Green Lantern fails to light up the screen by sticking too close to formula
Published: June 17, 2011
Dir. Martin Campbell, writ. Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg; feat. Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Temuera Morrison, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett. (PG-13)
This summer brings a slew of new superhero movies, and even though the big guns are sitting this one out (The Dark Knight Rises AND The Avengers in 2012? Nerdgasm.), films starring C-level characters like Thor and the young mutants of X-Men: First Class have been surprisingly fun and — in the latter case — especially well made. The Green Lantern comic has a better pedigree than most, having been published in one form or another since the ’40s and still remaining pretty popular today. But despite the rich source material, Green Lantern the film is formulaic, uninspiring and — worst of all, for a blockbuster — kinda boring.
Hal Jordan (Reynolds) is a cocky test pilot who is the first human chosen to join the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic peacekeeping force armed with emerald rings powered by the wearer’s force of will. As long as his willpower holds out, the ring can construct whatever Hal visualizes — from giant green fists to glowing green machine guns. He can’t, however, will Green Lantern into being a good film.
There’s so much wasted potential on display here. Even with outer space battles, an army of well-designed alien Lanterns, and a main character whose sole power is to create anything he can imagine, director Martin Campbell manages to make the whole thing feel small, cheap, and completely tensionless. Perhaps Avatar is to blame for setting the bar too high for otherworldly special effects, but too many of Green Lantern’s space sequences reminded me of Halo cutscenes. And instead of developing the sci-fi visuals of Oa (the Corps’ planet base) and spending more time with the Green Lantern mythos, the script unwisely strands Hal on Earth for much of the film so he can slog through a half-assed Hero’s Journey.
This might’ve been acceptable in a pre-Batman Begins world, but audiences are well-versed in the superhero origin movie by now. Who needs yet another “learning to be a hero” tale, especially one this predictable? It would’ve been refreshing for Hal to jump to the hero biz and skip the angst — especially when it’s not that convincing anyway. In fact, all the characters bounce from plot point to plot point without much motivation. Apparently, Hal accepts his heroic destiny simply because the movie needs to wrap up; another character turns traitor for seemingly no reason at all (other than the fact that the inevitable sequel needs a villain, that is).
This isn’t Reynolds’ first stab at playing superhero (Remember Blade: Trinity and X-Men Origins: Wolverine? Yeah, sorry, me too.), and I feel bad for the guy. Reynolds tries his best to make the material work but simply doesn’t have enough presence to do it (possibly because his body is CGI whenever he suits up, making him look a little like a refugee from Roger Rabbit). And his greatest asset — his biting sense of humor — is kept on a leash. Blake Lively, as the movie’s requisite love interest Carol Ferris, is merely fine (in any sense of the word you choose). Of the supporting aliens and villains, only Peter Sarsgaard’s nebbishy Dr. Hector Hammond, with his pedo-riffic mustache and Nic-Cage mullet, makes an impression — but mostly because he appears to be recreating Jeffrey Jones’ performance from Howard the Duck (both GL and Duck feature mutated, telekinetic scientists possessed by an evil entity from outer space. Seriously.). You know you’re in trouble when your big-budget superhero movie reminds you of Howard the Duck.
Green Lantern is a giant, Mogo-sized missed opportunity, a franchise non-starter that fails to take the most exciting, iconic elements of the character and translate that to the screen. Though there are moments when the film flickers to life, they only serve to illuminate the huge story problems that keep the film grounded when it should be rocketing us into the stratosphere.
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