Upon arrival on Earth, his magic ring (from which the Green Lantern obtain their powers) acts as an intergalactic Sat Nav and sources the nearest human replacement who is worthy of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the defenders of the universe. Enter cocky test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) who, underneath his overconfident exterior, and haunted by the tragic death of his pilot father he witnessed as a child (cue unnecessary and thoroughly clichéd flashback), struggles with the necessary courage and fearless attitude needed to make a name for himself within the Corps.
Will he be able to rise to the occasion and win back the love of childhood sweetheart and fellow pilot, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) whilst saving mankind from Parallax and its twisted human host, Professor Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard)?
It takes a real skill and surefootedness in making sure all the elements are present and correct in a origin story, and as Green Lantern is part of the second tier of characters in the DC canon, it’s fair to say that it’s already handicapped to a certain extent as more ground needs to be covered than that of the worlds of Superman and Batman. While a similar property like Iron Man (from competitors Marvel) may have its flaws, it was still able to tell the birth of its hero with a flare and pace which is sadly lacking here.
Even director Martin Campbell, who has previously tackled the beginnings of two icon fantasy characters with favourable results (The Mask of Zorro and Casino Royale), and is usually more than reliable when it comes the shooting and framing of action scenes, seems adrift as the CGI overload threatens (literally at one point) to engulf the screen.
With a reported $8 million spent by the studio to further enhance the effects work in the later stages of post-production, quite where that money has gone is anyone’s guess.The wise Guardians of the Lantern’s universe (who are perched upon steep rock thrones atop of a huge platform) look like mid-90’s digital work. This may have been forgiveable (last month’s X-Men reboot had its fair share of clunky CGI) if attention had been paid to character and plot, but that too is severely in need of a polish.
The cast too, are a mixed bunch. Considering that the makers have assembled a strong supporting cast, there’s some hit and miss performances here. Lively is ok, but it’s another big screen role which only offers a glimpse of that real star potential she clearly possess. Sarsgaard fares less well, and in a role which would have been enthusiastically offered to John Malkovich 20 years ago, his mad scientist routine is very one note, but this is probably due more to the script’s shortcomings. A parallel between his and Reynolds’ transformations is vaguely referenced visually towards the beginning and there’s even a hint of a possible past love triangle between the three leads (remember, this is a comic book adaptation, so it’s required that the hero, villain and heroine share some kind of emotional connection), but all this is rather worthless when no back story has been properly established, or any kind of character motivation is formed. Sarsgaard has a strained relationship with his senator father (Tim Robbins, unintentionally repeating his turn of ‘American President’ in the second Austin Powers film) and that’s about it really.
Mark Strong is good as Lantern spokesperson Sinestro (appearance-wise, think a beetroot-coloured Spock) and he has a quiet authority and gravitas. It’s just a shame that his world is skimmed over in favour of the duller, earth-bound exploits (something which Thor managed to juggle much more successfully). Jordan’s time on Oa (the Lantern’s planet base) is mercifully short, and the training he receives by members Kilowog and Tomar-Re (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan and Geoffrey Rush, respectively) barely amounts to a couple of minutes of screen time. This is another big problem with the film. It really struggles to cover the two worlds which it has set up, and events and important plot points are skimmed over and given little time to unfold. There appears to be a large chuck of narrative missing in some cases, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the DVD included cut scenes which almost amounted to the same running time of the film.
Despite all of this, Green Lantern still remains just about watchable, largely due to Reynolds. Like Downey Jr. before him, he’s able to ground the film for an audience, and his main strengths are in dealing with and acknowledging the inherent ridiculousness of his situation. Heaven knows how much worse it may have been if they had cast someone who didn’t possess that lightness of touch the material needed. At one point, he even jokingly channels Christian Bales’ Batman growl in a humorous scene which riffs on the ridiculousness of a Superman-like ‘secret’ identity. The ring can conjure up a tangible representation of anything which the wearer creates in his mind, and this also makes for some entertaining and imaginative moments, particularly one where Jordan references an image of a children’s toy he’s seen earlier, and saves the day. If only the rest of the film was as much fun.
Not quite the mammoth disaster that some are labelling it, nevertheless, Green Lantern is a big disappointment and has to rely constantly on its star to make things work and compensate for a weak script and a director who is clearly ill at ease with CGI. Reynolds should use that magic ring of his to summon up a new agent who is capable of finding him a big-screen role (and potential franchise) worthy of his talents