Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) with his powerful ring in Green Lantern.
Of the four big superhero movies coming out this summer, Green Lantern caused me the most initial trepidation. Besides not being the biggest Ryan Reynolds fan, I was concerned about the story's "out-there-ness," and I wasn't sure director Martin Campbell was up to the task of handling all the film's CGI. Unfortunately, my instincts proved right. Reynolds was his usual cocky, unappealing self. The plot—especially the main villain—was laughably absurd. And Campbell's special effects were sloppy and distracting. The film isn't the total bomb many are making it out to be, but it's far from a grand success, and for a $300 million motion picture, that's probably what Warner Brothers needed. Methinks they're regretting this project right now…
A long, long time ago, the Guardians of the universe harnessed willpower into a source of energy. From there, they divided the universe up into thousands of sectors and gave one fearless leader from each sector a ring and a lantern. With these, each Green Lantern would be able to protect his or her sector and vanquish evil from the universe. But one Guardian believed fear to be more powerful than will. He attempted to harness fear's power, but was consumed by it. He was known as Parallax, and he traveled the universe, in search for fearful individuals to make him more powerful—that is, until he was stopped by a Green Lantern, Abin Sur, who vanquished Parallax to a distant corner of the universe where he would remain forever.
Unfortunately, that's not the case. Parallax perhaps inevitably escapes and manages to fatally wound Abin Sur, who crash lands on Earth in desperate need to find his successor. Enter Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a brash fighter pilot who isn't afraid of anything—except failing to live up to his father's legacy. The ring chooses him as its new owner, and he's whisked away to Oa, where all the Green Lanterns have assembled. There, he receives his training, meets the Lanterns' new leader Sinestro (Mark Strong), and is informed of the grave state of the universe. Parallax is on the war path, and no one is quite sure how to stop him.
If you were able to suppress your giggles during that synopsis, you very well might enjoy Green Lantern. It's inherently silly material, and I found it handled quite poorly here. Toeing the line between seriousness and humor is typically a poor strategy for these types of movies. You need to either go all in as light-hearted and easy-going—not unlike Iron Man—or take The Dark Knight route and keep things heavy and believable. The latter was hardly an option for Campbell and his team of four writers (bad sign right there), but the former, I think, would have made for a much more satisfying experience. There are glimpses of a comedy in Green Lantern, but the filmmakers always back away.
My biggest problem isn't even the silly storyline. That's not something anyone involved in the production could help. No, my problem relates to all the half-baked subplots that are underdeveloped and/or abandoned. The film has way too many supporting characters—like Tim Robbins' senator and Angela Basset's scientist—that have little or nothing to do. There's a secondary villain to Parallax played by Peter Saarsgard. He's an interesting enough character, but he's given the shaft by the writing team and we never really get a glimpse of why he gives himself over to the dark side, so to speak. Then, there's Blake Lively's Carol—the requisite love interest. We never get a good idea of what her true feelings are because they change at the drop of a hat. One second, she's appalled by something Hal says and totally repulsed by him. Then, she becomes a woman scorned who's willing to take him back if he changes his ways and takes some responsibility. Her character development is the poorest of them all (which is saying something because nearly every character is poorly developed), and Lively feels totally out of place.
I won't complain too much about Reynolds because to be fair, I have a bit of a bias against him. I really don't care for the man on screen. Something about him just bothers me, and he does nothing in Green Lantern to change my attitude toward him. I think a good Green Lantern movie isn't inconceivable. The story—for all its goofiness—is pretty compelling in its simplest form. Unfortunately, the filmmakers attempt to do too much and frankly don't have the passion, desire, or energy to see it through to a successful conclusion. As a result, the end product reeks of commercialism at its worst. Is it the worst film of the year? No, but it has to be the most uninspired.