What It Is
Fear is a potent force in Green Lantern. Those who embrace it turn yellow (literally, as one victim discovers when his blood corpuscles go all sallow under his microscope). The opposite of fear is will, whose proponents glow green and get to fly around the universe without a space ship. It’s better to be green.
This much becomes clear almost right away to Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a cocky pilot selected to become a Green Lantern, pretty much out of the blue. One moment he’s committed a rash act of derring-do during a test flight (and so earned his siblings’ earnest disapproval, as their dad died in an aircraft explosion, an accident that in fact haunts Hal and makes him feel afraid too), and the next moment, he’s chosen to succeed a much-respected alien warrior — Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) — crash-landed and now dying on earth. Hal overcomes his skepticism, accepts Abin Sur’s super-power ring, and is soon enjoying the flying and even the military training on the Green Lanterns’ planet, Oa.
The hitch is this: not only does the ring grant Hal super powers, it also gives him great responsibility, namely, to protect the universe against villains. And so, against his usual cocky instincts, Hal undertakes the usual superhero’s journey of self-discovery. He learns some history concerning the Green Lanterns (there are 3600 of them in the corps, they cheer their leader, Sinestro [Mark Strong] during oddly fanatical rallies, and, oh yes, Hal is the first human recruit and so considered deeply flawed by all the other corps members).
On a more personal level, Hal realizes that he was wrong to go to bed with lots of girls, and “walk away” from his one true love, a fellow pilot and childhood friend named Carol (Blake Lively). He also realizes that another childhood friend, now a biologist, Hector (Peter Sarsgaard), might have benefited from sympathy rather than rejection when all three of them were kids. Alas, Hector does not benefit from Hal’s enlightenment. Instead, he becomes Green Lantern’s super-nemesis after his contact with another alien, the one who killed Abin Sur and who, you guessed it, embraces fear. As Hector turns yellower and yellower (and his head swells and he loses the use of his legs), Hal is increasingly adept with the Green Lantern’s special powers, which means turning energy into various large-scale gadgets, like racetracks and automatic weapons, in order to battle Hector and his fellow yellow fear mongers.
While Hal’s father issues are pretty blatant — he flashes back to his dad’s fiery death at a key moment — Carol has some of her own: her corporate mucky-muck father (Jay O. Sanders) is in league with a U.S. senator (Tim Robbins), planning to build lots of weapons and make lots of money. It happens that the senator is Hector’s hyper-critical father, which means the boys will be working out their daddy problems by battling each other via CGI-ed effects.
It won’t be a surprise that the boys are also vying for Carol’s affection, though she, like Hal, never gives Hector much thought until it’s too late, and he’s zapped her into a coma. Thus the girl who at film’s start is a pilot as able as Hal is reduced to an awfully standard damsel in distress.
Why It’s Fun
Like so many superheroes drawn from comics, Hal’s essentially a big kid, trying to grow up but also trying not to. His powers help him impress Carol and even convince him that he doesn’t have to be afraid of dying (as he saw his father do, after all). But they don’t help him behave like a mature and compassionate adult, and frankly, the movie isn’t much interested in that part of his development (maybe that plot turn is saved for the inevitable sequel).
While it’s fun to watch the Green Lantern zip around space and shoot or smash up monstrous-looking bad guys, the film loses sight of what actually makes comic book movies worth watching, which is the hero’s hard-won emotional and moral changes.
Who’s Going To Love It
Fans of the Green Lantern comic books will want to see the planet Oa look grand or the green-energy effects seem convincing. But while Ryan Reynolds is an amiable performer and has sculpted his body to look good in and out of the green suit, the movie doesn’t repay his efforts, particularly with regard to special effects, which are consistently feeble.
What To Be Aware Of
The action is loud and explosive from the start, as Abin Sur and his comrades are assaulted by the fearsome Parallax, an especially grisly monster. Bodies are slammed and bloodied, space ships explode, and survivors are chastened, even sad. Subsequent fights between villains and heroes follow this pattern: noisy and violent, without much at stake.
Hal’s combat training involves lots of smashing and banging of bodies, as well as slinging of green-energy weapons (swords, chains saws, guns), which he welcomes at first, and then resents, as Sinestro judges him harshly.
Hal wakes up with a naked girl (she’s covered with a sheet), then he gets out of bed wearing only his briefs. Later conversations with Carol suggest that he’s slept with many women and never committed to a relationship.
A flashback shows young Hal watching his father die in an exploding jet: it’s fragmented and frightening and might upset younger viewers.
Some drinking in a bar, by Hal and by Carol.
Assorted language includes “a**hole,” “holy s**t,” “damn it,” “son of a b***h,” “bastards,” and “hell.”
3 out of 10
Director: Martin Campbell
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan, Clancy Brown
Studio: Warner Bros.
US Premiere: June 17, 2011
UK Premiere: June 14, 2011