Setting up franchises rich in necessary detail has proven to be a difficult task. Reboots like Batman Begins can pull it off with ease due to an already-familiar character back-ground, but newer ones like Iron Man and Thor have a completely different task at hand. How much plot do you need in an origins story?
Iron Man struggled to find a balance between the two, but made it work. The addition of an all-of-a-sudden third act villain was my least favorite writing decision in Iron Man, but it wasn’t terrible. Without a doubt, Thor pulled it off much smoother. Bouncing back and forth between Asgard, Thor’s home world, and Earth, the writers were able to include both elements at the same time. The origins story at hand was a plot of its own. After Thor perfected the art earlier this summer, along comes Green Lantern – which arguably is the worst attempt at it.
Green Lantern picks up with a long, Lord of the Rings-esque voiced-over recap of the history of the universe – it’s heroes (the Green Lantern Corps) and villains. The conclusion of the prologue, we see how the worst villain, named Parallax, is accidentally released from his damning prison. As Parallax escapes, he seeks revenge against the Lanterns. With a head like that of Megamind and a body that resembles Lost‘s smoke monster, Parallax’s threatening power lies in his ability to literally suck the life out of people and spit and fireballs of fear. As odd as that sounds, it’s awesome watching it on the big screen.
After the prologue, we meet Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds, X-Men Origins: Wolverine), a fearless fighter pilot who creatively thinks outside the box and risks everything in order to win. After a wounded Lantern crash lands on the shore of Louisiana, the ring from which the Lanterns power originates chooses Hal to become his replacement, the newest intergalactic peacekeeper.
Just after Hal takes is oath to protect the universe, his nerdy childhood rival (Peter Sarsgaard, Garden State) is chosen by the military to dissect the alien body. As he digs into the heart, some of the Lantern power is transmitted to him, causing him to become this film’s evil mad scientist – as if one planet-size villain (Parallax) wasn’t enough. Now, in the less than 105 minutes runtime of Green Lantern, Hal must travel back and forth to the Lantern’s hideout across the galaxy for training, save Earth and defeat two villains – all the while trying to “get the girl” (Blake Lively, The Town).
While Iron Man rushed to give us a last-minute villain, Green Lantern builds up the bad guys’ stories too much, barely giving us any of the origins material we want – and need. Not only is it more plot than origins, but it’s too much plot. The origins elements are not missing entirely, they are just abbreviated, never expounded upon and never satisfying.
Despite my focusing on the negative aspects of Green Lantern, know that it is not terrible – it just isn’t great either. The fun action and lightweight moments that work so well balance out the flaws within the story and the heavy-handed tones that become prevalent throughout. When it works, it works really well – but those times are scarce.
If you’re considering seeing Green Lantern in 3D, think twice. Not only does double-vision run rampant in every dark, deep space moment, but the lackluster quality of the 3D post conversion causes it to look like a cardboard cutout. Yes, there’s depth between the objects on screen. But the objects themselves have no texture or life. It simply looks like a children’s pop-up book, rendering it not worthy of the expensive 3D ticket prices.
Die-hard comic book fans and those who love all movies will be the ones who enjoy Green Lantern the most. I fear that most mainstream audiences will clump Green Lantern in the same category as Ang Lee’s 2003 Hulk. But in reality, it’s just okay.
Photo credit: Warner Bros.