GREEN LANTERN - Blu-ray review

I just wanted to shout at the screen, 'Get on with it!'

John J. Puccio's picture
John J.
Puccio
William D. Lee's picture
William
Lee

"In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight,
Let those who worship evil's might
Beware my power...Green Lantern's Light!"

Note: In the following joint Blu-ray review, both John and Will provide their opinions of the film, with John also writing up the Video, Audio, Extras, and Parting Shots.

The Film According to John:
When I was a kid in the Fifties I often confused the comic-book hero Green Lantern with the radio and movie-serial hero the Green Hornet. I guess superheroes in green all seemed alike to me, although I confess I liked the name "Green Hornet" a lot more than "Green Lantern." I mean, what kid wanted to be a Lantern when you could be a Hornet? So for me the Lantern was never as sexy a name as the Hornet, but the name of the superhero isn't the only thing the new, 2011, live-action "Green Lantern" movie has against it. When originally released to theaters, it had the misfortune to hit screens a few months after the live-action version of...you guessed it..."The Green Hornet," which must have confounded some moviegoers no end. That and the fact that neither film was very good resulted in their both failing to recoup at the box office anything near their production costs.

Anyway, the Green Lantern originated as a comic-book hero in 1940. Back then he was a guy named Alan Scott, created by artist Martin Nodell and writer Bill Finger. Scott was a young fellow who found a magic lantern that gave anyone who touched it a number of super powers. He used the Lantern to create a ring, which he could bring with him anywhere he went but which he had to reenergize every so often by touching it to the lantern. However, after the popularity of the Alan Scott character wore off and the comic-book industry more or less retired him, DC Comics reintroduced the idea of the Green Lantern in the 1950's in the person of Hal Jordan, the hero of the theatrical adventure Warner Bros. now give us on Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultraviolet digital copy.

The movie begins with another of those origin plots so common to superhero movies, where we learn how Hal Jordan becomes a Green Lantern. I actually enjoy these parts of superhero movies better than the stories that follow, which are often silly and contrived. However, in the case of "Green Lantern" the origin story goes on far too long, almost three-quarters of the movie, and makes one wish the team of screenwriters and director Martin Campbell ("The Mark of Zorro," "Casino Royale," "Edge of Darkness") had just gotten on with the action. But, alas, it was not to be.

I'll let Will tell you more about the actual plot, while I just ramble for a while longer. Let's start with the movie's prologue, a spoken narration that seems to last about six hours, background exposition that begins to tire quickly. In it, the voice-over tells us that long ago a race of Immortals harnessed the most-powerful force in existence, the Emerald Energy of Willpower. These Immortals, these Guardians of the Universe, then built a headquarters on the planet Oa from which they could watch over everything in existence, assigning thousands of Green Lanterns, intergalactic peacekeepers wearing rings of power, to look after specific sectors of the universe. Fair enough, but do the math. If there are only a few thousand Green Lanterns to take care of the entire universe, it means each Lantern would have about a trillion planets to care for. Maybe those figures were all right in Hal Jordan's Sixties, before astronomers knew as much as they do today about the universe, but now even the youngest school kid knows differently. But, hey, it's a comic book. Who's looking for logic or science.

Next, we learn that the Immortals long ago imprisoned a beast called Parallax to a "Lost Sector," but now he's escaped and growing stronger. How strong? He eats worlds. The Immortals send out a whole squadron of their finest, most-experienced, most-highly trained Lanterns to subdue him, but Parallax easily defeats all of them. Guess what villain the inexperienced, barely trained Hal Jordan will have to face by the movie's end? But, hey, it's a comic book. Who's looking for logic or reason.

When we first meet Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), we see he's an irresponsible, hotshot young test pilot, much in the mold of Tom Cruise's character in "Top Gun." Or perhaps "Top Gun" stole its character from Hal Jordan; who knows. Both movies feature hotdogging dogfighting, which is all that matters. In any case, Reynolds looks great in the role but projects little charisma. He's no Christopher Reeve or Christian Bale or Robert Downey, Jr. As a result, we don't really care much about him, despite everything the scriptwriters try to do to flesh him out with background details.

Then comes the origin story, Hal getting his Green Lantern ring and assignment and training and all, which, as I've said, goes on forever, finally getting around to old Parallax almost as an afterthought. Because the film moves at a snail's pace, I just wanted to shout at the screen, "Get on with it!"

There are lots of pretty sights and settings in "Green Lantern," mostly CGI created. Indeed, the whole movie looks as though WB's graphics team built it in a computer, like a huge video game. Even Hal's Green Lantern uniform appears to be computer generated, right down to his little green eye mask that is supposed to cloak his identity. Corny? Yes. But, hey, it's a comic book. Who's looking for logic or realism?

