This year has belonged to the superhero. News has been focused heavily on the Spider-Man and Superman reboots, we had arguably one of the genre’s finest in the shape of X-Men: First Class, and one of the poorest in Seth Rogen’s Green Hornet. And not only that, Batman has also cast a long shadow over everything with the twin concerns of Arkham City and next year’s The Dark Knight Rises, drawing focus away from current releases thanks to a myriad collection of leaked images and rumours.
Because of that context, any brand new superhero franchise/property was going to have to work incredibly hard to make any kind of impact, and on the back of the reviews that Green Lantern picked up it doesn’t look like the gamble paid off.
The problem for DC was that Green Lantern isn’t the greatest comic book property. The character’s success was undermined by bad creative decisions that saw Hal Jordan replaced with not-up-to-scratch younger models, and then returned via an odd spell as a villain. Fans turned their backs, apart from a foundation of hard-cores, and the modern revitalisation is only really now re-announcing Green Lantern as a premier DC character. So this was not the time for a movie dedicated to him: it was just too early, the scars of the last abuses of the character still too visible for any errors not to be amplified massively.
And unfortunately for DC, and director Martin Campbell, Green Lantern has a mammoth amount of problems to amplify.
On paper the casting of Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan looked strange – the actor had spent a good while across a number of films developing a particular type of charisma and a cheeky, motor-mouthed on-screen persona that would suit less “regal” superhero choices like Deadpool (which he pulled off perfectly until the Wolverine script mangled the character horribly). Yes he has charm in those films, but for some reason, Green Lantern never seems able to channel it, and Reynolds isn’t as likeable as we are used to.
I can understand that a film like Green Lantern necessarily has a lot of CGI in its make-up – the characters defy practical effects (without looking like poor Dr Who DIY versions), and the fact that some action takes place off-world would seem something of an impediment to a less-is-more effect approach, BUT there has to have been a middle ground. Director Martin Campbell clearly favours spectacle and style over actual substance, to the extent that it is almost impossible to engage with any of the action or the characters, and the film instead encourages a removed viewing experience. Which would work, if the spectacle matched the ambitions of the director, but again it falters on that account also.
Green Lantern thinks it is more impressive than it actually is. Faced with the over-blown effects, characters look cruelly flat and disappear into the background without a whimper, thanks to an insipid script and the film-makers’ unwillingness to flesh out anyone but Hal Jordan – an endeavour which is ironically botched as well.
What Green Lantern does have in its armoury is its unashamed commitment to presenting a hyper-reality. Modern superhero films are plainly too concerned with adding a realism to their characters, through backstories and decidedly human personal journeys, and there has to be some argument that that approach simply doesn’t meet the original spirit of comic books. That is precisely why Thor was such a surprising success. But without the necessary artistry to pull off big and boldness, the result will only (and indeed does only) appeal to 12 year olds.
As a comic book fan, I want capes, and superpowers and bright colours and larger than life characters. I don’t want the extraordinary to be made ordinary in any way, so something like Green Lantern, with its silliness and its complete lack of a believability factor might have been the right tonic, had it been executed well. The fact that is wasn’t is a lamentable tragedy as far as I’m concerned: I wanted it to succeed so the tide could turn back to less post-modern times, and we could all revel in the flamboyance and theatricality that is oddly being sucked out of the superhero genre these days.
Green Lantern is the sort of film where special effects can count a lot towards the saleability of the Blu-ray. Had it been a perfect, dazzling transfer I could feel justified in still suggesting there was some merit to the package, but that isn’t the case. Much like the film, there is no hook and it the Blu-ray is far from an essential purchase. The palette is surprisingly drab, especially for a film based in a universe governed by colour, and the limited colours that are featured simply aren’t bright or bold enough, and detail and textures aren’t what they should be (thanks in part to the darkness swallowing them up). There are moments of success, but they are few and far between unfortunately – overall it’s a story of the unspectacular, which is particularly frustrating because the sound transfer is very, very good. But one out of three in the content, visuals and sound stake isn’t a good score card.
Not a bad selection, though the Deleted Scenes are unnecessary, since they add nothing, and aren’t even complete, and the Theatrical Version adds very little to the theatrical edition. The highlight is undoubtedly the Maximum Movie Mode, which has comics legend Geoff Johns talking about the project (he’s royalty, so having his insight is great, no matter how poor the film) in a picture-in-picture set-up that doesn’t quite take advantage of all of the usual Maximum Movie Mode features, but which is still entertaining enough. Other than that there are a couple of behind the scenes featurettes, and a couple of in-focus looks at other Green Lantern projects – the Animated Series looks quite good. Better than the film anyway.
- Extended and Theatrical Cuts
- Maximum Movie Mode: Green Lantern’s Light (HD, 161 mins)
- Focus Points (HD, 47 mins)
- The Universe According to Green Lantern (HD, 20 mins)
- Ryan Reynolds Becomes the Green Lantern (HD, 9 mins)
- 5 Deleted Scenes (HD, 7 mins)
- Justice League #1 Digital Comic (HD, 9 mins)
- Preview of Green Lantern: The Animated Series (HD, 7 mins)
- PS3 Arkham City Character Skin Code
- UltraViolet Digital Copy
This article was first posted on October 17, 2011