This summer we got a comic-book origin tale about a man with father issues accepting his role as guardian and protector of the universe fighting against his someone he thought was a brother, with the film featuring an unnecessary love interest and a supporting cast that should have had more to do, on top of sequences set in outer space. Actually, we got two of those.
Superficially, the resemblances between Paramount/Marvel’s Thor and Warner Brothers/DC’s Green Lantern are hard to ignore, but Thor was a modest hit (or at least not a belly flop), while Green Lantern was the weakest performer of the summer’s comic book films. Both aren’t that good, but both have similar things to recommend: the world, and their villains. Here Ryan Reynolds stars as Hal Jordan, the cocky pilot who takes on the mantle of galactic defender, and must fight Parallax and Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) to keep Earth safe. Our review of Green Lantern on Blu-ray follows after the jump.
The film is presented in two cuts, the theatrical and the extended version, which mostly offers a backstory where Hal Jordan is introduced to Carol Ferris and Hector as children. There are good things about this, but the neatness of the universe and the explaining the self-evident makes it a wash to which is better. The film starts with Parallax imprisoned, but a freak accident breaks him out. Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) is mortally wounded trying to stop Parallax, so Abin passes on his ring to Hal Jordan. Hal recently crashed his plane in a sequence meant to show that he’s smart but cocky and haunted by the specter of his father’s legacy (and death). The ring takes him to Oa, where he is trained briefly and then rejects his calling, to the disappointment of everyone in the Green Lantern corps – including Sinestro (Mark Strong), who wants to form a yellow ring to fight Parallax.
Back on earth, Hector Hammond (Sarsgaard) gives an autopsy to Abin Sur, and gets some Parallax on him, which causes mutation and turns Hector more evil. Also, he’s always wanted to sleep with Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) and hates his politician father (Tim Robbins). When Hal comes back to earth he must face against Hector (unknowingly at first) and then comes to realize that Parallax is going to come for Earth, and so he must return to Oa and get the Green Lantern corps on his side.
I know a lot of people who hated this and liked Thor. I can’t make much of a case for this film, I don’t think it’s terrible – though plainly too routine – but I will say this: my problem with Thor is that structurally it spends a lot of time with Thor being “Not-Thor” and that is much of the drama of the film. I can’t think of anything more frustrating than watching a film deny the obvious (that Thor will eventually get his hammer back), so I couldn’t really truck with that movie. Here – though Jordan doesn’t want to be a Lantern, I never felt as insulted about him being denied his powers, because he’s never without them. Basically, the movie version of Thor felt like I could feel cost-cutting measures in place. But in both cases it’s about the characters learning a lesson to be better people – I guess that’s a good arc for a comic book movie – but the differences feel marginal. I’d say also that Lantern has a bigger scale, and I like the outer space stuff (I always like outer space stuff), and it’s got cool looking aliens.
Ryan Reynolds is okay as Jordan. He grounds it when they could have gone too Tony Stark (and they do try for that a little in the beginning), but I think he’s a good choice – though this summer suggests he won’t get a second chance. It’s hard to fault Blake Lively for being a bad fit – I don’t think any actress could have made the role work that well, though I think this summer Hayley Atwell did a great job in Captain America (then again, that part was better written and better integrated). Lively is a TV actress and is known for being good looking. Watching her here, I can’t say she’s much better or worse in the role that Natalie Portman was in Thor – it’s the role – but at best she’s competent, and weightless. Sarsgaard is the real hero of the picture, as he often makes interesting choices (from how he has a drink on), though I think the film would have done better to set up its intercutting of him and Hal Jordan a little stronger. Comic book villains are often the dark mirror of their protagonists, and there is an effort to set that up here, but I think it could have been stronger had there been more of that from the start. Then again, the narrative here is the junky “hero’s journey” stuff that we’ve seen since Star Wars wrote the formula for these sorts of films. The other Lanterns would make more of an impression had they had more to do, and that world is interesting, but very expensive to show – though it never feels as cheap as Thor.
Martin Campbell directed it with the sort of workmanlike approach he takes to most things. He is a competent action director, though with all of the special effects, it negates his great talents at practical work. The studio has suggested they want to take the film darker (read more Batman) if they give it another go, but I really wish they had gone goofier. A Green Lantern can conjure up whatever they want to protect themselves and those around them, and the thinking here is never awe inspiring. And such is why the action scenes don’t really pop – there’s no great energy in the complications when they happen – you really want it to be more than dealing with one problem at a time.
I don’t know if I can recommend a film for being painless, but I was never bothered or too insulted by the film. I just can’t get very passionate about it as being anything more or less than an average comic book origin film. The genre has hit critical mass, and it will be interesting to see how it survives after Nolan stops making Batman films, and after The Avengers concludes Marvel’s build-up to that release. It’s exciting, but with the cost of these films, it’s possible that 2012 will be the last great year for comic book movies.
Warner Brother’s Blu-ray presents the film in both the theatrical (114 min.) and extended cuts (123 min.), with a digital copy and DVD in the package. The film is presented in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 surround. The picture and sound on this are excellent, and as the outer space stuff is what I like most about the film, a great transfer helps the film. Green Lantern can be watched in Maximum movie mode, which offers a pop-up window with comments from the cast and crew, and is hosted by comic book writer Geoff Johns. The focus points (47 minutes) are also available to be viewed separately. “The Universe According to Green Lantern” (20 min.) walks though the history of the comic book character, while “Ryan Reynolds Becomes Green Lantern” (9 min.) gives the star his due for his work. The disc also offers four additional (and incomplete) deleted scenes (7 min.), the “Justice League #1 Digital comic” (9 min.) and a preview of the Green Lantern Animated series (7 min.). The disc also comes with BD-Live content.