Movies We Like
Just to be up front and clear, the version of Green Lantern that I’m reviewing is the extended cut which is exclusive only to the Blu-ray release. The reason is that after seeing the theatrical cut, I feel that the extended cut is a more complete movie, both narratively and structurally, and probably far closer to the original vision and intent of director Martin Campbell than the one that played in theaters last summer which reeked of studio interference. That said, my initial reaction to that Green Lantern movie wasn’t predominantly positive.
I was never that big a fan of the character, although I was familiar enough with him considering his multiple appearances in the Justice League of America comics. I also felt that Ryan Reynolds (whom I like) wasn’t exactly the ideal actor I’d peg as his comic book counterpart Hal Jordon. Instead he seemed more in line to play the Wally West version of The Flash, something that was actually in the cards after Blade: Trinity when that film’s writer/director David S. Goyer was going to helm The Flash movie. It’s also a bit odd considering Reynolds is playing Deadpool over in the Marvel cinematic universe as seen in 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
But alas, he’s in the first live action version of Green Lantern and actually does a fine job considering the material. The problem with the theatrical cut is that it felt like there were a lot of key beats that were missing from the overall plot; a handful of things that didn’t gel right, make sense, or just didn’t seem appropriate pacing-wise. Up until right before checking out the extended cut for myself, all I had read online about it was that it reinstated one key scene early in the film with the three lead characters as kids and that’s about it. But that’s not the only addition. That’s certainly the most noticeable one as it’s a nine minute scene close to the opening of the movie, but there are several bits and pieces of scenes here and there that completely strengthen out the narrative, the humor and tone, and even the slightly different pace of this edit makes for a completely different and far more enjoyable viewing experience.
The film opens in space as we’re introduced to the Green Lanterns, the guardians of the galaxy; each individually assigned a particular sector in the universe to watch over and protect, but who all congregate on the planet Oa. In other words, they’re space police and Oa would be like their precinct. A handful of them stumble upon a strange presence in the universe which turns out to be the evil and powerful entity Parallax, captured and imprisoned eons ago by Abin Sur on the planet Ryut. Parallax finally frees himself after absorbing the fear of the Green Lanterns who uncovered his hidden prison and that fear grants him enough power to escape and send him on a warpath across the galaxy.
In this extended cut, it then jumps back to 1993 and we meet a young Hal Jordon at approximately 10-years-old along with his father Martin Jordon who’s about to take part in another routine test flight of his company’s latest fighter jet. We’re also introduced to Carol and Hector Hammond, who later will play pivotal roles in Hal’s adult life. Seeing this one brief scene of the three main characters interacting as kids makes a world of difference when we see them later on. Hal and Carol (love interests as adults) have obviously known each other since childhood. And along with Hector, we also meet his father (played by Tim Robbins) and immediately get the sense that Hammond Sr. is disappointed in his son Hector for not being a little more adventurous and athletic like Hal rather than burying his nose in books all the time.
In the theatrical cut, Hal and Hector don’t share a single scene together until well past the hour mark and when they do, it appears like they know each other which seems odd considering we had no clue prior to this scene, yet they’re supposed to be arch enemies? Hinting at Hector’s jealousy of Hal’s affections both from his own father and from Carol since they were kids adds a lot more depth to the roles they’ll inevitably have to fall into which is hero versus foe. Now this first scene they share together carries a lot more narrative weight. Also from that additional opening scene, Hal witnesses a freak accident with his father’s test plane, which explains his somewhat reckless behavior later on as an adult.
Meanwhile, back in present time, Parallax is making his way through the universe and has already destroyed two planets when he tracks down his captor Abin Sur and mortally wounds him, which forces Sur to crash on Earth in search for an immediate successor to his ring. It turns out to be none other than Hal Jordon. The ring brings great power to the person who possesses it. The ring must choose them and they must have no fear. Then they can use the “power of will” to will into reality any physical object they desire. For example, if Hal needs a giant baseball bat or a giant fist or a machine gun or a chainsaw, all he needs to do is will it and it’ll appear there for him to use (in green, no less). When Hal first unlocks the power of the ring, he’s transported to Oa to begin his training. This is where a lot of the fun stuff comes into the movie, in particular his first flying lesson with Tomar-Re (voiced by Geoffrey Rush) and his first fight lesson with Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan). For comic fans, you’ll spot plenty of other recognizable characters from the Green Lantern Corps during this sequence.
The only one that seems to be reluctant to accept Hal is Sinestro (Martin Strong), a close friend of Abin Sur and a Lantern more concerned with the threat of Parallax rather than welcoming aboard their first human inductee. Feeling he’s unprepared for the responsibility that comes with being a Green Lantern, Hal retreats back to Earth. While he was gone, the government had taken the body of Abin Sur and brought in Hector Hammond to conduct the official autopsy on the first alien life form. During the procedure, he’s bitten by something, which links him to Parallax and starts to transform into (for lack of a better word) a super villain. In the theatrical cut, his transformation happens rather suddenly, but it’s interesting to see it juxtaposed with Hal Jordon’s training here in this extended cut, both the hero and villain leading parallel paths to their ultimate destinies.
Eventually Parallax sets his sights on Earth, which is what drives Hal to once again don the ring and the persona of Green Lantern. There are a lot of fun sequences sprinkled throughout the extended cut after Hal’s return to Earth, including his first public appearance as the Green Lantern to rescue Hammond Sr. and Carol (Blake Lively) from a near helicopter crash. I also like seeing a few humorous bits reinstated in this version. For example, even with that mask over Hal’s face, you can still tell it’s him, so there’s an additional scene where his best friend Tom (Taika Waititi) barges into his apartment and demands he show him his cool “costume.” Even Carol recognizes him almost immediately after a talk on her patio, which is something fun that’s never been exploited in a superhero movie. I think the biggest fault of the theatrical cut was toning down this humor and in general the humor of Ryan Reynolds, which is quite frankly what he is most well known for.
While not perfect, the extended cut of Green Lantern is definitely a far more ambitious and valiant effort to translate DC’s Star Wars-esque superhero to the big screen. I’d recently seen the animated feature Green Lantern: First Flight which also serves as an origin story; why they didn’t just straight up adapt that into the movie version is beyond me, but at least now we have a more definitive version of the flick thanks to the Blu-Ray market.