Comic-Con: First Look, Green Lantern

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It’s not every day that a Comic-Con film is chosen to grace the cover of Entertainment Weekly. So it was little surprise Saturday, when the crowds flooded Hall H to catch a glimpse of Green Lantern, which had been singled out by EW as the single biggest event of the 2010 festivities. (See EW’s exclusive gallery of celeb portraits from the EW lounge and video from their panels here.)

The panel, almost all Hollywood veterans, did their best to prove their street cred to the faithful. Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) has clearly studied up on his Green Lantern universe and mythology – going out of his way to cite as many side characters and comic subplots at possible – and Ryan Reynolds, while being frank about the fact that he didn’t know much about the comic when he first started chasing the role, seemed convincing in the way he said he’s found a passion for the character in the months since. In particular, he said he felt a kinship with the way that the ring humbles an arrogant Hal Jordan. Originally thinking he had the part in the can, Reynolds was surprised to learn that the studio expected him to screen-test and audition, unsure as to whether he was the ideal actor for the role. Reynolds said that humbling experience, being challenged to prove that he was up to the Lantern legacy, fit nicely with Hal’s attempts to respect and honor his newfound powers.

During the Q&A portion of the panel, Reynolds also proved he could swagger like a superhero when required. A young toddler stepped to the microphone to ask Reynolds to recite the Green Lantern oath. In dramatic fashion, to a hushed convention hall, Reynolds triumphantly leaned into the mic, and worked through the mantra. And the little boy’s awestruck reaction, broadcast on the big screen, followed by Reynolds signing a book to give the youngster, made for quite compelling theater.

When it came to the actual Green Lantern footage, a couple minutes that more closely resembled a music video, it was difficult to decipher much of anything. We never once saw Reynolds in his actual costume – a suit that is apparently still being perfected, as lines of musculature are added to the getup. Some of the initial fighting footage, as Hal first uses the power of the ring to defend himself against an attacker and then take flight above the city, looks quite believable and grounded in reality. I’m starting to appreciate more and more the way fantasy films, like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, take magical powers and give them a sense of heft and reality. When Reynolds hits a guy while wearing the ring, his adversary goes flying, in a very impressive and believable way.

What concerned me a little bit were the shots lathered in CG – particularly a shot that appears to be Hal Jordan looking out for the first time at the planet of Oa – or at least a fluorescent conduit through which he can travel to Oa. If you, like me, felt as if Iron Man 2 devolved into special effects meaninglessness near the end, it’s shots like this that are cause for concern. Listening to Campbell and Reynolds talk, it’s clear that the movie has gone to great lengths to recreate the planet, and the whole Green Lantern universe of characters. But I’m a little concerned that they went too far in this direction, running wild with the CG, while losing touch of the characters and the interpersonal dynamics.

After all, what good is the full cast of characters, and the full lineup of locales, if we never get to see them do anything interesting? Hopefully Green Lantern isn’t so focused in being comprehensive that it comes off cold.

But as I said, the two minutes of heavily edited footage we saw was barely enough to get a sense of anything. My analysis is as superficial as the panel discussion. Here’s hoping!

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