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Review: The Green Lantern (2011)

The Green Lantern (2011)

Directed by: Martin Campbell

Premise: An adaptation of the comic book. Pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) gets a ring that gives him superpowers.

What Works: The Green Lantern is a fun, if standard, comic book adventure film. The film’s high points are mostly found in its performers. Ryan Reynolds is cast as Hal Jordan aka The Green Lantern and he is a fun and agreeable screen presence. The character is a little different from other comic book heroes in that he is much more human; The Green Lantern is not a borderline psychopath like Batman or inhumanly altruistic like Superman and Reynolds’ sarcasm and wit are a welcome addition to the film and to the comic book genre. Blake Lively plays his love interest and although the part is underwritten the relationship between her character and Hal Jordan has some backstory to it that makes their scenes interesting.  

What Doesn’t: The Green Lantern is fraught by an underdeveloped script. The film gets off to a rough start with an overlong and unnecessary prologue. Fantasy films sometimes have to give the audience some context, such as the opening crawl of Star Wars or the prologue of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, but in The Green Lantern the exposition goes on too long and does little to clarify the story world. Unfortunately, the storytelling does not get much better. Once Hal gets the ring and becomes The Green Lantern he does very little that is heroic and the film fails to build the character’s superhero credentials. The story of The Green Lantern hinges upon Hal Jordan mastering his fear but the story does not include any scenarios in which he faces meaningful challenges the way Peter Parker does in Spider-Man. This is partly due to the lack any substantive relationships with the supporting cast, who come on screen only to recite exposition-heavy dialogue, and exit without establishing any kind of bond with the main character. A similar weakness of The Green Lantern is its lack of a coherent villain. Mirroring a similar set up in The NeverEnding Story, there are two antagonists in The Green Lantern: one is a cloud of destructive, negative energy and the other is its henchman. The film is obviously going for some kind of big metaphor about the triumph of courage and will over fear and anger but it isn’t set up properly and instead of being a meaningful dramatization, the final conflict is just a guy in a green costume being chased by a black cloud. This lack of substance makes The Green Lantern utterly dependent upon Ryan Reynolds to carry it but a handsome and smug leading man can only get a film so far.

Bottom Line: The Green Lantern is an average superhero movie. It has the action and the special effects but it never digs deeper than the surface of its characters and symbols. 

Episode: #345 (June 26, 2011)