Game Corner [Crossover Crisis]: Injustice: Gods Among Us (Xbox 360)


In April of 1985, the first issue of the ground-breaking, twelve issue Crisis on Infinite Earths (Wolfman, et al, 1986) was published. This event, which was easily the biggest in DC Comics at that point (and for many years), saw the destruction of the “Multiverse”, an infinite number of parallel worlds, and the awkward establishing of one unified DC canon. Over the years, DC have returned to this concept again and again, retconning it, expanding upon it, and milking it to the point of excess but that doesn’t change how influential this massive crossover was. To celebrate this momentous event, I’ll be taking a look at multiversal crossovers every Wednesday in April in an event I’m calling “Crossover Crisis”.


Released: 16 April 2013
Developer: NetherRealm Studios
Also Available For: Arcade, Mobile, PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One and Xbox Series One X/S (Backwards Compatible), Wii U

The Background:
When it was first released, Mortal Kombat (Midway, 1992) was a phenomenal success for Midway because of its focus on gore and violence, and it offered some real competition for Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Capcom, 1991) in arcades and on home consoles. For a time, the series seemed unstoppable during the 2D era of gaming but struggled to find a footing in the emerging 3D fighter arena and Mortal Kombat seemed to be in jeopardy after Midway went bankrupt in 2010. The main reason for this was the poor reception of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe (Midway Games, 2008), the first collaboration between Midway’s Mortal Kombat and the DC Comics characters owned by Warner Bros. Interactive, which was hampered by age-related restrictions.

Mortal Kombat‘s 3D struggles culminated in a disastrous crossover with DC Comics.

Luckily, Warner Bros. Interactive stepped in and the team, now rebranded to NetherRealm Studios, immediately set about getting their violent franchise back on track; Mortal Kombat (NetherRealm Studios, 2011) was subsequently very well-received for its “back to basics” approach and, bolstered by the reboot’s success and eager to take advantage of the vast library of characters of their parent company, NetherRealm Studios sought to expand upon the game’s mechanics with a new, all-DC brawler. Although the game wasn’t as bloody and violent as its sister series, Injustice: Gods Among Us was a massive critical and commercial success that was followed up by not only a bunch of additional fighters and skins added as downloadable content (DLC) but also a sequel in 2017 and a critically-acclaimed comic book series.

The Plot:
In an alternate reality, Clark Kent/Superman has become a tyrant and established a new world order after the Joker tricked him into killing Lois Lane before destroying Metropolis with a nuclear bomb. In an effort to stop him, Bruce Wayne/Batman summons counterparts of the Justice League’s members from another universe to join his insurgency and end the totalitarian regime that threatens to subjugate the entire world.

Gameplay:
Just like Mortal Kombat, Injustice: Gods Among Us is a 2.5D fighting game; however, this time you’re able to select one of twenty-four characters from the DC Universe and battle it out in the game’s single-player story mode, one-on-one against another player or computer-controlled opponent (both on- and offline), tackle numerous arcade-style ladders, or take on character-specific missions in Scientific and Technological Advanced Research Laboratories (S.T.A.R. Labs) training scenarios. Just as you’d expect from a Mortal Kombat videogame, Injustice’s fights take place in a best-of-three format (although there are no longer announcements or screen text between each round) and against a time limit, though you can alter these settings (and many others, such as the game’s difficulty) to your heart’s desire in the game’s options to suit your playstyle.

Attack with strikes, grapples, and combos to pummel a number of DC’s most recognisable characters.

If you’ve played the Mortal Kombat reboot then you’ll be immediately familiar with this game’s fighting mechanics and controls, although there are subtle differences: X, Y, and A are assigned to light, medium, and heavy strikes, for example, and may be either punches, kicks, or weapon-based melee attacks depending on which character you’re playing as. You can still grapple and throw your opponent with the Left Bumper (or X and Y and a directional input), dash towards or away from the opponent with a double tap of the directional pad (D-Pad), but now you must hold back on the D-Pad while standing or crouching to block, which can make blocking a bit trickier as sometimes you’ll simply walk or dash backwards when trying to block. If your opponent is crouch-blocking, you can land an attack by pressing towards and A for an Overhead Attack, and string together light, medium, and heavy attacks with directional inputs and your various special moves to pull off quick and easy combos. As is the standard for NetherRealm Studios’ releases these days, you can practise the game’s controls and mechanics as often as you like and take part in a very user-friendly tutorial to learn the basics of the game’s simple, but increasingly complex, fighting mechanics. You can also view your character’s moves, combos, special attacks, and “Character Power” from the pause menu at any time, allowing you to also see a range of information (such as where and how to pull of certain moves, the damage they inflict, and frame data).

