Given the two month release delay and the awful trailers, I always knew that Green Lantern was not going to be a good movie. Periodically I see movies that feel more than anything like I’m sitting in a darkened room, staring at a screen, and Green Lantern falls precisely into that elite circle.
Green Lantern is a special kind of bad movie. It’s not dull, but it is singularly unengaging. It has a relatively good cast who either don’t bother or founder in its roles. Its action is stupid and the CG is unforgivably bad for a 2011 production. There is very little indeed to like about a film that is more toyetic than anything else; this is the first comic book film since the 21st century “renaissance” that is blatantly geared towards children and the sale of toys.
Ace pilot and constant failure Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is given a ring by a dying alien. The ring transforms him into a member of the Green Lantern Corps, “space cops” who can create anything through the power of will. Hal quickly abandons his training but has to reassess the situation when Earth comes under threat by Parallax, a being of pure fear.
The concept of Green Lantern is fairly simple: a superhero powered by imagination has to take on an incorporeal entity powered by fear. Sadly, the screenplay and effects are limited by the human imagination, so nothing special is seen on the screen. With their green rings, the members of the Green Lantern Corps can physically manifest anything that they put their minds to. Hal Jordan appears to have the mindset of a ten year old boy, which means that his solution to a crashing helicopter is to transform it into a racing car speeding along a constantly evolving track. This is the film’s first big set piece where lives are at stake, and it is simply dumb both in concept and execution.
Hal Jordan never does anything with his powers beyond the obvious and militaristic: a catapult! A gattling gun! A machine gun turret! What he could have done was anything, and what he actually does is laughable and all in the same sickly shade of green. The effects are consistently bad, with a large segment of the film amounting to Ryan Reynolds and Mark Strong hanging around in front of a series of green screens emoting at blurry alien life forms voiced by Academy Award winners and nominees (Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan). I’m glad that I didn’t see this in 3D, because it was enough of a murky haze without the intervention of glasses.
$200 million should get you something cleaner than this, and it should definitely buy more heart. Perhaps the $60 million dollar surplus this has over Captain America makes all the difference; the bloat in the budget definitely doesn’t show on the screen, and it is hard to justify that intense amount of money for such a lacklustre outcome.
The Hal Jordan character, at least, is basic enough to understand: he fears failure and so constantly invites it and quits. He’s simultaneously an irresponsible playboy, which makes him prime material for his job as a test pilot (a career he only got out of pity). His on/off girlfriend and boss Carol (Blake Lively) is as good a support as she can be, but it’s a nothing role in what becomes increasingly obvious as a nothing movie.
As Hector Hammond, Peter Sarsgaard is in perhaps the worst role of his career. The only glance of his character we get before he is corrupted by evil is as the stereotypical super nerd who has to stalk girls because he’s too pathetic. In a progressively less charismatic role, Sarsgaard ends up as a hideous blob powered by fear, which for the purposes of this film is indistinguishable from rage, envy and general failure as a human being. Sarsgaard can’t bring anything to the role because it’s so poorly conceived that it’s a wonder he ever managed to recover from the debilitating make up work. Sarsgaard can’t establish a rapport with Reynolds, Lively or Tim Robbins because the script is too underdeveloped in every imaginable way to allow it.
Green Lantern is not all bad: there is a one minute montage that succinctly explains the entire backstory of Amanda Waller (Angela Bassett), but this sequence is irrelevant to the film as a whole. In a film where the important characters are given little motivation or flesh, time should not be wasted on a DC universe mainstay; but then, no good decisions were made in the production of this film – with the exception of putting James Newtown Howard in charge of the music. That man knows what he’s doing.
It’s amazing how ugly this film looks, considering that it comes from a generally stylish director (Martin Campbell of Casino Royale fame) with cinematography from the acclaimed Dion Beebe. How no one realised while they were making it that this was one of the most ill-conceived comic book movies since they started making comic book movies is a question that I’ll be asking for a while, along with “where did all the money go?” and “why does DC hate me?”
An ugly, stupid and poorly written movie, Green Lantern deserves its box office failure. There will be more to come, and one can only hope that a lesson has been learned somewhere on the way: this isn’t a superhero movie, but a computer generated offence to the eyes. Not even the gravitas of an obvious Geoffrey Rush voice over can save so insipid a project.
If you feel that you go to the movies out of a sense of duty, but you’re uncertain what that duty is to, Green Lantern is for you. Other people Green Lantern is for include particularly undemanding prepubescents and people who like to complain. I’m at least two of these things, but for you there’s probably no excuse. Stay away.