Article By Andy Flood 11/8/21
The Case for… the Green Lantern Movie
No! Wait! Don’t leave, just… hear me out. Put down the weapon… there we go. Now…
Released in 2011 to a distinct lack of praise or indeed, audience appreciation, the Green Lantern movie has long been the superhero film that no-one talks about unless it’s in jest. Certainly, I remember not being overly fond of it on my initial viewing around the time of its home release (I borrowed it, don’t worry).
Following a family visit to one of our local Wow Comix to meet the very cool and kind staff (while also browsing the long boxes), my wife and I decided to revisit the film and watch with our sons. This decision came on the back of some in-store banter at the expense of the film alongside my being assigned the new run of Green Lantern for review. It seemed like as bad a time as any to watch it again and give it another chance.
Now for some, this film is a nameless horror, its number lying between 5 and 7, and so on. For my part, I remember it being quite flawed but also quite fun. We had access to the blu-ray release (we were keeping it for a friend, honest) and so were able to watch the extended version of the film, which expands on the central relationships in the film. This helps. A little.
I have found that when watching films with my sons, I often end up viewing them through a different lens; one concerned less with artistic merit or cinematic truth and more with fun and spectacle. Thought of another way, I’m more forgiving of a film’s flaws if my family are enjoying it. They have fun, I have fun.
That said, I’ve always been predisposed to finding the good in almost anything and I nearly always find something cool about whichever book, comic, game or film I’m engaged with. Sometimes even the smallest positive element can make a piece of entertainment worthy of my time and consideration. I believe that once you engage with the creative process a little for yourself, you gain a much deeper appreciation for the work and creations of others. So with that mindset, I settled in for my second viewing of the Green Lantern movie.
Even in the earliest frames of the film, it’s apparent that efforts were made to adopt some of the framing techniques used in comics in the making of this film. While there is some cross-pollination (now more so than ever) between ‘cinema’ and comics in the way images are presented, there are certain angles and ‘shots’ which are identifiably comic-like and I was happy to see some of these used here.
The opening expositional speech (delivered by Geoffrey Rush as the alien Green Lantern Tomar-Re) is similarly reminiscent of the sort of ‘catch up’ narrative you might see in comics from time to time, particularly those from silver and bronze eras. We’re introduced to the idea of the Lanterns as a sort of intergalactic police force (this being in line with the comics) and are soon introduced to a problem from their past.
Following scenes of galactic intrigue and peril, we’re brought back to Earth and are introduced to Hal Jordan as a child and witness the formative tragedy of his losing his test pilot father to an accident. We then go on to see Hal as an adult and his antics as he follows in his father’s footsteps.
As events build towards Hal being chosen as the next Green Lantern, the film tries to tap in to one of the factors which make the Green Lantern comics so appealing. Consider the idea that almost anyone could be chosen by this cosmic ring, powered by the force of will, to be a superhero.
You don’t have to be Kryptonian, obscenely wealthy/disturbed, super powered or even a particularly ‘together’ person. You just have to be fearless, or able to face fear, or strong willed; however you choose to interpret the criteria. The point is, ‘it could be you!’.
This is pretty powerful when it comes to the imagination of a child or indeed anyone with some imagination and perhaps a desire to be something else, something more. Green Lantern comics appealed to this idea and made their hero relatable. The movie actually goes some way to doing a good job with this idea too, particularly seeing as Hal is essentially quite reluctant to engage with his calling and even ‘quits’ the position at one point.
The look of the film is a lot better than all the comments berating the CG would have you believe, and the depiction of the Green Lanterns’ powers and their central world of Oa is good enough to have some fun with, particularly if you disengage your critical brain. With any high concept CG, it’s always easy to point at the flaws and scoff. But if you choose to buy into it a little more, you start to worry a little less about the way the ‘manifestations’ appear. It was always going to be a tall order to film the Green Lanterns’ powers. I feel like they did okay.
Of special note was the scene where he manifests a Hot Wheels track to save a crowd from a crashing helicopter. It’s totally bonkers and requires heavy suspension of disbelief, but when two little voices cry, “No way! Look! It’s Hot Wheels!” it’s all good.
Similarly, the space-bound, multitude of alien life, science fiction type scenes are all quite good visually and undeserving of the panning they received. The weird and wonderful space scenes were always some of my favourite aspects of the comics back in the ‘80s, so it was nice to see them represented here.
The Green Lantern (Hal) does look pretty much like the comic book version, despite the much derided CG costume. This was always a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ type decision for the makers; no matter how the costume is filmed, there’s always a chance that it doesn’t come off right. And similarly, no matter who you cast, you can’t please all the folk all of the time.
Something that did come off right was the presentation of Sinestro (even if we don’t really get to see him become a villain per se). Mark Strong does a great job with his performance and it’s a shame that the intended sequel never came to pass, as he would have made a really good comic book bad guy. Instead, the decision was made to focus on Hal’s childhood friend who, tormented by a disapproving father and being on the loosing side of a love triangle of sorts, proves an easy convert for the power of fear when a fragment of Parallax (the Green Lanterns’ nemesis in this film) enters his body. It makes for a weak antagonist and Earthbound action which left me wishing we could have been in outer space more.
This is one of those films that disappointed fans and is quite easy to poke fun at. It has pacing issues, bears the indelible mark of ‘studio interference’, feels like it was written by committee, has a poor choice of bad guy, doesn’t do enough good things with its arguably strong cast… the list goes on. In spite of all that, my eldest son (he’s 10) enjoyed it. And, because of that, and independently from that, I enjoyed it. I was entertained. And isn’t that what we’re here for?
Article by Andy Flood 11/8/21