Greening From Ear to Ear!
Green Lantern 3D US 2011
Directed by Martin Campbell
Playing at cinemas now.
Not a spoiler warning: I don’t think I can really, legitimately put a spoiler warning on this one. This is a big, dumb summer blockbuster movie which has no real twists or turns in the narrative. There’s never any doubt that Green Lantern won’t win the day and, as such, there's nothing I could possibly give away that might be considered as spoiler material. So consider yourself un-warned!
“In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power... Green Lantern's light!”
Revised Green Lantern Oath from the mid-forties to present day.
You know it’s kinda ironic that, after my initial reaction to seeing this movie last night, I really hadn’t been looking forward to seeing this one at all. All the signs that it would be a bad one were there right from the start... before they’d even started writing the movie. I like to see my superhero movies done right... and it's a rare occurrence when they are not screwed up by the movie studios “adapting” them.
Not setting the original X-Men, Spiderman, Fantastic Four and Hulk movies in the early sixties, for example, made me really mad. As did DC’s decision not to set their Superman and Batman movies in the late thirties. Not to put Daredevil in his proper yellow costume instead of the red one they elected to use, which he didn’t use in the comics until a few issues into his run (if memory serves) got me really angry. The decision to give the Hulk green skin in the movies instead of the grey skin he had in his first issue... what the f***? They take too many liberties with these properties! And look, in the new Captain America movie they have him with a circular shield! He didn’t have a shield that shape until his second issue! And where are The Original Human Torch and Namor, The Sub Mariner if you’re going to do a Captain America set in his proper time period... seriously people... where are The Invaders?
All the things that have really annoyed me over the years about superheroes on film looked set to be happening again, as expected, with the new Green Lantern movie... but by this time my response has pretty much been numbed down to... whatever.
My first disappointment when the Green Lantern movie was first announced was the fact that they weren’t doing the “proper” Green Lantern... aka the Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott who made his comics debut in 1940. He wore a red costume (don’t even ask) and his “magical” power ring, powered from the Green Lantern, affected everything except things made of wood. But no... in their wisdom, the movie studios decided that they were doing the 1959 Silver Age Green Lantern Hal Jordan, who did wear a green costume and who had a power ring that would be useful against everything unless it was coloured yellow. Okay... so not such a big deal I guess. I always quite liked the silver age incarnation of Green Lantern, even though he was a member of the more modern Justice League of America (JLA) and not the forties super group Justice Society of America (JSA) as his earlier counterpart had been. After the mid-seventies I kinda lost interest in Green Lantern... so I don’t know about any of Hal Jordan’s replacements or the story arc where Hal Jordan became the prime villain of the DC universe Parallax and destroyed the Green Lantern Corp before somehow redeeming himself later on. I’m in my early forties now (old man alert) so it’s been a long time since I really caught up with these characters.
My first and only real hope was that Martin Campbell had signed on to direct the movie. Now I wasn’t overstruck on that third version of Casino Royale he directed back in 2006 but he’s done some good, well crafted work over the years and I was particularly impressed with his first, resurrection of the Bond franchise on Goldeneye. In fact, I’d probably put Goldeneye at the tail end of my top 5 Bond movies, up there with the excellent Lazenby movie and a few of the Connery films.
Even this though, couldn’t really get me in any way fired up to see the new Green Lantern movie... but I’d liked the character as a kid (especially when he used to team up with Green Arrow) and I’d already seen a rubbishy movie with Green as part of the title earlier in the year (yeah, you all know what that was, right) and I figured... “what are the odds?” Well actually, the odds were pretty bad because, from what I‘d gathered on Twitter, the reviews and comments about the new Green Lantern movie were not at all good... so that was kind of a dampener too. And, of course, the final insult to my potential of the enjoyment of this movie was also locked firmly into place... they’d shot it in 3D. Oh, good grief!
But I went along anyway because I don’t get to the cinema as often as I'd like these days (mainly because the movies they show are mostly dire) and this one was at least something I could relate to.
Colour me surprised. I loved it.
Green Lantern is not a tricky film to get to grips with. The direction is solid and it’s fairly fast moving and does pretty much everything you’d want a Green Lantern movie to do, to be honest. I’ve heard some disappointed people talking about this on Twitter and they’ve been let down by it and said it was boring. Now I don’t know if that’s a reaction to the wall-to-wall action in this movie... I personally, usually get very bored with action flicks because action without context is very dull. However, there was enough talking and other spectacle on show in this that I was never once bored in this movie.
