So far this summer movie season has been a pretty good time for comic book adaptations. “Thor” was far better than I expected, and, though I haven’t managed to drag my sorry ass to the theater yet, “X-Men: First Class” is getting thumbs-up reviews from all over the place. With “Captain America” still to come, it seemed that the summer was destined to be dominated by Marvel, but not entirely. DC gets into the act this weekend with their big-budget big-screen version of “Green Lantern”. With it, we have another worthy, entertaining superhero flick with which to while away our precious summer hours. Just a heads up, I’m not particularly familiar with the source material, so I can’t comment on how closely the story sticks to comics, or how many little in jokes there are, but even from my removed perspective it is a damn blast.
Apparently 3600 fearless warriors in sweet green bodysuits are tasked with the protection of the universe. These fierce soldiers are called the Green Lantern Corps, and they’re pretty damn tough. The toughest force they’ve ever faced was a creature of pure fear called Parallax (voiced by none other than Clancy “The Kurgan” Brown), but he was imprisoned by the most badass of these emerald clad badasses, Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison, AKA Jango Fett). Unfortunately for the universe and all of it’s inhabitants, Parallax managed to escape, and is stirring up all sorts of drama, destroying worlds and what not. When an encounter between Abin Sur and Parallax leaves the corps member mortally wounded, he heads to Earth, where his fancy green ring will find a replacement.
Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a hotshot test pilot who claims to live life with no fear. He certainly lives with a reckless abandon, leaving a trail of one-night stands, broken hearts, and high-flying acrobatics in his wake. His one regret is that he let his childhood sweetheart Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) get away. They work together, but have a constant, contentious relationship that basically boils down to Hal’s childish refusal to grow up versus Carol’s acceptance of a more adult way of life.
When Abin Sur crash lands, his ring kidnaps Hal and brings him in, and the rest of the film is a pretty standard superhero story. Hal, the first human ever chosen to serve, gets powers, doesn’t understand his power, tries to figure out how to use his power, comes to terms with his power, and uses his power for something greater than himself. While that is a pretty typical origin story and emotional arc for a comic book superhero, that isn’t meant to be disparaging, because “Green Lantern” is a damn good time, mostly because of Reynolds. He plays Hal with a cocky charm and a bravado that you would expect out of a fighter pilot who is used to handling intense pressure and action, and living life on the edge. An engaging protagonist, he’s fun to watch and root for. What he also brings to the table is a vulnerability that is necessary to make the character work as more than just a type.
Lively serves as a great foil for Reynolds’s immature charm. Her character has put aside childish endeavors and has taken a large role in her father’s company that makes fancy pants military hardware, like flying robotic drones. She is the one that got away, and though there are important subplots—like Hal’s clash with Sinestro (Mark Strong), a senior member of the Green Lantern Corp, who doesn’t approve of the new recruit’s ability, temperament, or methods; and Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), another childhood acquaintance who becomes a fear mongering tool of Parallax—the bulk of the plot is taken up by their relationship, and Hal’s attempts to cope with his newly acquired powers and the responsibility they bring.
“Green Lantern” doesn’t waste a lot of time getting down to business, and when you’re fully caught up in the action web, they deliver these characters who just so happen to be believable as actual people; they have hopes and dreams and flaws, just like the best comic book figures. That’s what sets it apart, the action is solid and keeps things moving, but the heart of “Green Lantern” is the people, you care about them and what happens to them beyond whether they live or die, you want things to work out for Hal and Carol, and you even feel for Hector and what drives him towards his end.
There are certainly some cheesy moments, at times the story can be too stereotypically comic bookish, and while the scenes in space look great—especially those on Oa, the Green Lantern’s home base—the 3D is mostly pointless, adding little to nothing to the film. If “Green Lantern” was in 2D with the same special effects, it would be just as good, only with none of the annoyances of cumbersome glasses (especially for those of us who already wear glasses, seriously, the 3D craze is the worst thing that ever happened to me in that regard).
Like “Thor”, I thoroughly enjoyed “Green Lantern” despite some of the obvious shortcomings. It’s better than a lot of superhero movies, and it is one of those summertime popcorn movies that, even though it is what it is, doesn’t talk down to you and assume that you’re an idiot like so many big-time blockbusters. COUGH, “Transformers”, COUGH. I’m sure the more hardcore fanboys among you will have things to say about the accuracy of the story and characters and all of that, and I’m curious to see how well the film handled that side of things (Deadpool, Juggernaut, I’m looking directly at you) but as someone who only has “Super Friends” as a reference, I think “Green Lantern” is a movie that is totally worth your summer movie dollars.