Utilise Character Powers and the always-annoying Clash Breakers to whittle down your foe.

Each character has a range of special attacks that are unique to them; these mostly consist of certain projectiles or grapples and strikes but can also include various buffs for your character or to slow down your opponent. Each character also has a specific Character Power that is performed by pressing B; this sees Batman summon and attack with a swarm of bats, Oliver Queen/Green Arrow fire different trick arrows at his opponent, Doctor Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn gain various random buffs, and allows characters like Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and Rachel Roth/Raven to switch between different fighting styles and thus access different special attacks. While some Character Powers have a cool-down period, others don’t, but they can also be detrimental to you; for example, Slade Wilson/Deathstroke can briefly give his shots perfect aim but, once the Character Power is expended, he’ll miss every shot until it refills. Another new addition to the game is the annoying “Wager” system; when the Super Meter is filled up by two bars, you can press towards and RT when blocking an attack to play a quick mini game where you and your opponent select how much of your Super Meter to gamble. If you win, you’ll regain some health; if you lose, the opponent regains health; and if you tie then you both lose. Personally, if find these “Clash Breakers” even more annoying than the usual “Breakers” seen in the modern Mortal Kombat games as I never win them and they generally just unnecessarily prolong a fight (and, even worse, there’s no option to turn them off).

Different characters attack and interact in different ways according to their strengths.

In a bridge between the differing character movesets of Mortal Kombat and the “Variation” mechanic seen in Mortal Kombat X (NetherRealm Studios, 2013), Injustice features a limited “Class” system whereby characters are split into two camps: Gadget- or Power-class characters. Gadget characters are generally smaller, faster, and rely on various tricks and weapons in fights while Power-class characters are typically bigger, often slower, and rely more on brute strength. One of the main ways you’ll notice the difference between playing as, say, Barry Allen/The Flash and Cyrus Gold/Solomon Grundy is that they interact with the game’s fighting stages in different ways. As in Mortal Kombat X, you can press the Right Bumper when indicated to use (or attack your opponent with) various environmental hazards, such as firing missiles at them or knocking them into the background. But, whereas Superman will wrench a car out of the air and slam it on his opponent, someone like Dick Grayson/Nightwing will rig the same car to explode or somersault off the environment to get behind their foe rather than try to crush them with a wall.

In addition to powerful Super moves, you can bash your foe into new areas using stage transitions.

As you might naturally expect, there are no Fatalities or gruesome finishing moves in Injustice (not even “Heroic Brutalities”). However, when your Super Meter is full, you can still press LT and RT together to pull off a devastating Super Move; while you won’t see bones breaking and organs shattering like in Mortal Kombat’s X-Ray Moves, it’s still pretty fun to see Hal Jordan/Green Lantern transport his opponent to Oa to pummel them with his constructs, Ares shower his foe with arrows and stamp on them while grown to gigantic proportions, Arthur Curry/Aquaman force his enemy into the jaws of a ferocious shark, and Bane demolish his opposition with a series of throws and grapples, culminating in his iconic backbreaker. Another way the game separates itself from Mortal Kombat is stage transitions; when near the far edge of certain stages, you can hold back and A to wallop your opponent through the wall or off into the background where they’ll be smashed up, down, or across to an entirely new area of the stage which often allows more stage interactions and new stage transitions available for your use.

The story involves multiverse shenanigans against corrupted heroes and features some QTEs.

You might wonder exactly how someone like Louise Lincoln/Killer Frost can survive being blasting through the brick walls of Wayne Manor or go toe-to-toe with the likes of Doomsday but the game’s entertaining story mode explains that, on this alternative world, the tyrant-like Superman has developed special pills that bestow superhuman strength and dexterity to his generals. As is also the standard in NetherRealm’s titles, the story mode is broken down into twelve character-specific chapters, which is again a great way to experience a wide variety of the game’s roster (though Batman does feature as a playable character in two chapters, which seems a bit lazy). You can replay any chapter and fight you’ve cleared at any time, which is great, and skip through the cutscenes after they’ve loaded a bit, and the story mode isn’t all constant fighting either as you’re asked to pull off a handful of quick-time events (QTEs) at various points, such as blasting cars with Superman’s heat vision. The story is a fairly standard multiverse tale of the main canon heroes fighting against their corrupted or misled counterparts but it’s pretty fun and easy to blast through in no time at all.

