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Green Lantern (2011)
Movie Reviews

Green Lantern (2011)

Puts all its effort into dazzling special effects but little in the way of story; a gigantic mess that’ll leave you green with envy at audiences seeing better movies.

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Green Lantern does not seem to know who it was made for. There are expository sections of story so densely packed with detail that they will (1) confuse and alienate those who are not intimately familiar with the original comic book, and (2) bore those who are. Most of the characters are badly developed while the rest are introduced and then immediately dropped. Specific events are either explained at too great a length or not explained enough. There’s no middle ground, here – it’s either too much or too little. The only thing it has going for it are the visual effects, which are plentiful to say the least. Even then, many of them are dimmed by the 3D process, although I won’t go into that. I think I’ve complained about it enough to make my position abundantly clear.

Repeated viewings might be necessary just for the setup, which, despite taking up less than five minutes of screen time, is unnecessarily plot heavy. Here’s what I’ve gathered: Millions of years ago, a group of bulbous-headed mystics called the Guardians split the universe into 3,600 sectors, and to each they assigned an intergalactic police officer powered by the essence of willpower, which is the color green. These officers, known as Green Lanterns, are not supposed to feel fear; instead, they rely on willpower and use special rings to manifest whatever they envision. The most famous of the Lanterns, an eggplant-skinned alien named Abin Sur (Temuera Morrision), defeated and imprisoned the Parallax, a celestial monstrosity that thrives on fear and can suck out your soul. Flash forward to the present day; the Parallax escapes, returns to Abin Sur’s sector, and mortally wounds him. He escapes, only to crash land on Earth.

Did you get all that? Because I don’t feel like repeating myself. On Earth, Abin Sur’s ring calls out to an irresponsible test pilot for the U.S. Air Force named Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds). Why it does this is not made immediately apparent. Hal has had issues ever since the accidental death of his father, also a test pilot, almost twenty years ago; he’s reckless, impulsive, insensitive, and worst of all, fearful. Regardless, he has been chosen by the ring, and suddenly I feel like I’m describing a J.R.R. Tolkien novel. Through the power of the ring, his clothing is replaced by a green-colored suit and mask made entirely of energy, which gives it a surreal quality that actually works. On a few occasions, he will be magically transported to the Green Lantern Corps, located on a distant planet; there he will meet a fish-faced alien voiced by Geoffrey Rush and a hulking brute voiced by Michael Clark Duncan, the latter sounding like a drill sergeant from a bad army movie. Somehow, I just can’t buy it when a creature from another world says, “Gravity’s a bitch.”

Back on Earth, a scientist named Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is chosen by his father, a senator (Tim Robbins), to examine Abin Sur’s body. It’s located in an underground laboratory of unknown location or purpose, and it’s presided over by another scientist, Amanda Waller (Angela Bassett), whose story significance is equally unknown to me. While prodding a wound on Abin Sur’s shoulder, a fragment of a meteor pricks his finger. Not long after, he begins to mutate, and he gains the ability to read minds and manipulate objects. Although it’s never explained how, we see that he knows Hal, and that he’s jealous of him for getting the girl he was attracted to. Her name is Carol (Blake Lively), the vice president of a military aircraft company. Inevitably, Hammond will psychically link with the Parallax, which plots to destroy Earth and feed off the fear of the humans.

Meanwhile, back at the Green Lantern Corps, the strict and ominous Thaal Sinestro (Mark Strong) questions the wisdom of making Hal a Green Lantern. Hal is a human, and humanity is a young, fearful species. How does it stand a chance against something as powerful as the Parallax? He suggests that the time has come to fight fear with fear, although no one cares to dwell on the specifics.

Good God in heaven, what the hell is this movie trying to do? Watching it, I had the distinct impression that I had entered into a conversation that was more than halfway finished. I learned nothing about Hal or Carol or Hammond or any of the characters out in space. I could barely keep up with the plot, which gives us too much to remember in some areas and not enough in others. I wonder what this was like for editor Stuart Baird. Was he given too much to assemble coherently, or was he forced to work with very little? Like Tron: Legacy, Green Lantern is a film that puts all effort into dazzling special effects but next to nothing in the way of story. It’s a gigantic mess, one that will first take the green from your wallets and then leave you green with envy at audiences seeing better movies.

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06/17/2011

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PG-13

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Warner Bros. Pictures

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About the Author: Chris Pandolfi