Green Lantern or Van Wilder: The Rise of Hal

Ash Isaac

It’s just not Christmas without the requisite turkey, goose or other faith-specific fowl. And no-one does turkey like a superhero does turkey. In an elephant’s graveyard stuffed with big budget, high profile failures, Green Lantern somehow manages to cast a dark shadow over all other contenders. The real shame being that this intergalactic coming of age tale had all the necessary ingredients to be a success: talented, attractive cast, long established and popular source material, competent director and aforementioned big budget. But rather like the Incredible Hulk film of 2008 or the Hulk film of 2003, Green Lantern fails to live up to the sum of its parts.

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a cocky, brash and reckless playboy pilot; basically a straight version of Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun. How do I know he’s a playboy? Well, in his first scene he’s in bed with an unnamed blonde beauty who is never seen again in the film. How do I know he’s cocky, brash and reckless? Well… he’s a pilot in a film and if Hollywood has taught us anything it’s that pilots are wild, unpredictable mavericks who fly by the seat of their pants and live by dropping their pants.

Fairly soon we get to see Hal’s cockpit skills in action and here’s where the problems begin. Hal quickly defeats two computer controlled fighter jets, but only by executing a trademark risky manoeuvre and totalling his own multi-million-dollar plane. Throughout this sequence we see regular flashbacks to Hal’s traumatic childhood where he witnessed his father die in a horrible, fiery plane wreck. Yes, you just can’t be counted as a bona fide superhero unless you’ve experienced some serious psychological damage in your formative years.

Hal’s fortunes take a turn for the better as an alien ship crash lands nearby and he is transported to it by a glowing green ring. Turns out he has been selected by the ring to be a Green Lantern, an elite member of a galactic peacekeeping organisation whose jurisdiction is, well, everywhere. The magic ring clearly saw Hal crashing his plane and liked the cut of his gib as he is soon whisked away to Oa, the headquarters of the Green Lantern corps. There he undergoes the customary training montage that transforms him from greenhorn rookie to grizzled veteran in the space of a day or so. We also learn that the ring acts as a universal translator and data storage facility, like a smartphone of the future, except it also allows the wearer flight and the ability to make hard light constructs through the wearer’s imagination.

By this stage we’re more than two thirds of the way through and all we’ve really seen is an extensive back story to the Green Lantern mythos and not that great a retelling either. It’s finally time for Hal to prove himself against an insidious evil threatening to destroy the universe. Whereas Batman has the Joker and Superman has Lex Luthor, Hal has Parallax which turns out to be just a massive sentient cloud of smog ruthlessly choking commuters in major cities and towns worldwide. OK, so this particular nebula is supposed to be the embodiment of fear and be able to kill people by feasting on their terror, but it still looks like it should be adorning the front of a cigarette packet and warning about the dangers of smoking.

Needless to say, Hal is able to defeat Parallax by throwing the ash cloud into the sun thus inspiring humankind to deal with the growing refuse problem on Earth by firing shuttles of rubbish into the blazing yellow star. Hal finds acceptance with the other Green Lanterns and is finally able to lay the ghost of his father to rest. No-one wanted this film to fail (and before you say no-one wants any film to fail I have three words for you – Scary Movie 5), but it suffers from those unrealistic high expectations and crashes and burns as messily as a Hal Jordan-piloted plane. Is there scope for Hollywood to green light a Lantern reboot, reinterpretation or recycle? Where there’s a will there’s a way…

About Ash Isaac

I am a contributor of questionable taste, origin and talent. My one claim to fame is that I was born in the same hospital as Cliff Richard. I am still in possession of my soul unlike Sir Cliff who sold his to Samael the Desolate in return for eternal youth and the friendship of Sue Barker.