First off, let me say that of all the popular comic book superheroes that have existed through time, the Green Lantern was not one that I ever knew much of anything about. I say this because I have had friends that have rated him as a favorite character in impassioned ways. So, unlike those folks, I wasn’t coming to see the Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern with either much enthusiasm or with great requirements that an avid comic book fanbase typically require. In fact, I wasn’t even planning on seeing it on the big screen.
The weekend it opened, I asked the kids if they wanted to go see it, and they really couldn’t seem to care less. But on a blazingly hot Central Valley afternoon, when my sister and niece and daughter wanted to see Super 8(2011), my son balked and said that he’d rather see something that we haven’t seen. So, with his cousin Sam in tow, the boys went to Green Lantern and the girls went to Super 8.
I can’t say from my own knowledge how “true to the comic” that the film is. Reynolds plays Hal Jordan, a hot shot test pilot but otherwise hunky human flake. So, when a member of the Green Lantern Corps crashes to Earth in his dying effort to pass along the magic Lantern and ring to a noble spirit, Jordan doesn’t seem like the most obvious choice. When he gets yanked up into space to the planet of Oa to find out about the whole Green Lantern thing, the intergalactic protectors of the Universe, he first quits. But we all know that he’s going to come around and be a hero.
Actually, there is a lot of narrative packed into this film. It moves quickly and I’m a little loath to try to recall all of it. There is also a scientist/friend, played by Peter Sarsgaard, a sad sack who looks like a young John Malkovich with long stringy hair. He’s a good guy who gets infected with this yellow Fear poison, which is ultimately emanating from Parallax, the giant Fear-eating, Fear-powered entity that killed the original Lantern and is heading to Earth to destroy everyone there too.
Now the Green Lantern’s powers, the power of “Will” (as opposed to “Fear”) allows him to materialize anything he can imagine, which turns out to be swords, machine guns, airplanes, all kinds of stuff, which he can use in any number of ways. And he can fly. He seems pretty all-powerful, really. I don’t know.
He’s the kind of superhero that could never feasibly have been rendered without digital effects. But this pulls in the problem with the reliance on digital effects, making things that look and feel “real”. I’ve noted this several times before, but now that “anything” can be rendered with efficacy (now we can have a whole planet of wildly different Green Lanterns, for instance), a it can lead to the whole thing taking on the vibe of a video game. Realism to an extent, sure. But the potency of the imagery doesn’t manage to carry the weight of believability.
This film got pretty negative reviews largely, but I have to say that it was entertaining enough. It passed the couple of hours in the icily air-conditioned darkness. Sarsgaard’s character manages to evoke sympathy somehow, through all the rest of the flying and fighting and exploding. I’ve got a feeling that I’ll have a hard time recalling much about this movie in a year or two.