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Green Lantern Another Tiresome Comic Book Origin Story

Green Lantern
Directed by Martin Campbell
Written by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg
Warner Bros., 2011

So now we have this and Thor, two comic book origin stories that struggle to explain things while also giving a satisfying action film at the same time.  What ends up happening is a bunch of loose threads or half-baked ideas, and we seriously wonder, after the movie makes a bajillion dollars, whether we want to see an inevitable another one of these in a couple of years.

Green Lantern is directed by Martin Campbell, who is no stranger to either rebooting, or constructing from ground up, a franchise film.  He’s done it with James Bond twice with Goldeneye and Casino Royale, and he also did the two most recent Zorro movies.  I actually think he does the best he can with this material, even though I still hate the digital-effects-for-everything age.

The first part of this movie is Top Gun.  Ryan Reynolds, as Hal Jordan, is basically playing Tom Cruise’s Maverick.  He’s a fighter pilot with a dad who is dead because of the same job.  The company he works for, Ferris, is trying to get a contract with some aviation corporation that has just built an unbeatable unmanned jet, and people like he and Carol Ferris (the ridiculously fetching Blake Lively) go up in the air and put the planes to the test.  Of course, Hal doesn’t play by the rules and this gets him into trouble.

Feel free to use William Woodson’s Super Friends narrator voice when reading the next sentence.  Meanwhile, in the outer reaches of the galaxy, an evil force has been awakened that is powered by fear.  This incarnation of evil grows stronger and stronger while it sucks out the souls of the frightened, eventually running into Abin Sur (Temeurra Morrison), who is apparently the supreme badass of a universal protection unit known as the Lanterns, green because they are powered by will.  And will is green, everyone knows that.  Fear is yellow.  Anyway, Sur gets knocked around pretty badly by the thing that begins to look like your old video game Mother Brain.  You know, the big baddie you probably faced in either Metroid or Phantasy Star II.

Sur crashes to Earth, and sends his ring of power, fueled by will, to find the man who will now take his place.  The ring finds Hal, and suddenly the ace fighter pilot who finds himself in deep crap is learning to become a superhero, whisked away to the Lantern home planet to get trained by a huge beast that could only be voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan.  And one of the remaining badass leaders of the Lanterns, Sinestro (Mark Strong), doesn’t like this new guy at all.  Sur was his master, and he doesn’t think some pissant like Hal Jordan should be wearing Sur’s ring.

Now you can read along with William Woodson’s voice again: Meanwhile, back on Earth, Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a lonely professor, is hired by the government to come examine the alien life that came crashing to our planet.  While checking out the former Abin Sur, Hammond gets touched by something he shouldn’t get touched by, and before you know it he’s being transformed into a lap dog of the Mother Brain thingie that is sucking out souls and whatnot.

So I’ve given this synopsis and I haven’t even mentioned that Tim Robbins is in this, playing Hammond’s Senator dad.  Never mind that Robbins is only 13 years older than Sarsgaard.  I think the entire thing with the Hammonds is mishandled.  The elder Hammond is still trying to get his son to make something of his life even though he appears to be doing OK, albeit lonely.  The transformation of the younger Hammond doesn’t appear to be depicted as a tragedy, which is what it is.  This guy doesn’t do anything to anybody, is generally disliked but has no malice in him, and then is made into the movie’s resident Baddie #2, and then has absolutely nothing to redeem his character and is a total waste.

And oh yeah, there’s a council here, full of very tall E.T.’s who advise the Lanterns on how to go about fighting the monster.  But the Lanterns don’t need to know the deep, dark, horrible secret about the council.

Geoffrey Rush voices a bird/fish Lantern.  And Angela Bassett is in this.  And did you know that Hal has a…nephew?  Or a kid?  I don’t know who this kid is, but Hal has to reassure the kid that his uncle (father?) can never die because he is hot shit in a jet.  Then the kid never returns.  I guess he wasn’t important.

The Lantern powers are pretty cool, with the ability to conjure up weapons and pretty much anything the mind can produce, which is why it’s sad that the final battle doesn’t make better use of them other than distractions.  It’s like launching an atomic bomb to punch someone in the face.  And that’s what happens when you make an antagonist unbeatable…the way the monster is beaten is usually kind of ridiculous.

All in all, Green Lantern is just inconsequential, with too many questions and unexplored themes, unsatisfying action, and wasted characters.

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