John's film rating: 4/10

The Film According to Will:
There was a time when Marvel Comics was incapable of getting a decent movie made. Fanboys still have nightmares about the Dolph Lundgren Punisher or the previous Captain America with the rubber ears. Nowadays, Marvel rules the roost as they build to next year's ultimate team-up, "The Avengers," while other characters make the leap to the silver screen on an annual basis. DC, their "distinguished competitor," hasn't had much luck recently outside of Christopher Nolan's Bat-films. The Man of Steel is getting another reboot after the failure of "Superman Returns," while popular superheroes like Wonder Woman and The Flash have been trapped in development hell. DC was hoping to change their fortunes with "Green Lantern," based on a character that isn't a household name like Superman or Batman.

Ryan Reynolds is Hal Jordan, a cocksure test pilot, still haunted by the fatal crash that killed his father (Jon Tenney), also a pilot. One night, he inherits a power ring from a dying alien named Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison). Abin Sur is a member of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police force created by a race of ancients known as the Guardians of the Universe. Abin Sur has been mortally wounded by an enemy known as Parallax (voiced by Clancy Brown), a primal being that feeds off fear.

Hal learns he is the first human being to ever be inducted into the Corps. The ring taps into the emerald energy of willpower and allows him to create anything he can imagine. Meanwhile, Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a nebbish biology professor is infected by a shard of Parallax. He mutates into an Elephant Man-looking supervillain with telepathic powers.

As the newest Green Lantern, Hal must learn to wield the ring and save the Earth from the threat of Parallax.

"Green Lantern" was largely savaged by critics upon release. It currently rests at a dismal 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. While I don't believe the film deserved the shellacking it received, it doesn't deserve a whole lot of praise. "Green Lantern" is just disappointing and mediocre.

There is a lot to take in as the film acts as an origin story and an introduction to the heavy mythology of the comics. As such, the story gets bogged down with endless exposition told in the most uninteresting manner. At approximately 100 minutes, the movie doesn't have a lot of time to introduce the main characters, the concept of the Green Lantern Corps and their powers as well as their enemies and their powers. Yet, "Green Lantern" still finds time to grind the forward momentum to a halt with an inordinate amount of superfluous scenes.

The Green Lanterns take their name from a green lantern, which serves as the power source for their rings. When Hal Jordan first taps his ring to the lantern, he learns the oath before being interrupted by friend and fellow pilot, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). He goes to the bar with her in such a blatantly "Top Gun" moment that when he starts to sing, you think he'll bust out with "You've Lost That Loving Feeling." Then, Hal gets into a fight out in the parking lot. Then, he gets whisked away to the Green Lanterns' home world of Oa. Were those previous scenes even necessary? Why not simply have Hal speak the oath then travel to the headquarters to keep the story moving? Alas, this brand of sloppiness is indicative of the disjointed screenplay credited to four different writers.

"Green Lantern" is another one of those comic book pictures where the hero mopes a lot and contemplates hanging up his tights. Heaven forbid we should ever get a superhero movie with a superhero that actually enjoys being a superhero. Hal Jordan has a cool job, is obscenely handsome, and then gains the ability to create almost anything he wants. How can he possibly spend so much time forlornly staring at his belly button? Hal trains with Green Lanterns Sinestro (Mark Strong), Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan), and Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush) for all of ten minutes before he arbitrarily takes his ball and goes home.

All the angst is a disservice to Ryan Reynolds, who excels at playing snarky characters. In the comics, Hal Jordan is more of a straight-arrow, but Reynolds makes him more of an irresponsible wiseass who must grow into the role of hero. He's not my first choice for the character (Nathan Fillion?), but he's charismatic and does a fine job carrying the picture on his shoulders. That's more than can be said for the woefully miscast Blake Lively, who is far too young to pass for an experienced jet pilot. The filmmakers are obviously going for a Clark-Lois feel to the romance between Carol and Hal, but their scenes have none of the spark that Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder possessed. On the other hand, Mark Strong gives a better performance than this movie deserves, lending a legitimacy to all the silliness. Of all the broadly drawn characters in "Green Lantern," Sinestro is the only one you want to see more of. Not to spoil anything, but, yes, a guy named Sinestro will eventually turn evil (make sure to stay midway through the credits).

A hero is only as good as his villains and "Green Lantern" features some of the weakest villains since "Ghost Rider." Hector Hammond serves as a secondary villain, but one that adds absolutely nothing to the film. This is not a knock on Peter Sarsgaard, who gives the kind of mannered performance you expect from a lighthearted comic book movie. There are times when it seems he's doing the world's best John Malkovich impression. However, Sarsgaard can do little while hidden behind a ridiculous makeup job that makes him look like Rocky Dennis from "Mask." Then, there's Parallax, who is essentially a giant cloud of smog with a face. There is nothing exciting about watching the good guy fight a cloud. Did nobody learn their lesson from "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer"? Give the hero somebody he can punch.

As a summer blockbuster, "Green Lantern" will live and die based on the special effects, which are a mixed bag. Watching Hal create various constructs in battle was neat, even if some of them were goofy (a Hot Wheels race track, really?). The FX artists went into a great level of detail in creating the alien Green Lanterns. Despite being mere background filler, they all look unique and hardcore fans will have fun spotting comic characters like Boodikka, Stel, Bzzd, and Gallius Zed. G'nort, I'm afraid is nowhere to be found.