Fight to earn XP and level-up, unlock additional perks and modes, and take on a series of challenges.

Every time you win a fight, you’ll earn experience points (XP) that will eventually level-up your character profile. This, and performing a certain number of specific attacks, playing through the story mode, and tackling the game’s other modes and mechanics, unlocks icons and backgrounds for your profile card as well as additional skins in certain circumstances. You’ll also be awarded “Armour Keys” and “Access Cards” to spend in the “Archives”, which allows you to unlock concept art, music, more skins, and certain boosts that will increase how much XP you earn, to name just one example. Like in Mortal Kombat, you can also take on ten opponents in arcade ladders in the “Battle” mode; these range from the basic tournament-style ladder to specific challenges against heroes, villains, or battling while poisoned, injured, or with certain buffs (such as a constantly full Super Meter or health falling from the sky). We’d see a similar system be incorporated into the “Towers” modes in later Mortal Kombat games and similar scenarios exist here, such as a survival mode, battling two opponents, or being forced to fight against the computer set to the hardest difficulty.

Graphics and Sound:
Like its violent sister-series, Injustice looks fantastic; there’s almost no difference between the high-quality story mode cutscenes and the in-fight graphics (which, again, makes it all the more frustrating that NetherRealm Studios insist on having character’s endings represented by partially-animated artwork and voiceovers), though it has to be said that the graphics are much more palatable when in a violent fight. I say this purely because I am not a big fan of some of Injustice’s character designs: The Flash looks a bit too “busy”, for example, and Batman’s suit (and cowl, especially) look really janky to me, though I love the representation of Green Lantern and Thaal Sinestro.

In addition to various intros, outros, and Wager dialogue, characters also take on battle damage.

Each character gets a nice little fitting intro and outro for each fight and, between rounds, will perform and quip a variety of taunts to the opponent. In a nice little touch, different character skins get different intros and outros; when playing as the evil Superman, for example, he enters and exits the fight differently to his more heroic counterpart. When playing as different skins, like John Stewart or Hank Henshaw/Cyborg Superman, you’ll also be treated to slightly different dialogue and animations, which is a much-appreciated touch on the developer’s part. Although there aren’t any character-specific interactions in the intros, there are during the Wager cutscenes and, even better, both characters and the arenas will accrue battle damage as the fight progresses! This means that you’ll not only see Selina Kyle/Catwoman’s cat suit rip and her skin be blemished by bruises and blood but arenas will degenerate or change around you the more damage you dish out, which can also allow different intractable options to become available to you.

Stages include a range of recognisable DC locations and take damage as you fight.

Speaking of the stages, Injustice really goes above and beyond to make the best use of the DC license; while it’s a little disappointing to see Arkham Asylum and Wayne Manor feature twice in the game, they are made distinctive by having Joker-ised and night-time variants, respectively (and also being clearly modelled after, and featuring cameos by, the Batman: Arkham (Rocksteady Studios/Various, 2009 to 2015) videogames and villains). Additionally, the use of stage transitions really helps to add a whole new dimension to combat, with some stages featuring more than others (or even none at all), to help ensure that every fight can be a little different. Stages also feature a bevy of other little cameos and DC references, such as the Fortress of Solitude being clearly modelled after Superman (Donner, 1978) while also featuring a portal to the Phantom Zone and a cameo from Starro the Conqueror. Similarly, J’onn J’onnz/Martian Manhunter floats in the background of the Watchtower space station, Floyd Lawton/Deadshot is just hanging out at Stryker’s prison, and Amazons are preparing a boat to launch on Themyscira. Every single stage has a number of intractable elements and changes as you fight, cause damage, or smash foes around, with Gotham City being my favourite as you can battle on the roof with the Bat-Signal and then down to the grimy streets below and then blast your foe back up to the roof using a nearby truck!

