A Tale of Two Lanterns: Green Lantern (2011) vs. First Flight
Green Lantern: First Flight7.5
Chris Bryant | On 28, Nov 2013
Director: Martin Campbell
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Mark Strong
Watch Green Lantern online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
We compare the 2011 superhero movie starring Ryan Reynolds with the animated movie Green Lantern: First Flight.
“In brightest day, in blackest night…” The mantra of the Green Lantern Corps, repeated throughout both films, is not too far off being an accurate review of their achievements. The 2011 live action adaptation of the 1940s comic tells the same origin story as the 2009 direct-to-video version; a cocky, reckless test pilot becomes a superhero charged by the all-powerful will of the universe and is immediately tested against the viral power of fear.
Ryan Reynolds, Mark Strong and co. were treated to a $200m budget, $196.5m more than the team behind the 2009 animation, and after the success of other DC origin stories (naming no Batnames), wielded the full might of the Warner Bros. Marketing division. Sadly, to no avail.
Awash with tacky CGI and a substandard plot, turning Ryan Reynolds’ Hal Jordan into a likeable, responsible hero – think Iron Man, but starring frat boys – proved worthless against a galaxy of poor dialogue and age-old clichés.
Leaping about, saving damsels and generally being an arse, Reynolds’ comic timing appears to be the one saving grace of the feature, as well as his ability to reiterate the catchphrase “It’s my job not to be…” whenever asked if he gets scared – as though it’s a meaningful phrase and not a wince-inducing ham-buffet. Thrown together in a source-material-offending clash of laziness, Green Lantern’s live action outing feels as though it is written by people who have a vague idea of comic books – who assume they are read by spotty, overweight “nerds” in basements, in between playing video games.
The “nerds”, though, are busy creating First Flight.
Put side by side, the 2009 animation is a love story penned by fans, while Green Lantern is an attempt to cash in on them.
Covering the entire origin story in a quarter of the time and following it with an array of action and fascinating spectacle largely absent from the Reynolds’ picture, First Flight keeps Hal Jordan more consistent, more likeable and always more interesting. Building to a Northern Lights-esque finale of a Green/Yellow power war in space, it captures the fun of superheroes in a way that is becoming rarer, as the serious, conflicted trope takes charge of the genre in place of light-hearted adventure. The odd instance of cheesy dialogue is eclipsed by a plot twist and a few inspiringly heroic moments.
Having its heels dug defiantly into the grounds of true comic book animation, though, First Flight could never have been Green Lantern. Oblivious to the current demand for dark, troubled anti-heroes, the First Flight team did what they do best, and did it with love – but without the bigger film’s financial support, box office income or public interest.
Maybe it’s impossible to make a popular and loyal Green Lantern film. He may simply be a little too sci-fi to appeal to the masses. A major failing of the 2011 version was placing him in a realistic world, not the universe of the comics. Perhaps the film-going public don’t have the knowledge or patience for the brightest day or the blackest night – but where First Flight could never be Green Lantern, Green Lantern certainly could have done with being a little more like First Flight.
Green Lantern (2011) is available on Amazon Prime Video, as part of £5.99 monthly subscription.