“Green Lantern,” DC Comics’ sole entry in this summer’s onslaught of comic book movies, shows why, despite Christopher Nolan’s brilliant Batman films, the comics giant and parent company Warner Bros. are so far behind Marvel when it comes to feature films.
BACKGROUND: In July 1940, Martin Nodell and Bill Finger created Green Lantern in “All-American Comics No. 16.” His name was Alan Scott, and his power came from a magic lantern he used to craft a magic ring. Scott was a founding member of the Justice Society of America, making him a central figure of the Golden Age. But, following the decline of superheroes after World War II, Green Lantern’s namesake title was cancelled in 1949 and he made his last appearance in “All-Star Comics” in 1951.
During the Silver Age, DC Comics successfully revived superheroes, but, instead of bringing back the Golden Age heroes of the companies that merged to form DC, the comics giant gave the characters a makeover. The new Green Lantern, test pilot Hal Jordan, debuted in 1959. Jordan received his power ring from Abin Sur, a dying alien who crashed on Earth. He became the first human member of the Green Lantern Corps, a universal police organization led by the Guardians. Jordan also became a founding member of the Justice League of America.
Two more Lanterns were added during the Bronze Age. In the 1960s, Guy Gardner emerged as the second choice to receive Abin Sur’s ring and became Jordan’s backup. And in the 1970s, John Stewart was selected to replace Gardner after an accident left Gardner comatose.
Kyle Rayner became the next Green Lantern during the Modern Age. Rayner played a key role in teaching the Lanterns to overcome fear and defeating the villain Parallax.
The Green Lantern Corps history is one of the deepest and richest in comics.
And while the character’s film history doesn’t extend nearly as far back as its comics history, talk of a Green Lantern movie did begin more than a decade ago.
After a tide of director departures and one ill-fated attempt to make the film a comedy with Jack Black, Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale”) was tapped to finally bring Green Lantern to film.
Warner Bros. then selected Ryan Reynolds as their Hal Jordan, despite a wide held belief among fans that Reynolds was more suited to play the Flash.
SYNOPSIS: Test pilot Hal Jordan receives a mystical green ring from the dying alien Abin Sur that bestows him with otherworldly powers and comes with a membership into the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic squadron tasked with keeping peace among the stars. When a force built of fear threatens to overwhelm the Corps, Jordan must become the “greatest Green Lantern” to save not only Earth but the entire universe.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY: Most moviegoers will enjoy this film. Ryan Reynolds is his usual charming self. There’s plenty of special effects. Laughs come easy and often.
But discerning moviegoers, especially those familiar with Green Lantern’s comic book origins, will leave disappointed and left wondering what might have been.
Reynolds works in the role provided him, even if that role isn’t Hal Jordan. And it isn’t. From the pervasive daddy issues to his frat boy irresponsibility, Reynolds’ Green Lantern doesn’t exude the heroism and bravery that define Hal Jordan.
This isn’t Reynolds’ fault. Blame falls on the script, which too often reveals its writers television roots and smacks of studio interference. A meddling studio might also be the explanation for not seeing Campbell’s influence in the film at all.
It’s also hard to concentrate on character development when the special effects are constantly taking you out of the story. The effects aren’t well hidden, and whether on purpose or not, even real sets look like something rendered on a green screen.
FINAL SCORE: Had “Green Lantern” come out a decade ago, its flashy special effects and blindingly bright colors may have been enough to thrill moviegoers. But comic book films have evolved from bombastic spectacles to the elevated heights of this summer‘s “X-Men: First Class.” “Green Lantern” feels like a step backward in the genre’s evolution.
EXTRAS: Stay through the initial closing credits sequence for a bonus scene featuring one of the Green Lantern Corps.
“Green Lantern” has a run time of 105 minutes and is rated PG-13. Enjoy the show.