Enemies and Bosses:
Injustice helpfully separates its character-selection screen into heroes (on the left) and villains (on the right) but, despite their different alignments (and that their loyalties change due to the multiverse shenanigans of the story), every single one of them will be an enemy of yours at some point as you play through the story, Battles, S.T.A.R. Labs missions, and on- or offline. Consequently, it’s worth keeping track of which character suits your playstyle as some have easier combos and special moves to pull off compared to others, or more useful Super Moves and Character Powers.

Play as, and against, the game’s characters to learn their strengths, weaknesses, and skills.

Additionally, the Class system should also be factored in; Lex Luthor, Doomsday, and Solomon Gundy may be powerful and capable of gaining armour to tank through attacks but they’re also a lot slower on their feet and with their jumps. Superman and Shiera Hall/Hawkgirl are much faster Power-class characters but can also have their own drawbacks at times depending on your playstyle (Superman’s Character Power, for example, simply powers up his attacks rather than being a more offensive move like, say, Areas being able to conjure massive magical weapons). Personally, I tend to lean more towards Gadget-based characters, like Nightwing (who can switch between using quick batons or a longer bo staff to attack) or Green Arrow (whose arrows and bow allow for both ranged attacks and blindingly fast melee attacks).

Take on the corrupted Superman and banish him to the Phantom Zone for his crimes!

Unlike Mortal Kombat, Injustice doesn’t really feature any secret or hidden fights or unplayable sub-bosses or boss characters; the story mode and basic arcade ladder culminates in a battle against the corrupted Superman that is a far fairer and more competitive fight compared to the finales of NetherRealm’s recent Mortal Kombat games. While Superman is definitely a bit more of an aggressive foe, even on the game’s easiest difficulty, he doesn’t gain inexplicable armour, can be stunned, and doesn’t deal ungodly amounts of damage or spam his attacks like a cheap bitch. Additionally, he doesn’t transform into some monstrous final form and, instead, the final battle is a far better use of the skills you’ve built up through regular gameplay rather than forcing you to resort to cheap tactics and tricks.

Power-Ups and Bonuses:
Because it lacks a “Test Your Luck” mode and “Kombat Kodes” for multiplayer fights, there aren’t really any in-game power-ups available to you outside of the various status effects seen in the Battle mode. As before, though, some characters can gain in-game buffs with their special attacks and Character Powers: Lex Luthor, for example, can erect a shield, Doomsday can cover himself in impenetrable armour for a brief period, and Solomon Grundy slows time down and drains his opponent’s health with his swamp gas. However, you’ll earn yourself additional XP if you mix up your fighting style and take advantage of stage interactions and transitions, which will allow you to unlock further customisation options for your profile card, and you can also earn additional skins and rewards by playing and linking up to the mobile version of the game.

Additional Features:
There are fifty Achievements up for grabs in Injustice, with three of which being directly tied to the story mode (50- and 100% completion and succeeding at all of the QTE mini games). Others are tied to the game’s online modes, levelling-up to specific levels, customising your profile card, and finishing Classic Battle with one (and every) character. There are also some character-specific Achievements on offer, including performing every character’s Super Move or a ten-hit combat and winning a fight using only arrows as Green Arrow, or landing at least twelve shots without missing as Deathstroke. Batman is the only character to have two specific Achievements tied to him, though, as you’ll get some G for winning a match using all of his special moves and his Super Moves and for defeating every villain as him.

Injustice included some surprising DLC fighters; even Scorpion showed up!

Another standard of NetherRealm Studios is their addition of further skins and characters through DLC; you can get skins to play as John Stewart, Cyborg Superman, and the Flashpoint (Johns, et al, 2011) Batman, among others, and they’re all easily applicable when selecting a character (no need for extraneous “Gear” here). While the game’s DLC characters have no additional Achievements tied to them, Injustice included some fun and interesting extra fighters; Lobo, General Dru-Zod (who also sports his Man of Steel (Snyder, 2013) look as a skin), Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Zatanna Zatara, and the Martian Manhunter were all great choices to add to the roster and it was nice to see NetherRealm Studios exercise a little restraint and not overload the DLC with additional Batman characters. By far the most exciting DLC fighter was the inclusion of Scorpion, who sports a Jim Lee redesign and began a trend of DC and Mortal Kombat characters appearing in each other’s games.

Take your fight online or complete a series of increasingly tricky S.T.AR. Labs challenges.