I was thinking about this a lot last night and I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the reasons people may be inclined to dismiss this movie is that, depending on their age, the storyline just may be way to simplistic for an audience that demands more sophisticated, or at least more convoluted, plotting in this day and age. As I more than intimated in my opening to this post, there aren’t really any twisty turny plot points to be found in this movie or anything that anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of sixties Green Lantern could consider unexpected or spoiler worthy. As my modicum of research for this article (and I rarely ever bother to do research, just fact checking from my unreliable old man’s memories... but shhh, don’t tell anyone) I reread the first three silver age Green Lantern stories which debuted in DC Showcase Issue 22 and I have to say that, while the movie has tarted up the background of Hal Jordan’s character (well you had to really), it’s pretty much left all the basic anchor points of the story as they originally were... and I think that with a character who is, basically, as cut and dry as Green Lantern was back in the sixties, this was probably the right call to make for his big screen debut.
There isn’t anything amazing or new on show in this film, to be honest, but it does have a very strong supporting element to it in the shape of an actor called Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan. Now I don’t really know this actor, I don’t remember him from the one film I’ve seen him in - Smokin’ Aces - and so I can’t really pass too much comment as to whether he’s a good actor or not. But what I can say is that he looks the dead spit of the Hal Jordan character as he was drawn in that debut issue back in 1959 and that he does brilliantly in the role, giving it the seriousness and respect that a role like this deserves. I’ll say it again... colour me surprised.
There are also a couple of nice touches in the movie. For instance, and I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this but, after Green Lantern's big entrance in the “helicopter rescue” scene, when he flies off, I’m pretty sure that the four notes played in James Newton Howards barely noticeable score as he does this (it’s mostly lost in the action mix of big explosions and effects sounds, which is a shame) are a version of Johnny Williams Superman the Movie theme (apparently a cameo appearance by Clark Kent was originally scheduled into the movie but got dropped later on).
The other great thing is when they pull the rug out of an unbelieving audience when it comes to Green Lantern protecting his secret identity. Pretty much all his friends figure out who he is and when one particular person seems like she isn’t, I was all ready to leap down the films throat because it’s really only a little mask with not much practical use in real life, there’s no way it would hide someone’s identity (this has always been a flaw with DC’s heroes... Mr. Kent’s glasses and very slight hairstyle change, for instance). But the director is definitely in on the joke and that character also realises, within less than a minute, that Green Lantern is, in fact, Hal Jordan... so that’s a nice little twist the movie makes... perhaps as a nod to the recent success of the Iron Man franchise which makes no bones about everyone knowing that the titular character is Tony Stark.
True, there’s a few little clunkers in the movie... like the ring giving Hal Jordan a background knowledge of The Guardians and the Green Lantern Corp but then still having to have stupid plot points explained to him for the benefit of the audience. What they really needed to give him was an exposition ring!
And the fact that the ring gives him the power of hearing everything translated into his own language but when a scene showing a sizeable gathering of aliens is shown, they’re all speaking alien languages. But these flaws are minor considering some of the clunkers made in other recent superhero movies (I loved the new X-Men: First Class but there were some amazing continuity errors made in it) and the entertainment factor kinda outweighs the little details on this one.
Even Sinistro, as played by Mark Strong who is probably best known for being the lead villain in Guy Ritchie’s first Sherlock Holmes movie, is a pretty likeable guy. Now before all you Lantern lovers scream at me about Sinistro... yeah, I know he’s a bad guy and so will most of the audience. After all, Sinistro is to Green Lantern what The Joker is to Batman, right? Well, they’ve really done a good job with Sinistro here as this film also serves as background detail to his character in light of a possible sequel. Most people in the audience are going to be waiting for the penny to drop and for Sinistro to turn into the bad guy, Green Lantern’s arch nemesis... well, all I’m saying is that, if you wait until a little of the way into the end credits, Sinistro fans will be rewarded!
And, really, there’s not much else to say about this film. Simple but effective big budget effects movie with a touch of heart that I really was not expecting to have a good thing to say about.
Colour me surprised.
Colour me green!
NUTS4R2’s Astonishing Trivia Treats: Although the Green Lantern oath used in the film will be familiar to fans of the character, this version of the oath was a revised one running from the mid-forties onwards. The original Green Lantern oath went something like this... “...and I shall shed my light over dark evil. For the dark things cannot stand the light, The light of the Green Lantern!”