movie review: Green Lantern

It isn’t innovative, it isn’t deep, the characters aren’t particularly well-developed, but I still had a good time watching Green Lantern. It’s hard to dislike a movie that has shortcomings and still provides an enjoyable viewing experience. I even liked its use of 3-D, although those glasses are getting to be a pain.

Like the recent Thor, this comic book adaptation (credited to four writers, with a fifth getting co-story billing) splits its time between a distant planet, which is home to a highly-advanced civilization, and earth, where cocky fighter pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) has enough problems without being selected to join the interstellar Green Lantern Corps. Reynolds’ lighthearted persona enables the movie to explore what it’s like for a normal, flawed human being to become a superhero overnight and face a level of responsibility he’s always ducked. His love interest is fellow pilot—and aviation executive—Carol Ferris, played by Blake Lively, and the two leads make—

—a highly attractive couple.

Peter Sarsgaard dives wholeheartedly into the role of a nerdy scientist who is chosen to examine the corpse of the alien that came to earth to find a new Green Lantern. His exposure to the transparent body has grave consequences, however, turning him into a gruesomely misshapen and vengeful monster.

(He’s still small potatoes compared to the humongous creature named Parallax, who threatens to overtake every planet in his path.)

The principal problem with Green Lantern is that it has a surfeit of characters and subplots and not enough time to deal with them properly. Angela Bassett gets costar billing but has little more than a cameo role as a government agent. (There’s a brief hint of her former life that teases more than it explains.) Even Sarsgaard’s character seems underwritten. It turns out that he’s the son of a powerful senator, played by Tim Robbins, and has always been in love with Lively and jealous of Reynolds—which we learn later than we should.

But despite those caveats, the film offers a dazzling array of visual effects, a likable hero, a beautiful leading lady, a colorful villain, and a good backstory. It also doesn’t take itself too seriously. Green Lantern entertained me, and I can’t dismiss that because of its imperfections.


  1. Joseph Maxwell says:

    P.S. in response to other comments: @Leonard, If anything, Mr. Maltin was brave enough to stand out from the hordes of critics who were so easily swayed by other’s opinions. I’m glad to see at least the best real critics out there still have a mind of their own.

    btw, You would probably be happier commenting on where most of the posters just post in order to bring negativity. Sounds like you are a mass mob mind anyways who probably drools over Thor and Captain America just because they’re Marvel and in the line of Iron Man.

    I’ve heard and read too many positive GL movie going experiences to take people like you seriously in regards to Green Lantern.

    @Jim Reinecke: I respect your opinion, and thank you for not singling Green Lantern out as many have done. Your point is well taken that movies like Braveheart and A Few Good Men are far and few between.

    I just hope that you are consistent with your opinion, meaning you fairly lump The Dark Knight, Iron Man, The Revenge of the Sith, and all other fantasy, action movies in the same category as Green Lantern. Because, clearly, all these movies are of the same caliber and genre, and Green Lantern is right up there with the best of them.

    Some people just aren’t into action/fantasy movies though. I just wish those people would realize this before walking into movies like Green Lantern, if for nothing else, to keep less negativity from coming this film’s way.

  2. Joseph Maxwell says:

    Thank you, Mr. Maltin, for sharing an honest opinion of this movie. The onslaught of negativity has been a nightmare for myself and I’m sure many other Green Lantern fans. Especially since this movie is nowhere near deserving of this much scorn.

    I have seen it quite a few times, and I still enjoy it every time. I am ecstatic that we were given this movie, despite the horribly painful critical reception. I just hope WB can leap this hurdle and make enough money to create a well made sequel.

  3. Green Lantern Fan says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this film.

    However, I must agree with Mr. Maltin. The main problem with this motion picture is that there are far too many characters who just aren’t given enough backstory. I also found Sarsgaard’s portrayal of Hector Hammond to be a little too campy (he joins the ranks of Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow from Nolan’s Batman films). It’s a shame that both Campbell and Nolan’s movies take terrifying, horrific, comic book villains and reduce them to wimpy, sniveling, second banana weaklings.

    Here’s hoping a Director’s Cut or Extended Version of Green Lantern will be released eventually. I’ve heard that a number of scenes were eliminated from the theatrical version explaining crucial backstory and featuring a more cohesive narrative. It’s sad that a lot of critics blasted this film as it seems Martin Campbell was really trying to create a faithful movie adaptation of the Green Lantern mythos.

  4. hank says:

    kudos! on a fair review. yes it had a lot of faults.but my family and I still enjoyed it. and even though it could have been made better, i was still distrought at all the unreasonable bad reviews. i saw super 8 which got great reviews and i only stayed because i was in fear of being trampled by all the people leaving in the middle of the movie.

  5. Justin Campbell says:

    Leonard thank you,

    I have been a Green Lantern fan since I was six and I feel that you gave the movie an honest and fair review that I totally agree with.

  6. Benjamin says:

    Well….. hmmm…how can I say this nicely….

    Nope, can’t be done. This movie was nothing short of offensive to my brain, a cheesefest with plot holes like swiss.
    And Pete is correct; textbook case of a terrible script, from the narration at the beginning to the one-dimensional characters and horrible dialogue.

  7. skakidalex says:

    ok. I’ll admit that this movie wasn’t great. I love Green Lantern with a passion, especially Hal Jordan, and it was still not that great.

    I think this because this is the first movie. Since I heard this movie was coming out, I knew exactly what was going to happen in it because I’ve heard it over and over. If you watch Green Lantern: First Flight, it’s the same movie basically.

