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Theatrical Review: Green Lantern (2011)

June 19, 2011
  • Dir. Martin Campbell
  • Released by Warner Bros.
  • Based on the DC Comics Character
  • Rating: ****

A criminal whose modus operandi is to incite and channel fear threatens societal stability through terroristic attacks that cost the lives of both innocent civilians and law enforcers. The government convinces itself that the only way to take on this threat is to resort to the same level of fear-mongering, breaking every ethical stance it was founded on in the name of security. Sound familiar? Well, this is not merely a recounting of the Bush Administration’s reaction to the tragic events that unfolded a decade ago–it is the underlying issue in the latest superhero flick from DC, Green Lantern.

Another recent major summer blockbuster from this comic book company (and Warner Bros., the studio that releases all DC films) also questioned the morality behind the Patriot Act, but whereas Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight seemingly deemed it a necessary (but necessarily temporary) evil, Green Lantern condemns it outright through the stance of its protagonist, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds, who is not quite as unforgettable as Robert Downey Jr. in Marvel Comics’s Iron Man, but still brings ample charisma to the role).

The film’s message is that courage and will are much better matches for fear than counter-fear could ever be, and Jordan’s bildungsroman parallels the greater intergalactic threat effectively. Hal, an irresponsible test pilot for Ferris Aircraft with commitment issues and a repressed fear founded in his father’s plane-related death, finds himself recruited as a member of the intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps, headed by an extraterrestrial intelligentsia known as the Guardians.

One of these Guardians has corrupted himself with the yellow energy of fear, the antithesis of the green power of will used by the Corps, and has become an evil entity known as Parallax (Clancy Brown…yes, the Kurgan from Highlander). After mortally wounding Jordan’s predecessor in the Corps and possessing human scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), Parallax turns his attention to Earth, and Hal must learn to channel his courage in the face of fear before the monster destroys his planet..and, eventually, the entire Corps.

Parallax is essentially a large cloud, and when he billows over buildings in a cityscape and makes waste of every human being that he touches as they scream and run from his wake, the imagery evokes a memory that still stings ten years later. Green Lantern is very much an American movie addressing U.S. fears and the country’s reaction to them, and New Zealander Martin Campbell manages to depict this perspective almost as successfully as he depicted the British view of post-9/11 reality in 2006’s Casino Royale.

However, this effort is more optimistic than his previous one, and the screenwriters (Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg) deliver a story with an underlying sense of hope rather than despair, a refreshing change after the (appropriate, if depressing) cynicism of the recent Batman films. Green Lantern manages to supply the mix of popcorn thrills and positivity that Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns fell short of delivering. The film is lively and entertaining without devolving into misbegotten camp.

No film is perfect, and love interest Carol Ferris (Blake Lively, who is far better than some of the other recent DC leading ladies) almost gets cheated out of the attention she deserves, but considering just how much this film tries to accomplish within its running time, the balancing act is quite impressive. The movie is consistently fun, often quite amusing, and frequently dazzling (especially when the Lanterns use their powers to create objects at will), even if it is very much a summer action flick. Strongly recommended.

My only hope is that the mid-credits teaser depicts an event that will occur within the sequel, not before it, as it feels extremely tacked-on here.


From → Film Criticism

One Comment
  1. I got distracted from your entry on our course blog by clicking on your name and being brought to this blog. According to the date stamp, this post was made from the future. My husband went to see this movie on Friday. I haven’t seen a movie in an actual theater since sometime in 2006, but I think I’ll start following this blog anyway.

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