Monday, June 27, 2011

Movie Review: Green Lantern

So, I'm sure that those of you who read my Twitter feed on Saturday night have been anxiously awaiting my opinion of the latest movie based on comics (or almost latest... did Thor come out before or after?).

Short answer: I enjoyed it!

For a longer answer (and warning, here there be spoilers!), click on the jumper!

So, where to begin? Let's talk about the stuff in a somewhat logical order, shall we?

The casting was pretty good, overall... Ryan Reynolds made a surprisingly good Hal Jordan, although I found myself wishing he would Power Ring up an electric razor and shave off his ever-present five o'clock shadow sometime! Would he have been my first choice? Probably not, although I'm not really sure who I would have chosen in his stead...

Blake Lively was the closest to a casting mismatch, portraying Carol Ferris... but that's probably because they wrote Carol completely differently than her comic book inspiration. The movie's Carol was a fellow pilot, and not just an administrator (the plotpoint in GL's first few years of Carol's father and mother leaving on an around-the-world trip leaving Carol in charge was nonexistent here... in fact, Carol's father is present through the whole movie). I suppose for the version of Carol that was written for the film, she worked well.

Taika Waititi was pretty good as Tom Kalmaku (known in the comics as Pieface). Oddly enough, I didn't catch anywhere in the film where Tom's last name was mentioned, just his first! Also missing was any mention of his ancestry, although since it's not important, I can't complain there!

Peter Sarsgaard played a very different kind of Hector Hammond than in the comics... so I suppose I can't make too many judgements about his acting here. There's a few scenes about halfway through the film and beyond where he goes a bit over the top, but it's appropriate.

Mark Strong made a very convincing Sinestro... and Temura Morrison worked well as Abin Sur.

Some nice surprises were the appearance of Hal's brothers, Jack and Jim! Another surprise (although I'm not sure how I feel about it) was the appearance of Amanda Waller, portrayed by Angela Bassett! This version of Waller varied a lot from the comics, at least so far as what she was there to do (although her backstory was pretty much the same). Obviously, she was not portrayed as the large woman seen in the comics!

I've got to say, casting Michael Clarke Duncan as the voice of Kilowog was genius! And Clancy Brown as the voice of Parallax was pretty spooky (and quite a bit different from the voice he used as Lex Luthor in Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League/JLU).

So, let's talk SFX next, shall we? My only real nitpick here was that when the Lanterns generated stuff with their rings, there wasn't always an energy trail from the rings (there's a scene where Hal Power Rings a necklace around Carol's neck where this is most obvious). Okay, there's another nitpick... in some of the flying sequences, because they used CGI for the uniforms of the GLC, there were places where Hal's head didn't seem to fit the body! The GLC members themselves looked very cool (at least, what you could see of them... I kept looking to spot some familiar GLC members outside of Tomar-Re, Sinestro and Kilowog, but couldn't spot anyone). The Guardians looked a bit different than I'm accustomed to (especially the female Guardian!), but I could accept that.

Hal's CGI'ed costume was okay, I suppose, although I would've much rather have seen them use the classic GL outfit, because the white gloves really make the ring stand out more.

Now, let's talk about the plot: A prologue sets up who the Guardians and the Green Lantern Corps are, and how the green energy of Will was used, and then we learn about Parallax, who used the yellow energy of Fear, and how Abin Sur was the only one who could defeat Parallax, burying him in a ring-generated prison on a barren world in the "Lost Sector". A spaceship has crashed there, and the survivors decide to explore, coming upon Parallax's prison, where he feeds on their fear (killing them in the process) to get enough strength to escape.

Six months later, Hal Jordan is running late to work, where he and Carol Ferris are to pilot two fighter jets against new robotic-controlled jets that are supposed to be the ultimate in fighter jet technology, completely unbeatable. In the air, Hal and Carol (Carol's call sign is "Sapphire," a nice touch) discover how tough these robot jets are, and Hal decides to change the rules of engagement, first using Carol as bait to trap one of them, and then he shoots his jet straight up to gain enough height where the robot jets will stall out (although his jet does as well). As Hal's jet falls to Earth, Hal looks at a photo of his father, and has a flashback to the day his father died, preventing him from getting control of the jet soon enough that he might save it, instead bailing out before it crashes.

In space, Parallax finds Abin Sur's spacecraft (it's never explained why Abin Sur has a spaceship, instead of flying through space on ring power), and mortally wounds Abin, although he stays alive long enough to flee in an escape pod and make his way to earth.

Back on Earth, Hal is berated by Carol for his approach to beating the robot jets (his fellow Ferris Aircraft employees aren't happy with him either -- the whole thing was a dog-and-pony show to get the US Air Force to buy their robot jets, and since they pass because Hal beat them, there are layoffs galore coming). Hal leaves work and heads off to his nephew's birthday party, where we briefly meet Hal's brothers and then the nephew (nobody but family shows up for the party). Hal has a talk with his nephew to cheer him up, and then as he's heading to his car, Hal's enveloped in green energy and is taken away to where Abin Sur's escape pod has crashed.

Abin tells Hal to wear the ring, touch it to the lantern, and speak the oath... and dies after saying this. Hal calls his best friend Tom for a ride, and while he waits, he buries Abin Sur's body. When Tom arrives, he's amazed to see the spaceship and power battery, but they have to leave in a hurry as several helicopters are converging on the scene. On the drive, Hal accidentally touches the ring to the lantern, causing a green energy surge, but then nothing.

