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REVIEW: "Green Lantern" Upstaged By Muppets

Whitney Bratton |
June 18, 2011 | 4:19 a.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern (Photo by IMDB)
Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern (Photo by IMDB)
Yet another comic book hero blazed across movie screens on Friday as "Green Lantern" opened across the country.  The story follows a man named Hal Jordan who is given a green-glowing ‘magic’ ring by a dying alien and is instructed to protect Earth’s sector of outer space from danger.

But before audiences could even get to poor Hal, "Green Lantern" was upstaged by one of its own trailers, this one for the upcoming Muppet movie, which spoofed Green Lantern, since after all, who is more ‘green’ than Kermit the Frog?

The Muppets have been piggybacking off various other summer blockbusters, utilizing the oversaturation of advertising for these films to their advantage.

But what started out as an entertaining trailer, somehow ended up becoming the most memorable part of the "Green Lantern" experience, since the feature that followed somehow failed to impress despite its $300 million budget.

The story of "Green Lantern" is essentially one we’ve all heard before: a man discovers he has superpowers and must use them to fight evil.  What makes "Green Lantern" different is the way it drags the rest of the universe into the story, sending the hero far from Earth in order to meet the other ‘Lanterns.’

This allowed for the film’s strongest aspect to shine through: the visual effects.  The extra-terrestrial universe was thrilling to experience in 3D.  The aliens inhabiting it, however, could have been lifted directly from the "Star Wars" universe and redressed in green costumes and no one would have noticed.

Worse than being cardboard cutouts, though, was the fact that except for the love interest Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), essentially all the characters in this film, including all the aliens, were male.

Were an entirely male cast necessary to the story, as one might argue in the case of "Pirates of the Caribbean," this could have been excused, but instead "Green Lantern" seemed adamant in its quest to cater to its young male audience, dressing its single female character provocatively, and relegating the few others (the black scientist, Hal’s sisters) to minor, ineffective roles.

Someone needs to introduce the filmmakers to the Bechdel Test and ask them to remember that female audience members might actually enjoy something more than admiring Ryan Reynolds’ lithe, glowing muscles for 90 minutes.

Gender-studies issues aside, the story suffered from other weaknesses, particularly in the case of the villains.  Hal must somehow stop the fear-wielding space monster, Parallax (Clancy Brown), who is bent on taking over the universe.  Just like every.  Other.  Villain.  Ever.

In addition, Hal squares off with a former childhood classmate, the scientist-gone-awry Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), who is also interested in Carol.  Hector’s character would have made a far more interesting hero than Hal, given the chance, as he is far more sympathetic than Hal and perhaps more relatable for the average comic-book geek.

Neither villain gets much of a chance to face off with Hal over the course of the story, and as a result, neither feels very developed by the end.

However, the overall message of the film was noble and worth hearing again, that the power to overcome fear and admit to weakness is more important than attempting to hide behind claims of fearlessness.

And "Green Lantern" did have some fun moments, particularly when Carol immediately recognizes Hal with his mask on, ribbing him for thinking that such a simple disguise would fool someone who’d known him his whole life.

And the very fact that power is handily color-coded in this universe was also amusing: green light represents willpower, while yellow represents fear.  Points to the creators for using something other than red for a change.

Why willpower gives off green light and not some other color was not specifically addressed.  But if it weren’t for the emphasis on ‘green’ in this film, the Muppets might never have clued in and used the film as a springboard for some cinema-saving entertainment.

Reach Whitney Bratton here.



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