Every generation tends to have their own Green Lantern. In 1972, the late Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams created one of the most iconic Green Lanterns of all time: John Stewart. For several years since, he’s been a staple member of the Justice League and Green Lantern Corps. in comics and animated adaptations. Most notably, being chosen over the 90’s Green Lantern Kyle Rayner and Hal Jordan for the Justice League (2001-2004) cartoon series. For fans of color, Stewart still remains one of the most visible black heroes of all time, while opening the door for other strong representation like Jessica Cruz, Simon Baz, and Jo Mullein.
Lately, the Green Lantern brand has seen better days. After the 2011 box-office bomb Green Lantern, the character has been missing from live action television and film. There is no lack of Batman related content, but outside of a few animated appearances and Lantern related characters in CW or the DC Universe, Green Lantern needs a comeback.
Is This A Comeback Story?
In Green Lantern: Beware My Power, recently discharged Marine sniper John Stewart finds himself at a crossroads in his life, only complicated by receiving an alien ring that grants him the powers of Green Lantern of Earth.
Unfortunately, the ring doesn’t come with instructions, but it does come with baggage, like a horde of interplanetary assassins hell-bent on eliminating every Green Lantern in the universe. Now, with the help of the cheery Green Arrow, Adam Strange, and Hawkgirl, this reluctant soldier must journey into the heart of a galactic war between Rann and Thanagar. And somehow succeed where all other Green Lanterns have failed.
Using the same words described on John Stewart’s 1972 debut cover as a title, this new animated adventure attempts to reinterpret his origin story. In this version, John (played by Hawkman actor Aldis Hodge) is a reluctant Marine veteran drafted into another war he doesn’t understand. Consequently, the film revolves around explaining it to him. At first, the heart of the conflict seems to be his relationship with the ring mysteriously bonded to his hand. The Guardians call John into action for some unknown mission, he rejects the call, and tries to find a way to remove the ring. Aldis Hodge delivers a brooding performance as John, becoming less weary and more willing to lead as it goes on. I cannot explain how exciting it was to see John Stewart’s skills improve throughout the film and to confront his PTSD. If only the story was just about John reclaiming his power.
Beware My Subplots!
As the latest entry in the so-called “Tomorrowverse,” the film seems to believe it has a responsibility of setting up future films. In between the previous films, an entire Justice League formed. It’s members include Martian Manhunter, Vixen, and Green Arrow, in addition to the previously introduced Flash, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman. Even stranger, the Justice League also featured the Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. For story purposes, Hal Jordan is missing and feared to be dead. The film implies that Hal had experienced an entire career as a Green Lantern that we never saw on film, despite most of the other films being origin stories. Coincidentally, Alan Scott was also cut from the director’s earlier film Justice Society: World War II.
Green Arrow teams up with Stewart to find out what happened to his friend Hal. The pairing plays like a humorous ride-along, using Green Arrow to chaperone our new potential Green Lantern. Unfortunately, the film’s actual conflict centers on the war between the planets of Rann and Thanagar, the homes of two other major characters Adam Strange and Hawkgirl. Their war turns the main character into the third wheel in his own film. The more characters introduced, the more short changed every other character became.
In Darkest Night
The tone of the film is shockingly dark. It is also the Wizard of Oz in space. Stewart is Dorothy of course, attempting to get the ring off so he can return home. He is joined by the sometimes simple minded Green Arrow (Jimmi Simpson), the emotionless Hawkgirl (Jamie Gray Hyder), and the scarred Adam Strange (Brian Bloom). Each hero introduced is more depressing than the last, but make no mistake, “The Wizard” is the most tragic of them all. The actors have chemistry, but the characters are constantly at odds with one another. It comes off like a very uncomfortable road trip. There’s even a suicide scene in the middle of a warzone.
I Wasn’t EVEN Supposed To Be Here Today!
Out-of-control narrative aside, there are plenty of pretty interesting aspects to this film. One bright spot of the double-edged sword of its huge cast, is that we actually get a lot of cool fight scenes. There are genuinely fun and creative set pieces animated throughout the entire film. The Tomorrowverse’s house style gives some of the action sequences a somewhat anime look. We get heroes fighting heroes, heroes fighting villains, and space lasers teleporting their enemies into the sun! Additionally, DC’s classic sense of brutality actually ties into John Stewart’s character development.
This movie is a casual viewer’s nightmare; a film with infinite baggage it doesn’t give them the ability to unload. Most Batman films are new viewer friendly. You don’t need to see 45 Batman titles to understand Under The Red Hood. I love world-building, but you cannot overwhelm your viewers with too many concepts at once, especially at the mercy of the title character. Green Lantern desperately needs new fans, and what that comes with is needing a solid focus on the foundations. This film juggles so many other characters, when all we ever needed was a story about a man finding something to believe in again. I hope that if films like these do well, audiences can embrace Green Lantern with open arms. This wasn’t that film.
Disclaimer: Batman News was provided a copy of the film by Warner Bros. for the purpose of this review.