BOTTOM LINE: Green Lantern’s light is almost nonexistent in this lifeless comic book adaptation.
Another summer, another string of superhero movies. With Thor and X-Men: First Class already out of the way, we move on to the only DC Entertainment offering this year: Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern.
With the exception of Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise, DC has yet to show the potential Marvel Entertainment has shown in its line of comic book adaptations. Sadly, after an aggressive publicity push by Warner Bros., it turns out Green Lantern is nothing more than one more disappointing addition to the DC film library.
Ryan Reynolds plays Hal Jordon, a reckless pilot still trying to fill his late father’s shoes. He’s still hopelessly in love with his straight-laced wingman, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), but she wants nothing to do with him having learned from their first failed attempt at a relationship. Then one day Hal is plucked off the street and flown to a nearby beach, where he finds Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), a dying purple alien. Abin Sur gives Hal a mysterious green ring, insisting that the ring chose him to be its next bearer, before he dies.
Meanwhile, on some faraway planet, a group of alien protectors named the Green Lantern Corps have gathered to discuss the enemy that killed Abin Sur and now threatens their universe. This monster, named Parallax, is a throbbing mass of pure fear, the one source of energy that can defeat willpower. Enter Hal, who must now join the Green Lantern Corps in protecting the entire galaxy. He initially wants nothing to do with the other Green Lanterns, but when his own planet comes under the threat of Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a scientist turned mad after being exposed to Parallax, he has no choice but to curb his fear and embrace his inner superhero.
There are so many problems with Green Lantern that it’s hard to find a place to start. From the very first line (some variation of “A billion years ago on some faraway planet…”), the film is doomed to fall victim to inflated exposition, and fall victim it does. Characters spend almost all of the film explaining the world, the backstory, the ring, their plan of action, etc. and almost none of it actually acting on what they describe. It’s not surprising, given the amount of material contained in the Green Lantern universe, but talented filmmakers (see Nolan, Bryan Singer, and Jon Favreau) are disciplined enough to know when to trim the fat for the story’s sake.
For a superhero movie, Green Lantern is far too heavy-footed to gain the momentum it needs to take flight like its hero. Instead, the writers play it safe, never aspiring to push the limits of their imagination. The script is painfully bad, a mix of pitiful cliches, on-the-nose outpourings of emotion, and flat jokes. The story progresses jerkily, sometimes moving along at the speed of molasses, other times racing through important scenes like a hamster on crack. It hinges on several key points that are never actually explained — for instance, what about Hal makes him so special? Is he the only person on earth with a drop of courage?
Reynolds does the best he can with the little he’s given, but his natural charisma is stifled by shoddy character development and a complete lack of chemistry between him and Lively. Without a believable romance, it doesn’t feel like there’s anything at stake for Hal, and as a result Reynolds comes off as a pretty boy playing dress-up. The same goes for Lively, who can’t even begin to pull off her intimidating, no-nonsense character. Peter Sarsgaard, however, is appropriately creepy (when is he not?) as Hector, both before and after his transformation.
It’s true the special effects in Green Lantern are pretty stunning. With a colossal budget of $300 million, that’s to be expected. Unfortunately, without a story to support the visuals, it feels like being given two perfectly toasted slices of bread with nothing in between. The editors seem to be aware of this, because the film leaps from one effects extravaganza to the next in a whiplash-inducing manner. Tone-wise, the alien world and the human world feel like two completely different movies: one a sci-fi-like video game, the other reminiscent of a contemporary disaster film.
It’s always hard to whittle an entire comic book series down into one feature-length film, but it’s been done before, and it’s been done well. Unfortunately, Green Lantern is not one of those cases. Do yourself a favour: skip this one and wait for Captain America.