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In theory, The Green Lantern should have been one of the great superhero films. While I love the Batmans and Supermans of the genre, taking one of these archetypes and placing them in an intergalactic science-fiction epic seems like a no-brainer. Unfortunately, something got lost in translation, and I believe it all comes down to tone. This is a film that wants to be everything to everbody, and in the process dilutes itself to becoming simply mediocre for all.
In the mid-90’s, after Batman but before the X-Men, the studios were releasing a lot of superhero films that just weren’t catching on. Characters such as The Shadow and The Phantom were coming and going from the theatre, and while they were fun, they didn’t leave much of an impact. If not for the overabundance of CGI, The Green Lantern feels like it’s a lost movie from that era. These were films that were joky and over-the-top, and focused more on the sense of fun than truly serious storytelling. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I would have preferred this film as a more serious science-fiction superhero epic.
However, I should be discussing the film for what it is rather than what it isn’t. And what it is is a wacky story about a fighter pilot named Hal Jordan, who is basically a reiteration of every other character Ryan Reynolds has ever played. He is recruited to join what is essentially an intergalactic police force, The Green Lanterns. Notice that in describing a plot that has the term “intergalactic police force,” I still say the film is about Hal Jordan. I think that is ultimately the problem. There is an epic story here, and instead of really focusing on that story, we spend all our time seeing how the potential destruction of our world affects this semi-annoying, wisecracking character. I’m fine with epic stories from the point of view of an individual, but this story feels more about him than the situation itself.
Anyway, he is recruited to represent Earth, and must do battle with Parallax, a destroyer of worlds that is powered by fear. The Green Lanterns are powered by will, and as such, are able to conjure anything they can think of. Ultimately, the story unfolds as a clash between will and fear.
In telling this story, Hal spends a lot of time on Oa, the planet where the Corps reside. It is here he meets a surprisingly vast number of alien creatures. I was genuinely impressed with the scope of these sections in the film. We see countless alien races, not all of them humanoid. There are some really creative design elements, and Oa itself is a striking location. It’s all very frustrating, being teased with so much great material, only to throw the story back to Earth and his comparitively miniscule problems.
There is also a sub-plot featuring Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond, who gets infected with the fear that powers Parallax. This causes his head to grow to an enormous size, and gives him the power to read minds, move things through thought, etc. Again, this is a small-scale story intermixed with the huge. On top of that, I was thoroughly disappointed with the makeup effects to create his giant head. Considering how amazing the rest of the design work was, this was a truly ugly design, visually unappealing in every way.
Overall, this is a fun film, and not worth all the negativity it got upon it’s release. It just feels like a wasted opportunity. It becomes even more apparent how much better this could have been after going through some of the terrific extras on the recently released Blu-Ray. For starters, as Warner Brothers often does, they have included the option to watch the film in Maximum Movie Mode. I’ve discussed this in other reviews, and everytime, I discuss how much I enjoy this feature.
In this mode, you can watch the film itself while simultaneously watching the extras through picture-in-picture. There are a huge amount of features presented this way, including several featurettes that can also be watched individually, fascinating bios of all the characters and their history in the comics, art galleries, etc. It’s extremely comprehensive, and even though I was slightly disappointed in the film itself, it made me appreciate just how much work went into creating the film. I just wish it was in service of a better script.
The individual featurettes are particulary impressive, showcasing the design elements of the film, the makeup, the special effects, etc. There are also individual documentaries found outside of the film, including one entitled “The Universe According to Green Lantern.” For a comic novice like myself, I found this really interesting to learn about the character and his history. There’s also a couple of deleted scenes, one of which that gives a little more context to the seemingly out-of-nowhere tag that appears in the middle of the credits. Rounding out the extra features are a digital comic of Justice League #1 and a preview of the animated Green Lantern television show.
Overall, this really is a great set. Presented in 1080p High Definition, the image is crystal clear, and it’s very easy to make out all the details of the science-fiction imagery. I just wish the final film lived up to the promise of the pre-production work on display throughout. If there is a sequel, and I hope there is, I would recommend that they take advantage of the talent at their disposal and not squander it on a such a generic, bland script.