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Movie Review: Green Lantern (PG-13)

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Length: 105 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Age Appropriate for: 10+; may skew older depending on your thoughts about your children hearing some mild cursing (no f-words or s-words) and being aware of implied sexual situations, as well as Blake Lively’s cleavage. Some scary, bellowing alien faces, deformed humans and bodily harm — but nothing a kid of late comic-book age won’t have seen before.

All the men in ‘Green Lantern’ give the film the witty humor and manipulative evil it needs. But silly costumes, laughable effects and an overall poor story sap this adaptation of the imaginative comic book tale of any imagination whatsoever.

You can’t go anywhere this summer without already knowing this season is defined by comic book movies: The deluge began with May’s “Thor,” continued with June’s “X-Men: First Class” and now moves onto “Green Lantern,” starring Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, the guy who was picked by an alien wearing a glowing green ring to develop super abilities and save Earth from whichever baddies come knocking.

Chesapeake Family’s movie reviewers, Jared Peterson (who saw “Thor”) and Roxana Hadadi (who saw “X-Men: First Class”), both took in “Green Lantern” with two very different sets of expectations. Peterson wondered whether the film’s storyline and special effects will please the accuracy-seeking “Lantern” aficionados, while Hadadi just wanted to know if Reynolds is handsome and charming enough to make us forget how bad “Buried” was. Read on for their dueling reviews, a format Chesapeake Family will continue experimenting with as Peterson and Hadadi dabble in teasing and one-upping each other’s opinions for your reading amusement.

JARED PETERSON: ‘Green Lantern’ gets most of its epic comic-book visuals right, but fails to have any impact on a human scale — boding badly for its possibility of success as a future franchise.

As a representative of its comic book origins, “Green Lantern” is likely to have the biggest impact on younger viewers looking for playtime possibilities and diehard fans eager to debate the details.

Like the semi-mythical “Thor,” released earlier this season — and unlike more earthbound tales of well-equipped billionaires — “Green Lantern” has its roots in epic sci-fi and fantasy. Its scope is vast and its universe diversely populated. The unlikely hero, Hal Jordan (Reynolds), is chosen and trained by a group of alien beings that act as a kind of intergalactic security force (making him one of the few superheroes that has to contend with management). His general-issue lantern and ring grant him infinite power — and thus, infinite gadgetry. So while “Batman,” “Watchmen,” and the like have plumbed the depths of fantasy, “Green Lantern” clearly has its sights set on the breadth. It’s a fresh direction and a big gamble for the director, the studios and stars. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come off well.

The broadest stuff is actually the coolest. Oa, the headquarter planet of the Green Lantern Corps, is a dazzling landscape, and its alien menagerie gives the cantinas of the “Star Wars” galaxy a run for their credits. The problems are on the human scale — in the writing and acting (not my purview in this dual review format) and in many of the glowing green details.

Mind you, one of the more appealing things about the “Green Lantern” mythos, in the comics and (in theory) the film, is the idea that will and imagination equal power. Kids, the perennial comic book target audience, are imagination machines; they can have spectacular adventures with the latest toy and the box it came in. The ability to create anything you want, then fight evil with it, resonates with fans and makes for some primo wish fulfillment. But here on the big screen the sight of our hero conjuring a huge green catapult or giant Hot Wheels track to save the day just looks… kind of goofy. (Note: I saw the film in 2D format—I’m unable to say whether an extra dimension makes these apparitions any more engaging.)

Speaking of goofy, the choice to envelop Reynolds in a CGI supersuit rather than real-life spandex, while bold, is puzzling (Reynolds is a Men’s Fitness poster boy; his abs have abs), and it ultimately adds an awkwardness to his movements that is difficult to ignore. The so-called “uncanny valley” — the tendency of increasingly sophisticated computer-generated depictions of people to suddenly plummet from a cliff of cool into a chasm of creepy — usually applies to faces, but it can also extend below the neckline. Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) gets to stay in his street clothes, but still comes off as fake in his movie monster makeup. Parallax, the smoke monster from “Lost” on steroids, is equally hard to take seriously.

A “Green Lantern” sequel is already in the works. (Stick around for the traditional comics movie “stinger” — an extra scene during the end credits with a hint of things to come.) It’s possible a second film could pull off a “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”-like turnaround. But if “Green Lantern” is to thrive as a franchise, it will have to tweak and enliven the small-scale elements and/or go full tilt on the intergalactic broad strokes.

ROXANA HADADI: Is Blake Lively in ‘Green Lantern’ just to annoy me? Despite strong performances from the three main dudes, ‘Green Lantern’ can’t overtake its choppy story — or Lively’s terribleness.

A wisecracking hero, a beautiful love interest, a diabolical bad guy, countless lives on the line if the hero fails to step up — I could have described any comic book movie ever with those elements, because most of the time graphic novels fall into the same traps. Like any stereotype that repeatedly follows the exact same formula — romantic comedies, episodes of “Law and Order: SVU” — comic books rely on the little elements to set their countless storylines apart.

When graphic novels are adapted into films, those that focus on those details and expand on them with solid character development and plot continuity always win over purely flashy effects (see: the greatness of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, or Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass”). But “Green Lantern,” despite the ridiculously fit Reynolds (sometimes wearing little more than hip-hugger underwear, no less!), can’t overcome its own banal mediocrity.

For a movie that stresses “fear” and “overcoming fear” so often, we don’t see either, and we don’t feel either. Reynolds is satisfactory as the reckless pilot Hal Jordan, haunted by his father’s death and excessively reckless as a result, but he’s so often played snarky, dashing rogues that the personality is practically imprinted in Reynolds’ DNA. As Jordan, he hits the right comic notes while simultaneously being overwhelmed by his new responsibilities, but there are no challenges for Reynolds here. Only one scene requires real emotional depth, and it’s not enough to truly make us empathize with Jordan’s plight.

Similarly strong, but playing against type, are Mark Strong as Sinestro and Sarsgaard as the conniving Hector Hammond, who develops alien powers at the same time Jordan does. Strong is steely and formidable as the determined leader of the Green Lantern Corps, but while Sarsgaard is creepily wonderful, most of his acting just involves guttural screaming. Coupled with his enormous forehead and bulbous neck, it’s not a good look.

And the bad guy, Parallax? He looks like Drano mated with It from “A Wrinkle in Time,” and it’s not scary at all. For younger viewers, his rotting look and jagged fangs may be scary, but it’s all very obviously CGI. More impressive for kids will be Jordan’s powers as Green Lantern, especially his training session with Sinestro and his first fight with Hammond — his quick thinking and ability to adapt keep those scenes moving at a rapid pace — but the movie’s effects careen too easily from enjoyable campy to terribly goofy.

Finally, there’s Blake Lively as Jordan’s love interest, pilot and businesswoman Carol Ferris. As unbelievably cast as that time Tara Reid played a scientist in 2005’s “Alone in the Dark,” Lively obviously graduated from that same school of acting: A flat and monotonous tone, a painfully fake laugh and lots of cleavage to make us forget she’s awful. In a film full of unbelievable plot schisms and unnecessarily sped-up storytelling, Lively is the worst, dragging down “Green Lantern” with a romantic subplot that lacks any chemistry between her and Reynolds. Boo. Hiss.

With better fleshed-out character development and a slower, more patient pace, “Green Lantern” could have been great — but just like Lively, it’s too often dull, uninspired and painfully out of synch. Better luck next time, DC Comics.



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