The UnPopular Opinion: Green Lantern
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
Before Marvel launched their cinematic universe, there were films like SPIDER-MAN, X-MEN, DAREDEVIL, and more. They existed as standalone movies focused on the various superhero characters that had only become filmable in the 21st century. Once Disney decided to intertwine all of their properties did the superhero genre become something more than a fun popcorn flick. But, that was Marvel. DC had no cinematic universe aside from Bryan Singer's retro homage SUPERMAN RETURNS and Christopher Nolan's DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY. Nolan's films were not the same type of films as what was coming from Marvel and Disney and it seemed damn near impossible to launch a slew of films using that same "realistic" approach. It wouldn't be until 2013 when MAN OF STEEL hit theaters that it seemed like DC could successfully hang with Marvel at the box office. But, everyone forgets about GREEN LANTERN.
There is a lot of hate for the Ryan Reynolds film from both fans and critics which is somewhat unfair. When GREEN LANTERN was announced with Reynolds in the lead and director Martin Campbell at the helm, there should have been at least some recognition that this was not going to be the next BATMAN BEGINS. First and foremost, the entire character of GREEN LANTERN does not work in a realistic universe. This is a guy recruited by an intergalactic police force to weild a ring that can take on the shape of whatever he thinks of. That and the majority of his teammates are bizarre aliens straight off the comic page. Something tells me this movie was never going to give us a grounded look at a fighter pilot being introduced to extraterrestrial life.
Good afternoon. We're gonna have a great jump today. Okay, first crank a hard cutback as you hit the wall. There's a screaming bottom curve, so watch out. Remember: rip it, roll it, and punch it.
Martin Campbell is a talented movie maker. While I would never mistake his films for high class cinema, they are exciting thrillrides that exemplify why we go to the movies. GOLDENEYE, CASINO ROYALE, THE MASK OF ZORRO, EDGE OF DARKNESS: all are visual rollercoasters that cater to the swashbuckling nature of their screenplays. Campbell approached GREEN LANTERN much in the way that Sam Raimi did with SPIDER-MAN: he set out to make a comic book movie. The visuals are quite stunning throughout the movie and really make you feel the alien nature of what the Green Lantern Corps represents. While some felt the use of CGI was excessive, I thought electing to make Hal Jordan's suit all computer-generated was the right move as it gave the suit a much more alien feel. If Reynolds had just been jumping around in a black leather outfit covered with lights it wouldn't have worked nearly as well.
Which brings us to Reynolds who has never quite broken through to the level of success that everyone expected of him. With matinee idol good looks and one hell of a sense of comedic timing, Reynolds is perfectly suited for a superhero movie. While he works to get DEADPOOL off the ground, Reynolds turns in both X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE and BLADE III gave us a test reel for what we could have expected in GREEN LANTERN. His delivery is perfectly suited for a douchebag who must learn to be the savior of the universe and his physique is already superhuman. Ryan Reynolds is by no means a bad actor, but he also hasn't quite proven that he is a dramatic one either. The great thing about GREEN LANTERN is he doesn't have to be a thespian to deliver the somewhat cheesy dialogue that every movie of the genre employs.
Are you not entertained?
Even the bad guys work in this film. Peter Sarsgaard's Hector Hammond is a well conceived villain along the lines of Willem Dafoe's Norman Osborn in SPIDER-MAN. He is a man with hidden ambition who becomes something inhuman. Couple that with the already non-human Parallax as voiced by the great Clancy Brown and you have both sides of villanous threat: the man and the monster. Some have criticized making Parallax a dirty floating shitcloud, but this isn't the faceless enemy from FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER. Parallax is a conscious beast that we do see and can feel the threat of. One of the shortcomings of using CGI to the level they do in GREEN LANTERN is that it loses some of the impact on the audience who doesn't feel the threat to the characters is tangible.
But, on the other hand, the fully CGI world of Oa, home to the Green Lantern Corps, feels very tangible. With the voice work of Geoffrey Rush as Tomar-Re and the late Michael Clarke Duncan as Killowog, the other Lanterns don't feel like cartoons but actual alien colleagues to the newest member of their team, Hal Jordan. The only other physical actor in these scenes is the amazingly cast Mark Strong as Sinestro. His thin mustache and widow's peak shows no one else should have played this role. He is a mentor and leader to the Lanterns and any fan of the comics knows he is on his way to becoming one of the biggest villains for the franchise. Strong carries this part and is equal parts comic book homage and classic movie villain. If and when we get GREEN LANTERN 2, if everything goes by the wayside and is recast, Strong should be exempt and remain in this role.
I am wearing nothing under this flightsuit, Hal.
Blake Lively may not be the strongest female character in a superhero film, but damn is she nice to look at. As the object of Hal Jordan's affection, you could find a lot of other actresses who could have filled the role as Carol Ferris, but would they have been as big screen worthy as Lively? The character in a future film could transform into Star Sapphire and I for one would love to see Lively in a skintight bodysuit ready to do battle alongside Ryan Reynolds. Add to Lively the great Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett in minor roles and you have a good cast for a movie like GREEN LANTERN.
As far as origin movies go, GREEN LANTERN had a much higher hill to climb than any other. The idea of an entire alien police force in a massive universe is quite a concept to cram into a two hour film. We aren't dealing with a psychopathic clown, a megalomaniac genius millionaire, or even a drugged out man-lizard. The origins of GREEN LANTERN are wholly alien which makes this movie more of a science fiction movie than a superhero one. But, with the complex origin now told, future GREEN LANTERN films can focus on the Earthbound hero using his powers to take on foes terrestrial and otherwise. Martin Campbell and Ryan Reynolds have taken the brunt of the blame for issues on GREEN LANTERN but they didn't have to. The movie may be goofy and complex, but it is fun and succeeded where many doubted it ever could. SUPERMAN has had a hard road back to the big screen but people can relate easily to him as he is both an everyman and more. GREEN LANTERN is an average man forced into a much larger role in a massive universe.
We forget easily that both THOR and the upcoming GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY have similarly complex backstories. While I think the world of Asgard has the problem of gods fighting gods and therefore takes the human element out of the equation, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is likely to face the same troubles that GREEN LANTERN did with critics and audiences. But, in anticipation of the Marvel fanboys throwing way too much acclaim at that film, reconsider GREEN LANTERN. It isn't trying to be the epitome of superhero films but rather tell a space opera adventure tale within the format of a comic book movie. And it does a visually impressive job to boot.