I love the concept of the Green Lantern. Being on the front line of Cosmic calamities across the DC universe the Green Lantern Corps is a vital component of that universe and has steadily risen in importance as the years have gone by. A world wide company cross over from the called Zero Hour directly hinged on main Green lantern character Hal Jordan going insane and ended effectively with the re-writing of the whole DCU at the time. Oh remember when company wide retcons were novel? They have become the lynch-pin of many important events in the last few years and under the writing of Geoff Johns I don’t see their importance diminishing any time soon. Which makes it all the more galling that when transported to another media things tend to fall apart for the character and his different versions. Not all the time now. There have been some successes across the board but more often than not the importing of the power ring to a TV show or well, a big studio film has been met with a shrug.
The Superman Animated series from the early 90s got it pretty damn right. The episode “In Brightest Day” despite being fairly Superman light was one of my favourite episodes, being witty, inventive and wonderfully fun. Purists may balk at having Kyle Rayner be the Lantern albeit with Hal Jordan’s origin but as far as use of the ring and dedication to the main ideals of the character it really soared. Sinestro was there and as wicked as we like to see and damn it if Abin Sur wasn’t noble in his death scene. Why this worked was the fidelity to the source material and the top notch writing which was as imaginative as a Green Lantern needs to be.
As a storytelling device having a ring that conjure up basically anything needs some intelligence in it’s writing. The characters need to be creative with such an abstract and open ended power but stay the right side of goofy and “real”. If not handled properly we have a dull, inconsequential mess which was last years Green Lantern film. I don’t blame Ryan Reynolds, he did the best with the script he had but maybe the attempt to portray what is such a comic book idea with live action just couldn’t be done. As power it is an illustrators playground and in the sometimes gaudy world of the comic book giant green hands or a giant green wrench or fire hydrant can fly but in real life an impromptu emerald race track…well that’s just silly isn’t it? Now the movie was up against that notion but that’s not the only reason it failed. Coming across as poor Iron Man knock off in its characters it just didn’t know how to balance the cosmic and the earthbound and it was littered with some awful dialogue, and poorly thought through motivations and characters. It also felt like nothing mattered in the film. There was no hook. Batman had tragedy, Spider-man had an audience pleasing romance, Iron Man had wit, Superman had…well Christ comparisons but basically each one had their own identity. Green Lantern the film was pitched at a sub standard Marvel level when it should have been out in the stars. Oa should have been a beautifully rendered piece of Sci-Fi eye candy but instead looked rushed and fake.
The central idea of the GL corps is a good one, full of strong story possibilities, multiple characters to play with and strong concept to hang various types of stories off. It has the ability to go anywhere in the universe so why does it so often feel desperately pedestrian. It’s funny that while not a great cartoon, (most modern take on classic Warner Bros. cartoons aren’t) but that the Duck Dodgers cartoon of recent years had a more faithful Green Lantern piece than the film. I hope Bruce Timm does a good job with this new animated series because the straight to DVD films, “First Flight” and “Emerald Knights” were both pretty underwhelming.
Just spare us the re-telling of the origin. There’s only so many times I can watch Abin Sur die before I get sick of it. He’s turning into a cosmic Uncle Ben.
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