When you’ve had enough of the story mode and regular battle options, you can take the fight online in a series of matches; here; you can participate in ranked and unranked fights and “King of the Hill” tournaments where you watch other players fight until it’s your turn and bet on who’s going to win. The S.T.A.R. Labs missions will also keep us offline, solo players occupied for some time; these are expanded upon when you download the DLC fighters, which is much appreciated and, similar to Mortal Kombat’s “Challenge Tower” mode, basically serve as extended tutorials for each of the game’s characters. You’ll take on ten character-specific missions, with each one getting a little bit of text and maybe a picture to set the context of the mission, and these range from performing certain combos or attacks, winning fights, or completing tricky challenges (such as guiding Catwoman’s cat through laser trip wires, avoiding damage or debris, or racing against Superman).

The Summary:
Injustice: Gods Among Us is a far better marriage of Mortal Kombat and DC Comics than Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe and a fantastic expansion of the gameplay mechanics and features NetherRealm Studios revitalised their violent fighting game series with in Mortal Kombat (2009). While Injustice is obviously not as gory or violent as its sister-series, that doesn’t make it any less fun and it’s still a very brutal fighter; the Super Moves, especially, and certain character’s outros (such as the Joker’s) are definitely in the Mortal Kombat mould. With gorgeous in-game graphics, a fantastic amount of variety thanks to all of the character’s different special attacks and gameplay mechanics and the stage transitions, and a simple to learn, easy to master fighting system, Injustice is an extremely enjoyable game for anyone who’s a fan of either franchise or fighting games in general. The story is a breeze to get through (thought it is essentially every basic multiverse story ever told in comics) and nicely varied with some QTE sequences; the S.T.A.R. Labs missions and different arcade ladders are much more enjoyable and challenging than in its sister-series and there are plenty of character options, variety, and unlockables to keep you busy. Best of all, the game isn’t bogged down by endless grinding to unlock Gear, skins, or other perks and is a much more user-friendly and accessible fighting game, and overall experience, than its sequel.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Great Stuff

Were you a fan of Injustice: Gods Among Us? What did you think to it as a blend of Mortal Kombat and DC Comics? What were your thoughts on the game’s story and its depiction of a parallel world terrorised by a corrupted Superman? Which of the game’s fighters was your favourite and why? Did you buy the base game and all the DLC packs separately or did you pick up the Ultimate Edition when it released later? What did you think to the additional DLC characters and skins? Were there any characters or features missing from the game for you? Which DC Comics videogame, movie, comic, or other piece of media is your favourite? Are you a fan of multiverse stories and crossovers? Whatever you think about Injustice, leave a comment down below and be sure to check back in next Wednesday for more Crossover Crisis content!

Talking Movies [Brightest Day]: Green Lantern: Extended Cut


In 2014, the 2nd of February was dubbed “Green Lantern Day” because, by the American calendar, the date read as “2814”, the sector of space assigned to Earth in DC Comics. While the significance of this date has passed as the years have changed, it seems like a great excuse to celebrate DC Comics’ green-garbed intergalactic police corps but, sadly, the date clashes with another important anniversary so, this year, I’m switching it to today, the 2nd of August, instead since this would have been 2/8/14 back then as well.


Talking Movies

Released: 14 October 2011
Originally Released: 17 June 2011
Director: Martin Campbell
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Budget: $200 million
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong, Peter Sarsgaard, and Clancy Brown

The Plot:
When test pilot Hal Jordan (Reynolds) is bequeathed a powerful ring that can make his thoughts reality, he becomes a member of the Green Lantern Corps, a vast organisation of intergalactic lawmen. However, Hal’s will is tested when Parallax (Brown), a malevolent entity and the embodiment of fear, is awakened and threatens the safety of not just Earth but the entire universe!

The Background:
The Green Lantern character first appeared in All-American Publications’ (a precursor of DC Comics) All-American Comics #16 in July 1940. Then, the pseudonym was the alter-ego of Alan Scott but, in 1959, DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz enlisted writer John Broome and artist Gil Kane to reinvent the character as Hal Jordan and, in the process, create countless other Green Lanterns in the establishment of an intergalactic police force. Production of a live-action adaptation of the character can be traced back to 1997 and, at one point, Jack Black was set to start in what sounds like would have been an absolutely dreadful action/comedy take on the character.

