A Review of “Green Lantern”

In the interest of full disclaimer, I’ve always been more of a Marvel fan than a DC Universe fan. That fact notwithstanding, I played with Justice League action figures as a child, and developed an interest in the recent animated adventures of both the Justice League and Batman. The new Batgirl title has earned my affections, as well.

For the most part, however, I’m not nearly as knowledgeable regarding Green Lantern as I am about, for example, the X-Men.

Karen and I doubled with some friends this weekend to take in the new Green Lantern movie. I was secretly suspecting the worst after reading a less than favorable review, and I went in armed only with basic knowledge of the classic comic book hero: that he is inducted into an intergalactic corps of peacekeepers known as the Green Lantern Corps, that he is the guardian of Earth’s sector of space, and that he is deceptively powerful, as his ring transforms his will into energy, effectively creating any form that he can imagine. Green Lantern has always been one of the more original superheroes from the golden age of comics. 

And, while I understand the previously mentioned negative review, Green Lantern performed well. This movie is worth your time.

The issue with condensing origin stories into the plot of a two hour film is that there’s never quite enough time, at least not if you’re going to tell anything other than the origin story (which, of course, must be done, otherwise the movie would be largely uninteresting to any but the most seasoned of nerds). Particularly difficult here was telling two histories: that of Hal Jordan, and that of the Green Lantern Corps (along with its arch-nemesis). Of course, this necessarily involves a love interest (it was the golden age of comics, after all!). All crammed into an average length movie, when the story could easily have been expanded to an epic-length film. The result is what we’ve frequently seen with origin stories for comic book film adaptations: stories that move too quickly, at the expense of character development. My primary complaint with Green Lantern was that it fell into this trap. Worse, it exacerbated the problem by cutting entirely too quickly between sub-plots, leaving the audience thinking that “there really should have been more to that…oh, wait, we’re back to this guy now…”

In short, Green Lantern suffered from a minor case of story arc whiplash.

Of course, there are the requisite corny one-liners that are inherent in comic book film adaptation, as mentioned in the negative review referenced above. Still, many viewers (and likely devoted Green Lantern fans) might find this nostalgic to the comic book’s pages, so this is a complaint based entirely on perspective.

Oh, and there’s that brief second in which we see a Lantern’s ring generate what appears to be replica of Captain America’s shield (Cap is a Marvel character), which leaves one frozen in disbelief. One cannot, as we know, cross the streams.

What’s interesting is what is symbolized in the myth of Green Lantern, and that is the evil power of fear (symbolized by the color yellow) that is overcome by the triumphant power of will (you guessed it, the color green). While portraying the basic meta-message that courage must win against fear for good to triumph, this also smacks interestingly (at least as the movie spins the tale) of American work ethic, a self-made, “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality as Hal Jordan leaves the Corps’ good graces to fight for Earth himself, as the Guardians decide that this one planet does not merit the Corps’ attention during a crisis. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this telling of Green Lantern’s story, but it seems that the undertones are a bit didactic at times. Then again, I imagine many would argue that this is what makes a good superhero tale.

The story, however poorly cut at times, is complete, however. The visual effects are beautifully rendered, and the climactic action sequences paced just right: not so huge as to cause you sensory overload (as in Transformers), but still big enough to provide the requisite spectacle due a classic superhero. Green Lantern is not the best superhero adaptation I’ve seen from Hollywood this season (that title still rests with Thor), but its certainly a close second.  Even if you’re only a DC hobbyist, as I am, instead of a devoted fan, you’ll enjoy this movie.

And I even bet you fight the urge to applaud when Jordan recites the oath of the Green Lantern Corps: “…Let all who worship evil’s might, beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!” You may or may not be successful in fighting that urge.

Image taken from the “Downloads” page of the official movie website

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