Warner Brothers went with the decision to give Green Lantern a wholly CGI uniform rather than a physical one. There are shots where the costume looks cool, highlighted by pulsating energy. In other shots, it looks like a bad Photoshop job. Much like "Thor," "Green Lantern" has a heavy sci-fi/fantasy element. "Thor" divided the story between Earth and the otherworldly realm of Asgard while "Green Lantern" struggles to find a balance between its bland Earth scenes and the planet of Oa. Both suffer from video game-style graphics, but Asgard had a sense of grandeur lacking in Oa, which looks incredibly dank and primitive, not at all fitting for a race of wise ancients. Martin Campbell, who is a competent action director, seems out of his element on a film so reliant on CGI.

Audiences are definitely feeling superhero fatigue. As more and more of these characters are brought to life, it becomes harder for studios to differentiate themselves from previous entries in the genre. Elements in "Green Lantern" have already been conveyed more effectively in films like "Iron Man" and "Thor." If it had been released earlier, "Green Lantern" may have fared better. As it stands, the movie is the by-product of bad committee filmmaking. It's a scattered mess lacking in depth and originality. Warner Brothers reportedly sunk $300 million into the production and marketing campaign, but pulled in a meager $53 opening weekend. The poor domestic take spells doom for a potential sequel as well as plans for other characters and the fanboy dream of a "Justice League" flick.

Green may be lucky for some, but it wasn't so for superheroes in 2011 with "Green Hornet" and "Green Lantern" failing to connect with audiences. Poor Green Arrow will have to wait awhile.

Will's film rating: 5/10

Video:
Warner video engineers transferred the film to high-definition Blu-ray in its original theatrical aspect ratio, 2.40:1, using a dual-layer BD50 and an MPEG-4/AVC codec. The results are about what one might expect from a live-action sci-fi/fantasy movie based on a comic-book character. The colors are bright, sometimes gaudy, and have a comic-book appearance to them; they are slightly too dark as well, but they are certainly deep and rich enough, with solid black levels to set them off. Definition is average for an HD presentation, meaning it looks fine.

Audio:
The disc uses lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 to replicate the movie's soundtrack, and like the picture quality it's everything you would expect. It's predictably loud, with oodles of dynamic range and impact. There's a good bass, a decent treble, and a clear midrange. Although the audio engineers use the rear channels sparingly, when the speakers do fire up, they make a forceful statement. More important, a wide front-channel stereo spread helps to make a listener sit up and pay attention.

Extras:
Disc one of this two-disc Combo Pack contains the feature film in both its theatrical presentation and a new extended cut not seen in theaters, a cut that appends about nine more minutes to the movie. In addition, you can watch the film in a "Maximum Movie Mode," which is a picture-in-picture affair with lots of commentary, notes, and featurettes. If you prefer to watch the little featurettes separately as "Focus Points," you can do that, too. There are eight of them totaling about forty-seven minutes, covering art, weapons, costumes, ring slinging, the Corps, makeup, the Guardians, and Parallax. Then, there are two featurettes: "The Universe According to Green Lantern," twenty minutes, and "Ryan Reynolds Becomes Green Lantern," eight minutes. After those items, you'll find a "Justice League #1" digital comic, nine minutes; and four deleted scenes, mostly in incomplete form, eight minutes.

The extras conclude with fourteen scene selections; a preview of "Green Lantern: The Animated Series"; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese spoken languages on the theatrical version; English only on the extended cut; French, Spanish, Portuguese, and other subtitles; English captions for the hearing impaired; and BD-Live access (which annoys me because I don't use it, and it seems to slow down the disc's boot-up as it seeks a nonexistent Internet connection).

Disc two contains a DVD copy of the theatrical version only and an "Ultraviolet" digital copy. What's an "Ultraviolet" copy, you ask? According to Warners, it "allows you to collect movies & TV shows and watch them at home or on-the-go, using streaming or permanently downloaded copies. You can enjoy Ultraviolet movies on devices such as smartphones, PCs and in the near-future Internet connected Blu-ray players and TVs." So now you know.

The two discs come housed in a flimsy double Eco-case, further enclosed by a handsome, metalized-cardboard slipcover.

Parting Shots:
Of the superhero movies I saw in 2011, I enjoyed "Captain America" the most, mainly for its period atmosphere, and didn't care much at all for "Thor" or "The Green Hornet" because I thought those films were all over the map. However, I disliked "Green Lantern" for a very different reason: I found it downright boring. The extended version that I watched is only nine minutes longer than the theatrical version, but it seemed to last an eternity. The film lacks energy or spark or any sense of real fun. It just drones on, needlessly complicating the story line with too many character relationships and too many dull stretches that are neither exciting nor revealing. "Green Hornet" was a long haul for me.

Ratings

Video
8
Audio
8
Extras
8
Film Value
5