Green Lantern hasn’t had the best history when it comes to live-action adaptations…

With the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) impressing at the box office with its first phase of movies, Warner Bros. made significant strides towards a Green Lantern film with a script heavily influenced by the seminal “Secret Origin” (Johns, et al, 2008) story arc, and director Martin Campbell and star Ryan Reynolds locked in to bring to life the daunting, effects-heavy superhero sci-fi. Unfortunately, Green Lantern proved to be a critical and commercial failure; the movie made just under $220 million at the box office and reviews were scathing, scuppering Warner’s hopes for a sequel and delaying the start of their own cinematic universe. As much as I am a fan of Reynolds, I can’t say that I was too impressed with how much he has bad-mouthed this film (which really isn’t as bad as people think) in the years since its release, especially after he was well into honouring the legacy and influence of the role during production.

The Review:
When we’re first introduced to Hal in the modern day, he’s a far cry from the straight-laced, serious space cop of the comic books; perhaps thanks to having Reynolds in the role, Hal is a womanising, snarky, and arrogant test pilot who drives a muscle car, frequently shows up late to work, and generally shirks responsibility at every opportunity. The only time he takes any situation serious is when he’s sat in a cockpit, where he’s all business and undeniably the best test pilot on the Ferris payroll but his attitude leaves a lot to be desired. It’s interesting that the filmmakers chose to make these changes and portray Hal as a far more immature and flawed character; it works for his overall story arc as he has to grow into his role as a superhero and learn the usual, cliché lessons about responsibility and duty and gives Hal a snarky edge that makes for the film’s more comedic moments but it’s difficult to believe that this version of Hall will ever grow into the Corps’ most revered soldier.

Hal’s cavalier attitude makes him a great test pilot but causes friction with those around him.

Hal’s attitude stems, largely, from the trauma of experiencing the death of his father, Martin (Jon Tenney), who died during a test flight right before Hal’s eyes when Hal was just a kid. Having witnessed the most distressing and harrowing event possible, Hal has grown up entirely fearless; he never worries about his safety, takes unnecessary risks, doesn’t let anything or anyone get to him, and doesn’t believe in a no-win situation. This, naturally, doesn’t sit well with his friends, family, co-workers, or superiors, who all believe that Hal has a death wish and is being unreasonably irresponsible with his life. Despite this, he has a close relationship with his nephew, Jason (Dylan James), and there are clearly unresolved issues between him and childhood friend, co-pilot, and boss Carol Ferris (Lively).

Carol believes in and is attracted to Hal but cannot sanction his lackadaisical attitude.

Hal believes that Carol has lost her way somewhat since she has, largely, traded the cockpit for a desk, though Carol asserts that she’s simply grown up and accepted her responsibilities. She cares for Hal and is clearly still attracted to him but despairs of his lackadaisical and cavalier attitude; she just wants him to grow up a bit and to be responsible for once in his life rather than coasting along on his admittedly impressive abilities. In a refreshing change of pace, she immediately sees through his rudimentary disguise as Green Lantern (even comment on the ridiculousness of such an ineffective mask) and accepts and supports his newfound superhero life. Indeed, she urges him that the power and responsibility of the ring isn’t something that he can just walk away from and encourages him to actually try and live up to his potential for a change. Far more than just an achingly gorgeous face, Carol actually helps Hal out when Parallax comes to Earth and isn’t afraid to speak her mind, making her more than a match for his trademark snark.

Hal is subjected to harsh training and criticism from the likes of Sinestro.

However, while Hal describes himself as a “screw up” and even his friend, Thomas Kalmaku (Taika Waititi) believes him to be an asshole, he doesn’t hesitate to pull Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) from his crashed spacecraft, does everything he can to keep him alive, and is genuinely distraught when Abin dies in his arms (he even takes the time to bury Abin’s body after he dies). Confused and overwhelmed at the alien and the strange ring now in his possession, Hal is equally blown away when the ring transports him to Oa and garbs him in the uniform of the Green Lantern Corps; however, Hal adjusts to these alien sights and concepts with an awe-struck bewilderment and struggles to come to grips with his ring’s capabilities and the focusing of his willpower. On Oa, Hal is greeted by Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush), who introduces him to the planet and briefs him on the basics of the Green Lantern Corps. Hal’s training is very much a crash course and, honestly, should have taken up a greater deal of the film’s focus and screen time as Hal is put through a tough and uncompromising boot camp at the hands of Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan). Almost immediately, before Hal even has a chance to master the basics of ring-slinging, Thaal Sinestro (Strong) interrupts to put Hal through his paces; a being of immense pride and a much-respected member of the Corps, Sinestro was Abin’s friend and former protégé and regards Hal as a disappointment to his mentor’s legacy. Sinestro’s opinion is only fuelled by the fact that Hal is (somehow…) the first ever human being to become a Green Lantern but, truthfully, his focus and mentality comes more from his overwhelming militant mindset. Sinestro believes, to his very core, in the power and authority of the Guardians and the Corps and devotes himself entirely to their cause, rallying his fellow Green Lanterns in a unified, if futile, effort to oppose Parallax and maintain the sanctity of their intergalactic police force.

