Title: Green Lantern
Directed By: Martin Campbell
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Temuera Morrison, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins, Jay O. Sanders, Taika Waititi
You know those ride simulators in arcades or even the ones like the Spider-Man ride in universal? They’re a blast, right? Then again, remove the vehicle that bumps along with the ride and watch that video in another location and it’s probably not particularly enjoyable anymore. Well, consider Green Lantern that displaced amusement park simulator video, tacky visuals, unconvincing and only capable of holding your attention for minutes at a time.
Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is your average guy. Actually, not really; he’s a test pilot who enjoys taking big risks, flying high and showing off his ego 24/7. Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), Hal’s crush, co-worker and the daughter of Carl Ferris (Jay O. Sanders), the big bossman at Ferris Air, is always on Hal’s case, but tolerates his bad attitude. However, when Hal takes it upon himself to show off at work, wrecking his plane and defaming Ferris Air’s latest stealth models in the process, Hal gets the boot.
Meanwhile, out in space, the caged monster Parallax consumes enough fear to break out of his prison and go after the individual who put him there, Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) of the Green Lantern Corps. After suffering a fatal wound, Abin Sur crash lands on Earth with just enough time to let his Green Lantern ring pick its new owner, Hal. Before he knows it, the power of the ring whisks Hal away to the home of the Green Lantern Corps, the planet Oa. There he gets some Corps 101 and physical training, but as the group’s first human member, the youngest race in the galaxy, Hal becomes wary of the ring’s selection process. Hal’s forced to decide whether or not he’s worthy of being a Green Lantern fast because Parallax is on the way.
One thing Green Lantern has going for it, is that it’s suitable for newcomers. From the very start, the piece does an excellent job of laying out the details of the universe as well as the history of the Green Lantern Corps and their ongoing feud with Parallax. The problem is, there’s just so much exposition a moviegoer can tolerate, newcomer or not. There’s absolutely no reason for Parallax to explicitly state his next steps mid-movie. Also, while the history behind the piece is rather well structured, the story itself is far from it.
Green Lantern hops back and fourth from character to character without abandon. The film jumps around from Hal to another character back to Hal and then again to a completely different character. Ultimately, we end up with a piece primarily focused on our hero, but without a single fully developed secondary character. The only one other than Reynolds who comes close to making an impact is Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond, but it’s merely because he gets more screen time than the other supporting cast members. Sarsgaard himself puts on a good performance, but it’s spoiled by an incredible amount of foreshadowing. If you want the audience to feel any tension as Hammond turns to the dark side, you don’t spoil it by playing menacing music every time Sarsgaard’s on screen.
We’ve also got a bunch of minor characters that are entirely expendable like Thomas (Taika Waititi), a desk worker at Ferris Air, who’s merely there to watch Hal turn into the Green Lantern and ooh and aah. Then there’s Angela Bassett’s Dr. Amanda Waller, who’s so ineffectual she’s washed out of the movie, literally. There’s also Carl Ferris (Jay O. Sanders) and Senator Hammond (Tim Robbins) who either should have been combined into one character, or one sacrificed for the other as neither evokes a hint of emotion through their father-child relationships.
However, the worst of them all is Lively as Carol. First off, she’s simply way too young for the role. She’s more than ten years younger than Reynolds and it shows. Plus, like one too many superhero movie leading ladies, she’s entirely inadequate, merely there as eye candy. All she does the whole film is bust Hal’s chops for being a bad employee and turn up the romantic component when required. It’s all dull, one-note and lacking in chemistry.
On the brighter side, both Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan) and Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush) are quite fun to watch. Tomar-Re is wise and just as Hal instantly trusts him upon his arrival on Oa, so will you. As for Kilowog, he’s just lucky enough to be part of the quintessential training montage, which is inherently exciting simply because it’s fun to watch our heroes ditch the lengthy hard work and hone their skills at an impossibly fast rate.
Poor Ryan Reynolds; he just has so little to work with here. He puts on his usual shtick as a happy-go-lucky guy with an impeccable body, but when he’s got zero chemistry with his co-cast, a weak character arc and is drowning in goofy special effects, he’s ultimately helpless. Yes, it’s cool that a Green Lantern can imagine objects and make them appear, but not on the big screen. Green Lantern is basically an animated/live-action hybrid in that some of the CGI characters look downright cartoonish.
Green Lantern isn’t terrible, but what makes the production so disappointing is that the mistakes are so obvious; how did someone not realize certain elements weren’t working? Could nobody tell that all but one character in this film would turn out to be ineffectual nothings? Did anyone ever compare the design of Or to the live action material to be sure they’d unite and feel like one film? Apparently not and what we end up with is material that’s glowing with potential, but stifled by thoughtless execution.
By Perri Nemiroff