Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan / Green Lantern
Blake Lively as Carol Ferris
Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond
Mark Strong as Sinestro
Temuera Morrison as Abin Sur
Jenna Craig as Carol Ferris at 11
Jon Tenney as Martin Jordan
Mike Doyle as Jack Jordan
Gattlin Griffith as Young Hal
Nick Jandl as Jim Jordan
Dylan James as Jason Jordan
Leanne Cochran as Janice Jordan
Geoffrey Rush as the voice of Tomar-Re
Michael Clarke Duncan as the voice of Kilowog
Directed by Martin Campbell
An alien spaceship crashes on earth and test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) encounters the alien Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), who gives him a ring which gives tremendous power to whomever wields it inducting Hal into the Green Lantern Corps. Meanwhile, on earth, scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) has come into contact with the residue of the world-invading being Parallax, giving him telekinetic powers that he’s using to get revenge on those who have wronged him. After being trained by Tomar-Re and Kilowog (voiced by Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan), Hal has to face both Hammond and Parallax.
As a life-long comic book fanboy and a more recent Martin Campbell apologist, there was a strong chance my expectations and hope “Green Lantern” would do for DC Entertainment what Marvel Studios has done for Marvel Comics characters could very well have superseded my critical judgment.
Unfortunately, the idea that Geoff Johns’ “Secret Origins” would be used as a template are dashed fairly early in favor of a blueprint that comes from previous comic book hits “Iron Man” and “Spider-Man.” While the general story structure is the same, the movie fails to avoid some of the biggest pitfalls that comes with comic book movies, because often what works great when being read doesn’t work when you have the same words recited by actors. And really, there is no caliber of actor that could make the big cheesy speeches that permeate this movie work.
While on paper, Ryan Reynolds should make a decent Hal Jordan, his limited range as an actor is painfully obvious as he’s essentially playing the same character he’s played in every other movie only this time wearing CG spandex. He gives it a fine college effort to bring his usual charms to the character, but he’s no Robert Downey Jr. and the dialogue he’s given does little to make Hal likeable. Even worse is Blake Lively, grossly miscast as Carol Ferris, making her come across like a Valley Girl than the tough woman who will one day run Ferris Aircraft. The romance scenes between the two of them that’s constantly shoved down our throats is probably the worst part of the movie, partially because they’re so mismatched.
Mark Strong is such a good actor and he seems wasted under a spectacularly terrible make-up job playing Sinestro; the erratic relationship between him and Hal bears very little resemblance to what has worked so well in the comics. Peter Sarsgaard gives an equally erratic performance as the sniveling scientist Dr. Hector Hammond, whose experiments on the corpse of Abin Sur give him telekinetic powers, but he falls short of the Willem Dafoe Green Goblin, even as he plays things just as over-the-top. There doesn’t seem to be much logic to why his character has any sort of connection to Parallax, here depicted as something that looks like a cross between a Muppet and something out of Ghostbusters, and he takes a more active role in invading earth, a painful reminder of the way Galactus was transformed in the second “Fantastic Four” movie. Then there’s the Green Lantern Corps themselves, who we see in a couple of big money shots on Oa. Other than the four main characters, they have no names, no lines and no personality, completely unlike the Corps in the comics. (No one is more wasted than Angela Bassett’s Dr. Amanda Waller, who bears no resemblance to the weight and importance her character brings to the DC Universe in the comics.)
Otherwise, the CG world creation is generally solid even if it’s hard to imagine those unfamiliar with the comics will be able to accept the world of Oa and the Guardians the way they are introduced. The computer-generated Corps members Tomar-Re and Kilowog look decent enough, but not even the voice of Geoffrey Rush reading the opening narration will make it sound any less silly to adults, whether they read comics or not. It’s that bad dialogue and narration that often keeps the movie from delivering. For all the cool visual set pieces and cool CG constructs created by Green Lantern, and a few clever inventions for the movie like having Abin Sur’s ring pull Hal to the crash site, there’s some long-winded speech about how humans are worthy of the Guardians’ attention that immediately sends it crashing back down to earth. And then back on earth, you have a choice between a stale romance or a weak villain.
Who knows what could have been done to improve “Green Lantern”? The outer space stuff doesn’t work because it just comes across as silly and over-the-top, while the earth stuff doesn’t work because it’s boring and derivative of far better comic book romances. Needless to say, when a movie bounces between being boring and being cheesy, that’s not a good combination.
Sure, there probably have been worse introductions to superheroes on screen–Ang Lee’s “Hulk” is one and the first Tim Story “Fantastic Four” is another–but Campbell is a better filmmaker than the latter and working from far better source material than the former, so one wonders how this could have faltered so badly. Campbell also had such a great team including Oscar-winning cinematographer Dion Bebee, who helps the movie look great even with the converted 3D.
While DC Comics are constantly proving themselves ahead of the curve in the comic publishing business, “Green Lantern” shows they have a long way to go to catch up with Marvel in terms of bringing their characters to the screen in a way that can please both fan and novice alike. There’s little about “Green Lantern” that will convince non-comic readers to care enough about the characters to want to see more of them even with an obvious after-credits scene that just adds insult to injury, not just because it should have been dealt with in the body of the movie but also because by then, we just don’t care to see what happens next.
The Bottom Line:
There’s sure to be someone out there in the cosmos who enjoys this take on Green Lantern–small children and those without overly-critical tastes in entertainment–but it just fails on so many levels, both as a movie and as a comics adaptation, that it’s easily one of the bigger disappointments of the summer.