Hector, already a troubled scientist, is driven to maniacal insanity by Parallax’s influence.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Hal also faces significant threats at home in the form of his childhood friend Doctor Hector Hammond (Sarsgaard); sadly, Hector isn’t that threatening or impressive as a villain and is more like a quirky, disassociated, unhinged child in a man’s body. Hector resents Hal’s cocky attitude, rugged good looks, and relationship with Carol, harbours unrequited feelings of his own for Carol, and is constantly trying to please his father, Robert (Tim Robbins), a United States senator who Hector feels is constantly disappointed and embarrassed by him. Hector believes his genius and ability are finally being acknowledged when he is hand-picked by Doctor Amanda Waller (Angela Bassett) to perform the autopsy on Abin’s body and is enraged when he finds out that his father arranged it; having been possessed by exposure to Parallax’s yellow fear energy, Hammond slowly develops mental abilities and degenerates into a hideous, hunchback like creature, his inner bitterness and ugliness reflected in his warped and transformed exterior. However, given the larger threat of Parallax and the fact that we briefly see how big and limitless the universe is, Hector isn’t much of a threat and is easily bested by Hal with the simplest of deceptions.

Rather than a giant space bug, Parallax is a massive, fear-inducing cloud.

Not that Parallax himself fairs much better; rather than the giant, intergalactic space bug and the embodiment of fear, Parallax is, instead, a fallen Guardian as the filmmakers merged elements of Parallax and the dark Guardian Krona (which, to be fair, I feel does work in the context of the film and simplifies the story somewhat). Sadly, because the Guardians look so damn goofy, Parallax doesn’t look all that intimidating and just appears to be a big, angry-looking, cartoony head and that’s when we can actually see him since, for the most part, he takes the form of an ethereal, destructive cloud and, if there’s anything experience has told us, it’s that clouds are never scary or intimidating.

The Nitty-Gritty:
The extended version of the film only adds about ten minutes to the film’s run time but the majority of this is used to further develop Hal’s childhood and his relationship with his friends and family. Indeed, the extended version includes an entirely new opening sequence that shows more of Hal, Carol, and Hector’s childhood and the bond between Hal and his father, and his nephew. It’s not much extra footage but it does help to flesh Hal’s character out a little bit more and to build up an understanding of why he is the way he is.

Green Lantern‘s abundance of CGI makes the film resemble a cartoon more often than not.

Of course, one of the major problems with Green Lantern is the quality of the special effects; given the concept is quite unique and necessitates a great deal of work to render not just the Green Lantern’s constructs but also the various worlds and aliens that make up the Green Lantern Corps, and the universe, a great deal of special effects are necessary for a film such as this. Unfortunately, many of the film’s CGI just doesn’t work and is flawed; Parallax and the Guardians, especially, look pretty terrible, to say nothing of Kilowog, Tomar-Re, and, yes, the Green Lantern suits themselves. Personally, I think the idea to render them full in CGI was a really good idea (…on paper) given their otherworldly make up and the fact that they’re generated from the ring and the problem isn’t so much that the suits don’t look good (though they, like a lot of the CGI, do appear disturbingly cartoony) it’s that Hal’s mask looks so damn goofy.

It’s a shame the film didn’t employ a greater use of practical and traditional special effects.

