Directed by: Martin Campbell
Written by: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong
Studio: Warner Bros.
Review by: Bill Jones
In a summer movie season that already saw the surprisingly good debut of Thor, and the unexpected resurgence of X-Men in First Class — both coming out of the Marvel camp — Green Lantern, DC Comics and Warner Bros. had their work cut out for them. But even if it were not for the high standards set by its summer predecessors, Green Lantern would be a letdown, whether the viewer is coming in as just a casual moviegoer or hardcore fan of the comics.
Green Lantern tells the tale of Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a test pilot who is granted the power to physically manifest anything he can see in his mind with the power of a green ring that chooses him after an alien crash lands on Earth. The ring gets its power from a titular green lantern, which derives its power from will, which is depicted in the color green.
But as Jordan soon realizes, the alien who died at his feet was fleeing from an intergalactic threat that is driven by fear, which manifests itself in the color yellow. Jordan finds that in terms of having powers with the ring, he is just one of a squadron, the Lantern Corps, tasked with defending sectors around the universe.
Of course, Jordan must overcome the fact that he has lived much of his life recklessly, and also prove that humanity is a worthwhile species in the greater universe. He argues as much as he flies with his former love interest, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), and despite his egocentric attitude, he lives with the fear of dying in similar manner as his father, which is conveyed in the film via a hilariously bad flashback.
Like most of the film and its characters, though, this all receives very shallow treatment. At a 105-minute running time, Green Lantern tosses a lot of things up on the screen that should by all accounts be epic, but fails to round them out with a story that makes them feel that way to the audience.
With a character who is able to do anything he can imagine, Green Lantern seems rather complacent about littering the screen with cheap thrills, rather than innovative action. The problem is none of it looks that great. The bright color scheme should do the film wonders in terms of its comic appeal, but instead it often looks like a cluttered mess on screen. And the 3D feels tacked-on and just makes everything worse, so 2D is the way to go for anyone who is going to bother to see it at all.
With Reynolds as the centerpiece of the film, the film was bound to have some wit, and to a degree it delivers on that. After averting an early crisis by turning a crashing helicopter into a Hot Wheels type of car and driving it around a green track, a friend later asks if that was the best he could come up with to solve the scenario, as most audiences will find themselves asking. Almost (but not quite) breaking the forth wall, Jordan recites what he did and asks if we are not impressed. There’s also a good quip about an old friend not being fooled for a second by a mask that simply covers his eyes.
But the jokes don’t make up for what is a mostly disjointed movie that has the potential to be better. At no point is Green Lantern offensively bad, which one may have been led to believe by the trailers; it just fails to elicit any response more than “meh.”
Viewers are faced with an ancillary story about a friend named Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), who also seems to be on the losing side of life while Jordan is winning. Sure enough, while Jordan gets chosen for the Lantern’s power, Hammond falls into the darker side, possessed by fear. Unfortunately, rather than feeling sorry for him (which we probably should), he just comes across as an unsympathetic creep. And rather than Hammond turning into a cool creep of a villain, he turns into a deformed being we might as well just call Wheezy McFathead for the sake of descriptive accuracy.
It could all have been easily chopped from the film, still leaving a cohesive story and the chance to expound a greater arc for Jordan than ‘irresponsible guy gets power and learns to be responsible.’ Getting to see more of the Lantern Corps and Jordan’s interaction with it also would have been nice. Also, it could have used a more imaginative ending — but the list of what would have been nice could go on and on.
Ultimately, Green Lantern is a film that — at a time when the property is hot once again for DC Comics — drops the ball and wastes its potential. It is not overtly bad, but it underwhelms in almost every respect, and especially with a summer movie season already hot for comic films, it can’t afford to be just okay.
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