Imagine willpower given form by technology from beyond our world. Or willpower shaping technology made in the U.S.A. We’re starting a battle of wills between two fighters: one a hotshot test pilot turned intergalactic cop, the other a hotshot playboy industrialist turned superhero.
In the DC Comics universe, Green Lantern is one of the heavy hitters. He’s a man without fear, who uses an alien ring that transforms thought into reality by sheer force of will. So it only seems fitting that we pit him against Iron Man, the Marvel Comics version of Steve Jobs combined with Donald Trump. Iron Man is one man’s technology and ingenuity given form in the ultimate expression of man as machine.
This is a test of wills. And only one man will be victorious.
After enormous success with its Batman franchise and a decent outing from a reboot of Superman, DC Comics is doing something new and venturing away from its A-list heroes to… well, not B-list but maybe B+. Green Lantern is a staple of the DC Comics universe. He’s a member of the Justice League. And the numerous Green Lantern comics were at the center of last year’s crossover event, Blackest Night.
Ryan Reynolds stars as test pilot Hal Jordan, a man who encounters his destiny when an alien from the stars bestows on him a ring of immense power, capable of transforming thought into energy constructs as limitless as the imagination. The ring also marks Jordan as one of an elite peacekeeping force in the universe, a group known as the Green Lantern Corps.
Now Jordan must learn to conquer his fear and wield the power. A creature called Parallax, born of fear, has infested a human scientist and given him unearthly powers. But when Parallax turns its attention to destroying Earth, Hal must either enlist the help of the Green Lantern Corps or face the threat alone.
The Defending Champion
It’s hard to believe that just a few short years ago, Iron Man was considered a second-tier Marvel hero. Most people outside the comic book world didn’t know who he was. The truth is, Iron Man is as important to the Marvel universe as Thor, the Fantastic Four, or the Hulk. He’s one of the Avengers. And his movie helped spark the juggernaut of Marvel films leading to next year’s The Avengers.
In Iron Man, billionaire industrialist and weapons manufacturer Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is taken hostage while visiting troops over in the Middle East. Stark is mortally wounded, but he manages to live thanks to a device implanted in his chest by a fellow captive. Promising to help his captors build a weapon, he secretly devises a suit of armor to fight back. When he escapes, however, he discovers that his weapons may already be in the hands of the enemy.
Stark returns home a new man. Haunted by the realization that his technology is being used by terrorists, he takes his company in a new direction. Meanwhile, he begins using his Iron Man armor to balance the scales of war.
In comic books, there is a certain amount of cross over of ideas. If Marvel creates a king of an underwater civilization (Namor), DC Comics responds with Aquaman. When DC Comics created an archer, Green Arrow, Marvel responded with Hawkeye (whom we glimpsed in Thor, and will be featured in next summer’s The Avengers).
When I heard that Green Lantern was coming to the big screen I knew there was only one hero to match him. If Green Lantern is the DC Comics technology hero (albeit alien tech), his counterpart in the Marvel universe must be Iron Man.
There couldn’t be a better hero for the Information Age. Iron Man is the dot-com revolution come to life. But now we have a hero for the new energy revolution. Green Lantern is all about green energy. And we mean that literally.
He may not be as familiar to movie audiences as Batman or Superman, but the makers of Green Lantern take that into account by easing us into the origin story. Two origin stories, in fact. Not only do we see how Hal Jordan is enlisted into the Green Lantern Corps, we also learn how a creepy scientist named Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) becomes the villain of the film.
Now, Green Lantern purists may chaff at some of the changes made. For starters, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) isn’t just the head of Ferris Aircraft — her daddy’s company — she’s also a pilot, like Jordan. The scene with the dying alien Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) takes place at the sea side, instead of in a desert. But these are just details. The key points of the film are still there: Jordan’s recruitment into the Corps, his training at the hands of Sinestro (Mark Strong) and Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan), and the detached interest of the Guardians of Oa.
But all of this cosmic melodrama might be a bit too much for audiences who expect a simpler story of good guys fighting bad guys. To create a threat worthy of the Green Lantern Corps, the screenwriters delved into the darkest corner of the Lantern mythos. Parallax isn’t just a bad guy, its the catalyst for one of the greatest villains Hal Jordan will face. But that — apparently — will have to wait until the sequel.
The special effects in Green Lantern are top notch. I tend to prefer 2D, rather than spending the extra cash for the 3D or IMAX showings. But even in 2D, the film was technologically amazing. As someone who grew up watching Christopher Reeve as Superman, I am continually amazed when heroes appear to fly seamlessly. Green Lantern seemed to take it to a new level.
More importantly, the world of Oa, home of the Green Lanterns, is beautiful and grand in scope. The aliens, from Sinestro to Kilowog to Tomar-Re (voiced by Geoffrey Rush), are flawless. And there are plenty of cameos of other Lanterns from the comics. Fans will enjoy playing spot-the-Corps-member.
The effects in Iron Man are spot on. Iron Man’s armor (all three versions) are incredibly realistic. Perhaps one of the greatest feats of the film is making Stark’s transformation realistic by showing a number of robotic arms assisting him in putting on the armor. It’s much more realistic than pulling his armor out of a briefcase (as in the early comics).
For Downey Jr. it may not have been much of a stretch to play the womanizing drunkard Tony Stark. Everyone has commented that it seems like type casting, considering his past troubles with drugs. But seeing Downey on the screen it’s easy to look past the actor and see the character. He plays Tony with a flamboyant arrogance at times, but also with an almost reserved humility when warranted.
Casting Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane also surprised me. I never thought of Bridges as the heavy, chiefly because he was always the goofy hero in films of my youth. With his bald, bearded look, however, he becomes Stane. This is a wonderful transformation! Paired off against Downey Jr., Bridges is able to create some great tension in the story.
But where Iron Man really nails it is in attitude. It takes the superhero concept from the pages of a comic book and makes him into an action hero rock star.
Favreau tells a great superhero story very well. And his willingness to push the envelope on the special effects has made Iron Man a top-tier action film.
Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, The Mask of Zorro) crafts a good superhero origin story, but he fails to elevate the energy in Green Lantern to make it a great action film.
In this Smackdown, there can only be one winner. And though I’m a fan of the DC Comics, the winner is a Marvel hero: Iron Man.
Here’s our video trailer Smashup! between the Emerald Warrior and the Golden Avenger…