This is a shame because Green Lantern does a pretty decent job at adapting the concept and bringing to life such an abstract and near-limitless superhero. As I mentioned, the idea of the suit works really well and Oa, especially, looks pretty good; however, while I like that it’s teeming with life and various alien races, it’s very…busy and kind of looks like a mess of conflicting colours and dodgy CGI. Such shots are contrasted by how good the film’s more practical effects are; the scene where Hal and Carol out-pace automated aircraft is an exhilarating sequence and the make-up effects used to bring Sinestro and Abin Sur to life are top-notch (hell, even Hector looks suitably horrific when he mutates into little more than a hunchbacked man-monster). It’s almost as if the filmmakers should have veered more towards practical effects, maybe even employing the use of traditional puppets and animatronics for the Guardians and Kilowog, and use the CGI sparingly rather than rendering 90% of the film in a mess of computer effects.

Hal eventually comes to accept the responsibility of the ring and grows into his heroic role.

A central theme of the film is Hal’s inability to live up to the expectations placed upon him and to accept responsibility. On Earth, this makes him a highly skilled but unreliable test pilot; when on Oa, it leads to him walking away from the Green Lantern Corps after what feels like maybe an hour, tops, of training. He takes Sinestro’s criticisms regarding him (and the human race) to heart and uses his condemnation as the perfect excuse to reject the destiny placed upon him by Abin Sur; however, for some reason, he is allowed to retain possession of the ring and, reluctantly, becomes a superhero back on Earth. This is directly paralleled with Hector’s own arc as he struggles to live up to his father’s expectations and gives in to the hate, fear, and power of Parallax’s influence; fuelled by his negative emotions, he forces Hal into acting with the ring’s power and, thus, into a heroic role that he, eventually, willingly assumes in order to defend the Earth from Parallax.

Despite Hal’s victory, Sinestro switches to the yellow ring for an unresolved cliffhanger.

Parallax, while an unimposing and disappointing villain compared to both his comic book counterpart and other villains of superhero films, is certainly built up to be an intimidating threat. His ability to induce fear and then suck the life out of his victims is certainly unique and his power only grows as he absorbs the lifeforce of others. While the Green Lanterns are notoriously supposed to be entirely without fear, it’s clear that the Guardians fear Parallax’s power; indeed, they are reluctant to send their corps against Parallax out of fear for their lives and they only divulge Parallax’s true origins to Sinestro after he pleads with them for the knowledge to oppose his power. While Sinestro comes to believe that the only way to defeat Parallax is with fear itself (forging a yellow ring in the process), he eventually saves Hal after his battle and defeat of the creature in the finale and, despite having witnessed that the green light of willpower is powerful enough to overcome even the embodiment of fear, decides to switch to a yellow power ring in, perhaps, one of the most tantalising mid-credits scenes in all of cinema.

The Summary:
Green Lantern is a perfectly fine and action-packed science-fiction spectacle; it’s full of humour and big special effects and has a really strong cast, with Mark Strong, especially, standing out as a perfect choice for Hal’s mentor and rival, Sinestro. I think the main problem with Green Lantern, though, is that it isn’t really sure what it wants to be; it’s not a sci-fi epic as a disappointing amount of the film is set on Earth, and the time spent on Earth is nowhere near as interesting as the potential of space and the Green Lantern Corps. When I saw Green Lantern, it was a month or so after seeing Thor (Branagh, 2011), a film that did a much better job of balancing its cosmic, otherworldly elements in a grounded and relatable way and I think that’s the problem with Green Lantern: it’s too confused about its disparate elements and I can’t help but feel a more elaborate approach in the vein of Guardians of the Galaxy (Gunn, 2014) and Serenity (Whedon, 2005) would be a far more fitting direction if we ever see the Green Lantern Corps in live-action again. Personally, though, it’s not as bad as people make it out to be and there’s plenty here that’s worth keeping around (Mark Strong, for one) and it really wouldn’t have taken much to fold this film into the existing DC Extended Universe at one point but, ultimately, it’s just a shame that we never got a sequel to improve upon the film’s high (and low) points and that the film failed to properly live up to the potential of the concept.

My Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pretty Good

What did you think to Green Lantern? Were you a fan of the movie when it first released or did you warm to it over time? What did you think to Reynolds in the title role and who would you prefer to see take up the mantle at some point? Were you a fan of the film’s overuse of CGI? What did you think to the animated suit and depiction of Parallax? Would you have liked to see where a sequel would have taken the story or do you think a full reboot is the way to go? Which Green Lantern character, villain, or story is your favourite and why? How are you celebrating this pseudo-Green Lantern day today? Whatever you think about Green Lantern, and the Green Lantern comics books, feel free to leave a comment below.