable to trying to tell the difference between white and off-white from a distance.
What complicates the chemistry further is the lack of background information between the two characters. Instead of a childhood friend who watched Hal Jordan's father die in a test piloting accident along with a young Hal in the comic book, we get no indication of that deep rooted emotional attachment between the two in the film. Rather, the film glosses over their history and alludes to their past in a handful of scenes, hardly illuminating their emotional origins. We're not filled in on the specifics, but we're simply told they have history. The audience knows there's a connection between them evident by the touching moments and tense scenes they share, but we can't contextualize the "why" and without it I'm hard pressed to care about their relationship. With that said, Lively and Reynolds do share a cute scene where Reynolds' Jordan descends to her balcony and Lively's Ferris quickly deduces 'Green Lantern's' identity, saying, “Hal, I've known you my entire life, you think I wouldn't recognize you because I can't see your cheek bones?” referencing Jordan's mask and terrible disguise. It's a funny joke directed at the classic Superman identity joke where Lois Lane fails to deduce Clark Kent is Superman because he wears glasses.
A similarly baffling technique is used to explain the relationship between Jordan, Ferris and Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard). Sarsgaard plays the sympathetic Hammond, a character who continually struggles with being socially awkward and failing to meet his father's expectations, yet benefits from his family connections when an alien lifeform crashes to earth and he's allowed to examine it. After becoming the film's secondary antagonist, Hammond kidnaps Ferris and holds her captive, leaving Jordan to come to her rescue. This escalates the already existing love-triangle between the three, but what is unexplained is the origin of their relationship. We are introduced to the characters' connections similarly to how we learn the Ferris-Jordan back-story. The audience learns the three know each other during a conversation between Jordan and Hammond, and later between Hammond and Ferris. In both cases the writers assumed the audience would accept the relationships, but it comes off as lazy writing.
Ultimately the movie's writing fails the film. Despite strong performances from most of the cast, in addition to tremendously solid CGI work relating to the movie's landscapes and ring constructs, the plot flounders. At under two hours, the film feels too short for the story the writers tried to tell. Much of this rests in the reality that this comic book property had scarcely been presented to mainstream audiences prior and required a complete retelling of the character's origins. Unfortunately, the filmmakers struggled to explain the dense mythology's premise, cramming too much into the picture while failing to focus itself on telling a completely cohesive story. The film needed more time to develop the background of the characters, much in the same way Batman Begins set the stage for the Batman movie franchise in 2005. Moreover I feel to not utilize the other Corps members was a mistake. Although this is the introduction of Hal Jordan to the mainstream, the stories still centre upon the Corps itself and it's place in the universe. I feel it was a mistake to have not used those additional characters more, as they could have enriched the story greatly. To not capitalize on that "team dynamic" was a miscalculation, but I feel it's something that will be visited in the future as the story progresses.
Green Lantern is an enjoyable, albeit partially shallow entry into the comic book movie arena. Fans of the source material will quickly understand the plot and where it leads, subsequently enjoying the film for its duration. However casual movie goers will probably walk away unimpressed, unsure of what they've just watched. It's hardly the worst comic book movie, but fails to meet the gold standard set by the recent Batman films while hardly failing as horribly as the comic book world's worst film adaptations. Instead, Green Lantern falls into the middle of the pack. It's an average to above-average movie that tells a bumpy yet competent story with room to improve going forward.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com