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Green Lantern (Blu-ray Review)

7 Oct, 2011 By: John Latchem

Street 10/14/11
Box Office $116.6 million
$28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $40.99 3D Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for alcohol use throughout, sexual content, language and some drug references.
Stars Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins. Voices of Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan.

With one of the densest comic book mythologies from which to draw, Green Lantern had the potential to be one of the all-time epic superhero movies — a “Lord of the Rings” meets “Star Wars” type of sci-fi adventure, with elements of Top Gun. And yet, something seems off.

As an origin story, the film has a lot of information to convey in telling the story of Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a hotshot test pilot recruited to join an intergalactic peacekeeping force known as the Green Lantern Corps, who use mystical energy rings to patrol their sectors of space.

But with a screenplay that’s spread across the galaxy as much as the Green Lantern Corps, the film has trouble blending its various elements into a cohesive whole. It feels small when it should be expansive. It’s an entertaining light show without much lasting resonance, more Fantastic Four than Superman.

The core story is fine; it’s just not developed as deeply as it could have been, as if the filmmakers thought the visual effects would be impressive enough to carry the film. The production design is excellent and special effects are pretty good despite a few the action scenes looking like a cartoon (though these scenes are more effective in 3D).

There’s also nothing really wrong with the cast, though Reynolds projects a lot of his typical movie persona and doesn’t come across as heroic as some of the character’s longtime fans might like.

One of the film’s biggest problems is that the narration of the opening prologue throws too much exposition at the audience to have any lasting impact. Why not focus more on Hal, and let the audience learn about the Corps through him? That would let the audience absorb the information at a more natural pace and I think would make for a more effective experience.

“Green Lantern” has such a dense mythology to absorb that a movie like this really needs more time to breathe. There are a few strong scenes that convey the significance of Hal’s undertaking, but the film probably should have been in the two-and-a-half hour range to really give the story the weight it deserves and let the audience savor what should be major moments that fly by too quickly in the final version. If you’re just going to focus on the action, the origin was much more effectively told in the 2009 direct-to-video animated movie Green Lantern: First Flight.

The extended cut, at a shade over two hours, is nine minutes longer than the theatrical version, but most of the difference comes from a longer opening that expands the flashbacks of Hal’s father while introducing younger versions of all the main characters.

The sequence is a little more effective than how these story elements are presented in the theatrical cut, though most of the pacing problems that plague the film remain. And since the flashbacks are still in the film, it means we get the same scenes repeated a few minutes later. The rest of the running time is padded by bits and pieces of longer scenes and reaction shots here and there that don’t amount to much.

I kind of wish that instead of a gimmicky extended edition they would have put together a true director’s cut or alternate cut or whatever, reassembling the movie from the ground up. Though this probably is not possible considering how it was filmed, which may indicate the filmmakers didn’t quite have a grasp on the concept of the character and fell back more on standard comic book tropes to guide them.

So the scene where Hal’s Green Lantern is introduced to the world is all-too-similar to the equivalent scene from the original Superman, down to the out-of-control helicopter threatening the leading lady (Blake Lively, in this case). And the music by James Newton Howard, while quite good in parts, is too generic overall to add weight to the proceedings. (For some reason the music from the aforementioned Superman music kept popping into my head.)

The end result comes off less like a film and more like a marketing tool for DC Comics. There’s an ad for “Green Lantern” comics at the end of the movie, and the disc includes a digital version of the recently released Justice League No. 1. And the Maximum Movie Mode is hosted by Geoff Johns, who writes the Green Lantern comics. This last bit actually works pretty well since it’s basically a fan getting a tour of the movie.

The Blu-ray also includes a featurette about Reynolds and another about the Green Lantern mythology (a cousin of similar extras from the direct-to-video “Green Lantern” animated movies).

There are also a few deleted scenes that contain minimal special effects, before the CG costumes were added in post-production, so the actors are wearing gray suits with tracking markers. One involves the return of Hal’s brother and nephew during the final crisis. In the theatrical movie they appear at the beginning and then aren’t heard from again. I wonder if that makes them the lucky ones.

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