Premiering this weekend on HBO was one of last year’s quartet of big budget superhero movies, Warner Brothers’ and DC’s “Green Lantern”. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong and Peter Sarsgaard, the movie underperformed at the box office and was derided by critics (it sits at 27% on Rotten Tomatoes).
It was also one of my very earliest reviews, and I enthusiastically sang its praises.
Now that nine months have passed, public consensus has been arrived at, and I’ve had a chance to re-watch it, have I downgraded my opinion?
“Green Lantern” tells the story of fighter jockey Hal Jordan. After recklessly performing in a flight exercise, Jordan is selected by a Green Lantern ring to replace a recently deceased Green Lantern. Shortly thereafter, Jordan finds himself flown to the Green Lantern home world of Oa. He’s quickly thrown into training, but fails. His will isn’t strong enough, and he has too much fear. And so… He quits. But when Earth is threatened by an ancient force that the Lantern Corps is powerless against, he rises to the occasion and comes to the Planet’s defense.
“Green Lantern” was Warner Brother’s first attempt to introduce a non-Superman, non-Batman DC comics character to the big screen. While the Marvel film universe has steadily been expanding for years, only Superman and Batman have graced the silver screen from DC. They certainly spared no expense, here. With a $200 million budget and an aggressive promotional campaign, Warner Brothers certainly can’t be accused of playing it cheap.
Which isn’t to say that mistakes – serious mistakes – weren’t made. For one, it’s become accepted thinking that WB overestimated Ryan Reynolds’ appeal as a bankable star. Aside from this, he’s also had quite a few other underperforming pictures, and his appeal to the public has come into question, fairly or not. The blame shouldn’t fall squarely on his shoulders, of course, there were plenty of other mistakes to go around.
The movie throws a lot at the audience. Hal Jordan’s character and backstory, the mythology of the Green Lantern Corps, the story of how he gets the ring and his subsequent training, two villains and their origins, plus a romantic subplot. When you have THAT many ingredients, something is going to wind up undercooked. Unfortunately, that happened here. A number of these elements come across as half-baked. Atop of which, it’s far too much for most audiences to digest… a council of little blue aliens sitting on high, a number of alien species represented in the Corps, a power ring, a formless, evil, energy being, and a large headed, jaundiced telekinetic… It’s just too much. Tim Robbins could have been excised completely, the Hector Hammond stuff needed some serious rework, and maybe opening with Parallax as a first villain might not have been the best choice.
I realize at this point it sounds as if I’ve done a complete 180 on this film, but I haven’t. I’m simply acknowledging the numerous flaws that exist in the movie, and justifying what will wind up being my mild downgrade. I can’t speak for any other reviewers, but I know that my grades, for the most part, aren’t static. My estimation of most films begins changing almost as soon as I first grade it. I get feedback and trade opinions with others, read other reviews, and then time helps the movie settle in in my mind.
In this case, in spite of its flaws, I still find the movie enormously entertaining. Now, that comes with a concession – I wouldn’t call myself a HUGE Green Lantern fan, per se, but I do have 100s of Green Lantern comics and a number of action figures. He’s well represented in my superhero/comics collection. So I’m a little biased here, I’ll admit. I was very excited – and still am – that these characters and this mythology made its way to the big screen. So, while others were likely scratching their heads at the appearance of Tomar Re, say, I was silently cheering “YES!!” I think the movie has a lot of what I want in a superhero film. Great battles and special effects, a respect for the source material (although they probably would have been better served not being so slavishly faithful here), and a fun story. It has a number of very successful humor beats, and feels “epic” in scope. I don’t think Reynolds is anywhere near as bad here as people make him out to be, in fact, by the end of the film he had won me over as Hal Jordan.
I eagerly await the sequel, and I’m glad they’re pushing ahead with it.
I’m still able to forgive it its flaws and focus on its strengths, but I do need to right size my grade now that I realize a little more what’s expected of me as a reviewer. As such, my new grade for it is a