    So, you can’t say the movie is bad because of the story, you knew it was based off a comic book and if you ignored the source material that’s your fault. Also, the movie had to get out soo much information without making it 3 hours long.

    Now we basically know they’re making a sequel and I’m happy to let them and see what they do because all the stuff that needed to get out is out. If they can get their material together then maybe they’ll write something good and then maybe this movie will make a sense. Case and point, batman begins. I remember very few people loooving that movie, but it set up what is arguably the best movie ever.

    So, in conclusion: if they pick up and tie in all the subtle details about the story of the first movie, add a little depth to everything, touch on the perils and responsiblities of being a space cop and try to take an anthropoligical stand point to this, it might be interesting to see Hal Jordan dealing with common thugs in space, while trying to deal with Sinestro. It could be liek an arms race to sinestro, gaining men for his army and Hal could just be trying to control an escalating fire.

  8. BA Thompson says:


    Are there still sheep that actually base their movie choices on the opinions of critics?

  9. Bruce says:

    Lenoard I never thought you would sell out and give a good review to appease advertisers. I (and others) will no longer watch your show

  10. Rinaldo says:

    I’ve been looking forward to this one, as the Green Lantern comic books (I certainly wasn’t a faithful reader, but I would catch one now and again) were among the most intriguing series for me. The idea of a regular guy being singled out to fill a heroic role, with vaguely Messianic undertones (in one episode we got backstory about his bosses, and they seem to be the creators of the universe), and a boy-scoutish sense of responsibility, made it a little different from other superheroes.

  11. Darcy Anderson says:

    Thanks Leonard, for being one of the few critics to actually give GL a not so bad rating. It is an enjoyable film! My kids loved it. It was actually a movie I could take them to without shielding their eyes from blood, gore or racy scenes every 5 minutes. I got a thrill from my little boy waving his ring around the theatre as he watched it! Maybe the critics should look at a film like this from a kids perspective. It is ashame that the critics have probably ruined this one for a lot of kids, whose parents might have taken them to see it if the reviews hadn’t been so bad. I’ve watched and respected your reviews ever since i was a kid and saw you on ET every night!

  12. Don says:

    Was a great movie experience, reviving my faith in a film industry that can keep me entertained year round. The disconnect between audiences tastes and the majority of the critics I have read this year seems to hint at a smarter film industry that follows a path of successful entertaining movies rather then aloof opinions by obscure “fans?” critics.

    Thank you Mr. Maltin for a great review.

  13. Bob says:

    It’s great to see a superhero on the screen whose power is to create, not just to smash things and beat up the bad guys. It’s great to go to an action movie that isn’t a gorefest. And it’s great to go to a movie that’s just plain fun, without expecting a deep emotional experience. I enjoyed Green Lantern a lot, and hope I can anticipate a sequel. Leonard, thanks for being one of the few critics who weren’t too jaded to see what this film was all about. (Incidentally, I saw it in 2-D, and plan to go back again to enjoy the full 3-D experience.)

  14. Dan says:

    Who knew ? As a kid I always thought that comic books were better than the movies . The visuals on the comic page were always more intriguing , and while the plots were more outlandish, the power to make the impossible believable was far greater. While I notice most critics trashing GREEN LANTERN, it ‘s nice to see that movies are beginning to catch up.

  15. kelly says:

    It certainly has it’s flaws, but Green Lantern actually is a fun movie.

  16. Betty says:

    I like the fact that the movie points out it’s flaws. Such as the superman effect. Expecting people to not figure out who you are by a pair of glasses or tiny mask. It’s fun and not for the pretentious.

  17. Christopher Kaufman says:

    I would expect Leonard Maltin and Roger Ebert to be the two reviewers that would write the most reasonable and positive reviews of this movie. Their experience and confidence in their GUT feeling about a movie shines above other reviewers who only look to pick something apart. Because Leonard and Roger are absolutely correct. Even with the movies shortcomings it is absolutely beautiful and a lot of fun. JUST ENJOY IT. such a simple thing – !!

  18. deborah bauer says:

    Glad to know I was not alone in liking it. I had heard so much vitriol in the reviews prior to going to the screening, I did not
    expect to like it. Truthfully, though, I liked this 20% fresh (on Rotten Tomatoes) rated film, better than the 85% fresh
    “Super 8”, whose nostalgia I thought was contrived. Go figure.

  19. Pete says:

    Movie critic fail.

    This film is a textbook case of a terrible script.

  20. Jim Reinecke says:

    I’ll take your word for this one, Leonard, as I probably won’t see this one in theatres and (if I see it at all) will wait for the DVD. My only problem with this type of filmmaking is that this subject matter was once the domain of low-budget serials from Republic and Universal and now big bucks are lavished on this sort of kid stuff. I realize (being only six years your junior) that our generation, the one that always refused to grow old, actually never really grew up and have raised a new group that finds this type of bubble gum to be the epitome of movie making. (If I hear one more person under 25 tell me that “Transformers” is the greatest movie of all time I may wind up in an asylum for the criminally insane!) I know that the last word in “Show Business” is “business” and that this tripe appeals to a group with a large amount of disposable income, but just last week I finally got to see what I consider to be the best film of 2010 (“Never Let Me Go”) and the movie has kept haunting my thoughts ever since. If only Hollywood would shell out the money for films of this caliber (and their necessary publicity) we may have a much richer (in terms of quality) 21st century American cinema.

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