For a movie that relies so heavily on energy to form its narrative, Green Lantern lacks any real oomph of its own. It’s an inert origin story, built out of bits and pieces of comic book mythology that most likely played a lot better on four fixed panels. From the unusual — and often counterproductive — casting choices to the lack of vision on the part of director Martin Campbell, this is the kind of near calamity that DC fans have long feared. While Marvel manages to reinvent its label as a superior setting for serious filmmakers and equally adept actors, their competitor continues to live off Christopher Nolan and his brilliant Batman films hoping to somehow hit cinematic paydirt again. So far, they’re failing.
Hal Jordan (a blank Ryan Reynolds) is a hot shot pilot working for aero-tech concern Ferris Aircraft. Along with gal pal — and equally adept flyer — Carol (Blake Lively), our hero plays fast and loose with the rules. Haunted by the death of his father, Hal puts on an air of fearlessness. In truth, he’s tentative about his life and its prospects. All of that changes when he is chose by the Green Lantern Corps to take the place of dying alien warrior Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison). His job? Protect the universe.
Hal is the first earthling ever chosen by the bright emerald light of will, and he is soon whisked to the Lantern planet of Oa to discover his new destiny. There, he meets lead Lantern Sinestro (Mark Strong) as well as mentor and guide Tomar-re (Geoffrey Rush). Back on Earth, the doctor son (Peter Sarsgaard) of a well-placed politician (Tim Robbins) becomes infected with the fear essence of the deadly immortal Parallax and starts to change. Soon, he is a formidable freak, hoping to take down Hal and help his host destroy our galaxy.
At first, Green Lantern looks like it’s going to work. We witness the release of Parallax, watch as Abin Sur battles the “beast” and then escapes. During these initial moments, the movie has a zip and vitality that will soon more or less disappear. Then we are introduced to Reynolds’s cypher of a center and the film really starts to fall apart. It’s impossible to know if putting someone else in the bright green garb of the Lantern would have made that big of a difference. Campbell, who made his reputation with two James Bonds films (GoldenEye and Casino Royale) forgets all of his finesse. Instead, it’s one clunky scene after another, each establishing a necessary piece of exposition without adding one ounce of awe or wonder to the mix. In the end, it’s all practiced and perfunctory, not the best combination for a future franchise in the making.
If one were to pinpoint where things go horribly askew, it would have to be when Hal makes his first public appearance as Green Lantern. It’s at a party for Ferris Aircraft, and he’s been invited because…well, if he’s not there, he can’t save the day, right? Anyway, Sarsgaard’s demented scientist, now capable of similarly styled telekinesis, causes a helicopter to crash…and how does Hal save the day? Why, by turning the mayhem into a CG version of Hot Wheels — track and all. Yes indeed, when evil rears its ugly, malformed head, our hero relies on silly computer generated kiddie junk to divide and conquer. From the uniformly poor performances (Lively looks lost, while Strong is simply waiting for the sequel) to the undeniable feeling of being witness to something struggling to find a purpose, Green Lantern is just lame. Fans may forgive his lack of spark. Everyone else will want to avoid its lackluster light.