That night, Hal puts on the ring and brings it to the lantern, and since he doesn't know the oath, starts improvising (as seen in the trailer). Suddenly, the Lantern flashes, and mesmerized, Hal speaks the Oath, and is instantly brought to Oa for Green Lantern basic training.

Oh, there was also a scene on Oa where Sinestro is telling the Guardians about Parallax, and wants to know more about them, but the Guardians are playing it mum.

Anyway, Hal wakes up on Oa in costume, and meets Tomar-Re, who give shim some basic instruction in how to use the ring, and then Hal's turned over to Kilowog for further training. Sinestro shows up during a break, not at all convinced that Hal is worthy of being a Green Lantern, and the two of them have a brief battle. Hal decides that he's not good enough either, and returns home (although he's still got the ring and Lantern).

While all this has been going on, we're introduced to Dr. Hector Hammond, a Xenobiologist, who's recruited by a top-secret government agency to examine Abin Sur's body. During the autopsy, a yellow thing embeds itself into Hector, the results of which later develop into Hector developing telepathy and telekinesis. We also learn that Hector's father, a Senator, pulled the strings to have him chosen as the recruit.

Back on Earth, Hal shows Tom the costume and how the ring works (after a quick recharge -- no oath needed during the charging), and Tom questions why Hal quit. Later, Hal shows up for a party at Ferris. During the party, he runs into Hector, and we learn that Hector's known Hal for some time, as well as Carol. Hector has a snit fit when he reads his father's mind, and as his father starts to leave in a helicopter, Hector causes it to go out of control.

Hal dashes off to change into Green Lantern, and saves the day (and Carol's life in the process) before leaving. Later, as GL, Hal flies to Carol's balcony, where she sees right through his disguise. The two talk about why Hal was chosen to be a GL.

Hector becomes more disfigured, and uses the facilities at the government agency to look at his blood cells, which are turning yellow. I think it's about this point where we learn that Parallax has given Hector these powers, via a sort of nanite planted in Abin Sur's body.

Also, Sinestro leads a group of Lanterns to battle Parallax, but they fail, with Sinestro being the only apparent survivor. He demands that the Guardians tell him about Parallax, and we learn that Parallax once was a Guardian who was convinced that the yellow energy of Fear was stronger than the green energy of Will, and this power made him into Parallax, and only Abin Sur was capable of defeating him. Sinestro convinces the Guardians further to create a Yellow ring of Fear energy to use against Parallax.

After the ring is forged, Sinestro is about to don it and take on Parallax, but by this time, Hal has learned that Parallax is going to Earth, having sensed Abin Sur's ring there, and he decides to be a Green Lantern, and returns to Oa to get help, but he's turned down. Hal decides to fight Parallax on his own.

I believe that before this, Hal battles Hector Hammond at the government facility, barely winning, and then later, Hector draws Hal to Ferris, where he's holding Carol hostage, intending to make her like him by injecting her with his tainted blood. Hal offers to trade his ring for Carol's life, and Hector accepts, although what he doesn't know is that the ring will only work if you were chosen, like Hal was. Parallax attacks the hangar this second battle with Hammond takes place in, and he's not impressed with Hammond's performance on his behalf, so Parallax absorbs Hammond's fear, killing him, but this is just an appetizer before Parallax starts to attack the city!

Then there's an epic battle in the city, where Hal uses inspiration from Carol and Tomar Re to deal with Parallax... but I won't tell you how he does it exactly, because you've got to have some surprises!

Anyway, since Hal beats Parallax, he's more accepted as a Green Lantern, even by Sinestro. Later, on Earth, Hal tells Carol that his new job means he'll be away a lot, and she understands, then he flies off... credits!

Now, since the Guardians forged a yellow ring, it should come as exactly zero surprise that part way through the credits, Sinestro puts on the yellow ring and starts laughing evilly. The end.

Further thoughts: Nowhere that I noticed in the entire movie did the city that Ferris Aircraft was located in ever get mentioned... maybe this is another nod to us aging fanboys, so that we could assume it was Coast City?

Hal generates one giant fist with his ring -- my brother swears he saw a second one, but I must've missed it if he did -- unfortunately it was a fist and not a giant boxing glove.

I think there was a missed opportunity when Hal met Sinestro for the first time, too... I think he should've responded with something like, "Sinestro? Really? And you're one of the good guys?"

Anyway, as I said, I enjoyed it. It's certainly not the Green Lantern movie I would've written (not that anyone would've asked me to do so), but it was enjoyable. I've heard that ticket sales haven't been great, but I have to tell you, we (my brother Jeff, father-in-law Roger, and buddy Bjorn and his lady Paula) originally planned to see the 8:30 showing, and that was sold out half an hour before it started, so we had to wait for the 9:40 showing, and that was packed, too. Topless Robot says that Warner Bros. has green-lit a sequel, so hopefully we can get something perhaps a bit closer to the GL movie that we've really been waiting for.


  1. All I can figure is that the writers, including Marc Guggenheim, who has some comics experience, couldn't be bothered to do the necessary research. Part of the blame may be laid at the feet of Geoff Johns, who is credited as a co-producer, and has virtually reinvented Hal Jordan almost from scratch, supporting cast included.

    The one complaint I have about a lot of these movies is the persistent "creative license" that allows the writers to reshape certain characters or concepts as they see fit, rather than retain the original comics continuity, which in turn leads to some sniping from comics fans.

    Next time, leave the writing to someone who's actually read the books!

  2. Some time ago, I posted a list of 10 things they need to stop doing in movies based on comics... most of the things I'd like to have been done differently were addressed there, and fits in with what you've said!


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