As I sit down to write this review, Green Lantern has a 24% rating on RottenTomatoes. When I see a number like that, I expect something around Transformers 2 level shoddiness. Having just got back from seeing the film, I can say that it’s leagues better than that. Thank Christ. I’ll level with you. I enjoyed it more than I did Iron Man 2. Sure there are some script issues, and it doesn’t have the dedicated focus that the more recent Marvel Studios releases seem to have down to a science, but it’s nowhere near the abomination that its ratings seem to indicate. It’s not Ghost Rider, Elektra, Catwoman, etc. level bad. It’s actually a decent film. It may alienate some of the more hardcore fans of the Green Lantern comics with the liberties it takes toward continuity and Hal Jordan as a character, but the truth of the matter is that as a film it works just fine. Does it have flaws? Yes. So did Batman Begins, to be perfectly frank. And most of the problems are actually the same. It comes down to pacing and structure. Although I’ll be honest, there is some really sub-par CGI work which hinders the film just as much as the script ever does. But if you think about the sort of money that it would take to really get a Green Lantern film on the screen and have it look flawless, it’d equal the national deficit following our middle-eastern war campaigns.
Green Lantern has a lot working against it when you walk into the theatre. Ryan Reynolds was a controversial choice to play Hal Jordan for numerous reasons. First and foremost, he doesn’t embody the comics version of the character very much at all. He’s more prone to playing the cocky wise-cracking prankster than anything else. Can he do serious? Yes. But does he here? Not really. The film version of the character seems molded around Reynolds rather than the other way around. He only tangentially resembles the Hal Jordan most fans of the comic are familiar with. The caveat is that the Hal Jordan of the comics is somewhat of a dull figure. He’s a straight arrow who is generally most interesting when placed against his foils. That’s why the “hard traveling heroes” years where he crossed the country with Green Arrow were so great, it was the interplay off the opposing characters. Here, Hal is front and center and the story revolves around his journey. In order to play to the masses, they had to mold Hal into a hero that’s more in line with the modern sensibility of what a comic-film hero should be. They’ve turned him into a sort of pseudo-Tony Stark who is massively flawed and yet puts on a brave face propped up by their own sarcasm and wit. It’s not the classic interpretation of the character but the backstory revolving around Hal’s father’s death and his battle to overcome fear are familiar enough that it doesn’t feel like a complete destruction of his character that results in such horrible films as the aforementioned Ghost Rider or Elektra. The film’s Hal Jordan retains enough of his central character that most people will not be offended by the changes and the mainstream audience viewing the film won’t even take notice.
The biggest changes come in the form of Parallax’s origin and, well, his entire existence. I would argue that it might have been a bad idea to throw Parallax into the mix so early, but realistically speaking it’s the easiest way to explain the concept of the color yellow as the embodiment of fear and sets up the eventual Sinestro heel turn (which we KNOW will happen if a sequel ever gets off the ground) as well as any plot device could. It also gives an easy explaination for the introduction of Hector Hammond as a villain. Hammond serves well as the earth-bound villain element of the piece, and Skarsgard plays him with an old-school studio-style monster edge that, while not exactly subtle, is more than enough to match the tone that the film is setting up.
There are only a few major misfires in the whole of the film, the first of which being Hal’s unnecessary friend/comedic relief played by Taika Waititi who looked remarkedly similar enough to Richard Ayoade that I really just wish that they would have had Hal befriend Moss from The IT Crowd. It would have been much more entertaining.
I know it sounds like I’m tearing the film apart a little bit but really it’s quite enjoyable. It may not be the Green Lantern that die-hard fans have been clammoring for but it’s a great first attempt and I think that subsequent sequels without the burden of the origin story to weigh them down will find their footing a little better than this debut entry. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you in any way want the studios to take risks with DC characters on screen because if it flops I guarantee they’re going to go with the safest bets possible and that’s no good for anyone, least of all the fans.