Green Lantern Movie Reconsidered

The Green Lantern movie sucks less than its reputation suggests.

Image provided by imdb/Warner Bros.

Not to suggest that Green Lantern is an especially good movie. It has several major flaws that keep it from making the most of its source material. But as DC and Warner Bros. push forward with their attempt to create a shared movie universe, honestly re-examining an early misfire in that effort is worthwhile.

“The things that Green Lantern got wrong” is well-trod ground at this point.

They picked the wrong villain. With the entire mythos of the Green Lantern comic the movie went with… Hector Hammond?

The tone of the script was off. The proceedings were just a tad too jokey for the movie to work as a good action spectacle and didn’t mesh with the more philosophical elements.

Hal Jordan wasn’t quite right. He was more caddish and more irresponsible than fans ever saw him in the comic books.

Trying to introduce the concept of the “Emotional Spectrum” in the first movie was too much, too soon. It took decades for the Green Lantern comic books to develop that idea. Letting it unfold gradually would have made more sense for a movie series.

Image provided by imdb/Warner Bros.

Fan favorites like Kilowog and Sinestro didn’t have anywhere near enough to do.

But put all those things aside for a minute. Yes, that’s a lot to ask. But go with it. Green Lantern had a lot of assets that don’t get enough appreciation.

Green Lantern was really well cast. Ryan Reynolds made for a good Hal Jordan. He could handle the mix of earnest and cocksure that the character requires. If Hal didn’t come across quite right, that was more a failure of direction and script than anything that Reynolds brought to the table. Blake Lively was surprisingly convincing as Carol Ferris. She grounded that corner of the story very well and had first rate chemistry with Reynolds (little surprise the duo got married after making the movie).

Hammond might have been the wrong villain, but to the extent he worked at all, it was due to Peter Sarsgaard making the most of a thankless role. We didn’t see nearly enough of Mark Strong as Sinestro or the late Michael Clarke Duncan as Kilowog. But in the scenes we got, they were first rate.

The visuals were on point. The effects team did a great job bringing the Green Lantern ring to life. The ring effects during the action sequences were engaging and creative. The set design for Oa was intriguing, striking the right mix of comic book fidelity and imagination.

The costume worked. The look that the Green Lantern movie devised for Hal hewed pretty closely to what the character has sported in the comics the past decade or so. It did a good job of expressing the comic book concept that the green parts of the uniform are manifestations of the will power energy.

Image provided by imdb/Warner Bros.

Green Lantern featured good action choreography. The story might not have been engaging, but it featured a few well-done fight scenes and a couple of truly impressive action set pieces. The wide screen aesthetic of the movie really tapped the visual potential of the comic book.

It’s unfortunate that all of these pluses tend to be overlooked when discussing Green Lantern. While the finished product was a disappointment and a lot of bad decisionmaking was evident, the movie wasn’t the entire disaster it’s usually billed as.

As DC and WB move forward, there are lessons they can take from Green Lantern. From both its failings and its strengths. Early footage and stills from Superman v. Batman: Dawn of Justice suggest that the fillmmakers have learned some of those lessons.

Matching good casting, the effective use of characters, well-chosen villains and a strong visual style can be a mix for success. Don’t try to cram all of the comic book’s mythology and tropes into one movie. Give the franchise room to breathe and grow naturally.

If Green Lantern could have paired what it did well with a stronger story and better decisionmaking, it would be the center of a very different discussion now. Acknowledging the mistakes of the movie is necessary. Ignoring its strengths is foolish.

Originally published at on April 30, 2015.

Author (Grievous Angels) and pop culture gadabout #amwriting

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