‘Green Lantern’ falls short of expectations

It’s tough to pinpoint where the cinematic adaptation of Green Lantern went wrong. For starters, the script by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg adds too much exposition with very few payoffs. Secondly, Ryan Reynolds, although a likable actor, simply can’t convince the audience that he’s superhero-ready. Finally, the visuals are rarely stunning. In fact, much of the film has a fuzziness to it, especially the sequences in space.

The result is one of the poorest superhero movies in years.

The story for comic-book lovers should ring a bell of familiarity. There is a force within our universe that has been a measure of goodness for quite some time. They are called the Green Lantern Corps, and they are our unseen police officers, dispensing justice and keeping us on the right track.

Ryan Reynolds in "Green Lantern" — Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Comics

These lanterns receive their unbelievable power from small colorful rings that glow in the dark (and probably come free with cereal boxes). All is going merrily along until a dark force known as Parallax threatens the universe, and the lanterns find themselves in need of a new protector from the realm of humanity.

Enter Hal Jordan (Reynolds), a stubborn test pilot who will remind audience members instantly of Chris Pine’s turn as James T. Kirk in the Star Trek revamp. He takes dangerous risks in the sky and is a semi-badass on the ground. When he’s picked up by the lanterns and brought to the outer reaches of the universe, he rightfully becomes confused. Wait a second, where am I? Who are these green guys? Why do I have to wear a ring?

But for a rather unconventional comic book, Green Lantern proves to be a typical movie. There’s a love interest (Carol Ferris, played with instant forgetfulness by Blake Lively), and there’s a bigwig tycoon (Carol’s father, Carl, played by the great Jay O. Sanders). The only character that stands out is Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard, offering a memorable performance), a jealous mad scientist who, let’s say, has a big head about his genius. Angela Bassett also turns up as a doctor, while Tim Robbins does his best scowl as a malign U.S. senator.

There are so many threads to the movie, and so much story to explain, that Green Lantern finds itself to be mostly a description film. A good chunk of the feature is spent talking about this and that. The actual action is minimal, and the special effects seem like afterthoughts. This is one of the difficulties of bringing a mythic superhero to the screen for the first time. The creators want to jam in so much back story that their creations get lost in the fray.

The film is not focused and feels all over the place. Its plot is beyond unbelievable, which is OK for superhero movies, but Green Lantern pushes the limits of this artistic license. If a green alien with Spock ears told me I was needed to save the universe, I’d probably call the police. The fact that these characters treat the plot with semi-seriousness is a major flaw of the script. There should have been more chins on the ground. We are talking about an intergalactic police force that is trying to stop an evil cloud figure — not exactly your everyday 9 to 5.

Reynolds excels nicely as Hal, the crash pilot. He has that egotistical nonchalance down pat. Take him away from the safety of planet Earth though, and he buckles under the pressure.

The CGI in the movie is so computerized that it feels like the actors are playing in a video game. There seems to be no tangibility to the universe. Everything is like a flat painting. The costumes and makeup on some of the aliens are impressive, especially the godly heads of the Green Lantern Corps. But that’s just fancy window dressing.

Despite all these problems, I still hope Green Lantern earns the right of getting a sequel. It deserves a second chance (and maybe a new leading male actor).

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
  • Green Lantern

  • 2011

  • Directed by Martin Campbell

  • Written by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg; screen story by Berlanti, Green and Guggenheim

  • Starring Ryan Reynolds, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, Jay O. Sanders, Peter Sarsgaard and Blake Lively

  • Running time: 114 minutes

  • Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action

  • Bubble score: 2 out of 4

  • Click here to purchase Green Lantern on DVD.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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