GREEN LANTERN is Rocky (and not Balboa)

After two weeks at the box office, Green Lantern still hasn’t performed up to the expectations of Warner Brothers, grossing only $94m in the US as of this writing. That’s less than what the new Transformers film has done in three days. With the conclusion of the Harry Potter movies coming this summer, WB needs a new franchise on which to hang its hat.

Green Lantern may or may not be it.

This movie has several things working against it. First, there is the challenge of Green Lantern being a mostly unheard-of character outside the comic book community. If you don’t read comics, you don’t know the character and his rich history. So this film has to introduce the Green Lantern universe to a new crop of people.

Second, the film is badly miscast. Ryan Reynolds gives it the old college try as Hal Jordan, but he’d be a better fit for Wally West or Kyle Rayner. And Blake Lively is anything but. Her Carol Ferris is one-dimensional. And while the two performers are decent enough to watch together, they’re more suited for a romantic comedy than a superhero film.

On the third hand, a romantic comedy is one of the three stories this movie tries to be. The other two – Hero’s Recruitment and the Evil From The Past – are smashed in there along with the rom-com. This film tries to do too much, very like Spider-Man 3, and because of that it fizzles on all three fronts.

Taken separately, the stories aren’t bad. The Green Lantern Corps line is the best in terms of visual, but it’s skimpy with detail. I would like to have seen more training with Killowog (voiced by Micheal Clarke Duncan). All of the scenes around Oa are truncated because we have to get back to Earth for the other two stories.

The rom-com with Carol is weak, mainly because Blake Lively is either too young or too inexperienced (most likely both) to really sell the tough, smart, sexy Carol Ferris. Remember, this is a woman who runs a multi-billion dollar corporation and becomes one of the strongest of Green Lantern’s foes. Those are big shoes to fill. This is the same mistake Warner Brothers made when they cast Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane in Superman Returns. That’s two strikes for Warners.

The third thread, the one with Hector Hammond and the secret government project supervised by Hammond’s Senator Dad, has even less substance, and it’s all material we’ve seen before. Better developed, this would make a strong second act movie, much like The Empire Strikes Back was the darkest and more effective of the original Star Wars trilogy. Given enough room to breathe, Hammond would have made a strong nemesis for Green Lantern. Even though the “love triangle” intersection with the rom-com is so tired it creaks.

The sad thing is, this would have been a really great movie. But the producers don’t seem like they knew exactly what they had on their hands. And comparisons can be made to Thor, which split time between an Earth-bound romance story with the Hero’s Journey in Space story. Thor did it much better, another example of how Marvel is kicking DC around the block.

To really get a sense of what Green Lantern could have been, you only have to look at the animated Green Lantern: First Flight that came out last year. It’s a much more complete rendition of the Recruitment & Training story, even though it goes ahead with the part where Sinestro becomes the bad guy.

To be honest, I’ve felt for a while now, that Warner Brothers ought to bring over Bruce Timm and the gang to see what they could do with the live action stuff. At least they have a healthy respect the source material.

I’ve never really been on board with the retcon that made Hal a recovering alcoholic. The reason he was chosen in the first place was because he can set aside his fear, be courageous in the face of overwhelming odds. Making him a lush in his past life gives him feet of clay, and to me, that diminishes the character somewhat.

I’ve never bought into the notion that we have to pull our heroes down to our level. They should inspire us to rise up and reach theirs.

We need heroes. And Green Lantern has the potential to become one, on par with Superman and Batman. If the stories are written right. This one, not so much, but there’s potential.

[photos: Warner Brothers]   [Official Movie Site]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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