Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw Reviews Green Lantern

Green Lantern is a failure of epic proportions.

I write this (painfully) as someone who actually knows this particular superhero and has been a big fan of the modern Green Lantern mythos established by DC Comics writer and chief creative officer Geoff Johns (who is an executive producer and consultant on this film). Despite having rich source material to draw from, there is just so much that director Martin Campbell and the script writers (Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg) get wrong that it is a compliment to even call Green Lantern a movie, rather than a vapid black hole which sits in place of a movie about a green superhero.

The first mistake Green Lantern makes, is that it fails to establish any kind of coherent context or mythos for its titular superhero. The movie opens with some heavy exposition blurted out by fish-man Tomar-Re (voiced by the always impeccable Geoffrey Rush) about “emerald willpower,” ancient beings, power rings, space sectors, Green Lanterns and some “yellow fear” bad guy named Parallax. No mention of the fact that in this comic book reality, all emotions (will, fear, anger, love, etc…) give off different kinds of “lights” that can be harnessed as power; the naming of “green willpower” and “yellow fear” are deemed sufficient explanation. They are not.

Nevermind all that, though, as we cut to a purple guy (Abin Sur, if you happen to catch his name) battling a floaty yellow fear-blob (Parallax). Purple guy gets wounded, says something about a replacement, and then flies off in a spaceship. Cut to Earth, where we are speedily introduced to Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) – a cocky, womanizing test pilot, clearly hero material – and his (Former flame? Current crush?) Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). Cut to a plane chase, spastic flashbacks to Hal’s dad dying in a plane crash, then Hal moping around until he gets a super ring from the dying purple guy (who’s been lying in a swamp all day, not that we see him crash on earth). A few scenes of Ryan Reynolds comedy schtick later, Hal is flown off to a distant planet to hear an exposition dump explaining his new super ring. We briefly meet some of the other Lanterns (Kilowog, Tomar-Re and Sinestro, if you happen to catch their names) – but don’t bother taking a liking to them, because they’re gone again in just a few minutes.

Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan) and Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush)

Back on Earth, dead purple guy has some yellow blobby stuff inside him that infects nerdy Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a scientist who is friends with Hal and Carol (or something). Hammond gets a swollen head and psychic powers from the yellow blob (somehow) – so then all of a sudden there’s a yellow fear-blob in space, a blob-powered psychic on Earth, and Hal must beat them both with his new green super ring. Only, Hal isn’t really sure he’s courageous enough to use his green super ring, so he mopes around earth some more, dancing around his feelings for Carol until he summons the  (you guessed it) will to be a hero.

If the above paragraphs confuse you, welcome to the experience of trying to follow Green Lantern‘s “story.” This film is by and large an overstuffed, incoherent mess that I’m not sure director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) ever had his hands, his head, or his heart around. The same goes for the script writers. The movie never seems sure of itself – what to show, how to show it – and the result is a disjointed patchwork of scenes varying in effectiveness and tone, with many, many, holes left wide open between the seams. Key moments in movement, development or action are overlooked, leaving we, the viewers, to fill in the blanks with either our imaginations, assumptions, or annoyance (for me it was the latter).

You can almost make a game of it: watch the film, and pick out all the times where characters go places (like quick trips into deep outer space) or do things (like show up to fight villains), without any firmly established reasoning or motivation. (I would still like to know how Hal Jordan, doubting himself as a Lantern, knows to show up for his first big fight with Hector Hammond. Suddenly he’s just there in Hammond’s lab, no explanation why or how.)

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds in 'Green Lantern'

Without a good script as a safety net, and a competent director providing a tightrope, the performances of the actors plummet into the aimless and campy depths of a Joel Schumacher Batman film. (I dare evoke the name of Batman & Robin, as that was the only other time I’ve had the impulse to walk out of a comic book movie.) For all the debates about casting, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively are never really given the opportunity  or material needed to develop their characters – scene by scene, Hal and Carol alternate from hot to cold to middle-ground buddies, and a good chunk of the dialogue they speak is laugh out loud bad.

Mark Strong tries to elevate the proceedings as Sinestro, Hal’s militant foil within the Lantern Corps. However, the screenwriters drop this ball as well, marginalizing Sinestro’s presence to a mostly arbitrary assortment of scenes sprinkled throughout the movie. Worse yet, the writers toss in a totally arbitrary plot device meant to set up a Green Lantern sequel, thereby destroying any hope fans of the comics might have of seeing the wonderful character development that has been written for Sinestro over the years. This movie spares nothing.

The effects (for all the controversy and money surrounding them) are just…ok. There are some enjoyable  moments (Hector Hammond’s psychic powers are surprisingly fun), but they are over pretty quickly. Parallax looks like a silly cartoon (but commits some bizarrely grisly acts) and only some of the CGI aliens work as believable characters (Tomar-Re), while others don’t (Kilowog, The Guardians). The Green Lantern costume Reynolds wears works sometimes and looks cartoony other times, and though the power ring constructs are well done, they’re often used in over-the-top ways meant to fetishize the effect, rather than enhance the film.

Don't bother with the 3D version.

As for the 3D? It’s a total gimmick, don’t pay for it. I have great eyesight, and even my eyes began to hurt while watching this film. Then I took off the 3D glasses and I figured out why: most of the movie isn’t in 3D. The majority of the time I didn’t wear the 3D glasses at all; other times, scenes were either slightly blurred (half-rendered in 3D) or had one or two objects in the shot which sported the 3D effect. The outer space scenes, Green Lantern costume and powers were all 3D, but even then, the effect looked cheap compared to other films actually shot in 3D, instead of being converted after the fact.

Despite all the aforementioned problems, can Green Lantern still be considered a bit of mindless summer movie fun? Sure, if you’re age 10 and under. But if you’re too old to run out and by a Green Lantern action figure as soon as the movie is done, then you are probably too old not to notice that you are watching a really, really, poorly constructed movie. Biggest disappointment of the summer for me.

If you’ve already seen Green Lantern, head over to our Green Lantern spoilers discussion – to chat about anything that could spoil the experience for others.

However, if you’re still on the fence about seeing the film, check out the trailer below:

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Our Rating:

1.5 out of 5
(Poor, A Few Good Parts)