GREEN LANTERN. 105 mins. PG-13. Directed by Martin Campbell. Written by Greg Berlanti & Michael Green & Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg.
The new DC comic book adaptation, Green Lantern, may be another in a long line of superhero flicks being thrown at audiences this summer, but it's also got to be the first of its kind. The studio, Warner Bros., spent approximately $300 million making and marketing this critically drubbed franchise starter. And what's most remarkable is that with all that money spent, the most it has to show for its efforts is tepid audience goodwill towards the Green Lantern character and Ryan Reynolds as its star. Nothing else. The best it can hope for at this point is to scrap the series and any intended sequels, keep Reynolds attached, and do a complete reboot in a couple of years.
Green Lantern does so many things wrong, it's hard to know where to even begin. But let's start, as we usually must, with the script. Credited to at least four different writers, the story is a jumbled, nearly incoherent mix of origin and mythology, with a 70 minute middle section that rushes through plot points and character arcs and yet feels soggy, slow, and lifeless. The movie is a real drag to sit through. There's just not enough action or humor, romance or thrills. Superhero flicks can be many things, for better or worse, but one thing they simply cannot be is boring. And, friends, Green Lantern is boring as hell.
Director Martin Campbell, who so capably brought the Bond series roaring back to life not once, but twice with Goldeneye and Casino Royale, seems lost in the shuffle. What few action sequences there are in the film - a few minutes at the end mostly - he handles well, but everything else comes off as hesitant, uncertain, and indiscernible. This is Vertical Limit-bad Campbell. He's a long way from the Casino Royale glory days. One need only look to Thor to see how it should be done. Like Green Lantern, Thor had to deal with several ridiculous story elements, but Kenneth Branagh showed a real grasp for the material and rose above it, taking the movie with him. Campbell is not so lucky.
The production design is god-awful and employs way too much CGI. Green Lantern probably spent more than Avatar on its production, and Avatar was almost all CGI, but Avatar looked good. The CGI looked real. The CGI here is so fake and rudimentary that it's almost an insult to audiences that the filmmakers and effects artists even thought it would pass muster. This is not 1990, guys. The alien creatures that populate the movie are poorly designed and executed even worse. Most are laughably bad. The main villain is this smoke cloud with a face called the Parallax. His main power is to scare people and suck their fearful souls away. One problem there Mr. Parallax - you're not scary. You look like a Mars Attacks! alien face on a Mummy sand cloud.
Reynolds is the only actor to come out of this smelling like a rose (well, maybe Mark Strong as Sinestro too), but even he disappoints a little. To his credit, he underplays each scene and never really goes too broad. But Reynolds is a master of the cocky, sarcastic charmer, and his character, Hal Jordan, really needed more of a kick. I'm not saying Hal has to be another Han Solo, but it wouldn't hurt. Part of that is Reynolds' fault, but I'm fairly certain the script let him down in that department anyway. Still, I'd be happy to see Reynolds get another crack at the character, with a different director and script that would fully realize the character's potential.
As for Blake Lively, playing Hal's fellow pilot and love interest, Carol Ferris, she makes the odd acting choice to say every line with an affectless, monotone voice. She gives the audience nothing, and we give her nothing in return. The role is underwritten, yes - these love interest roles always are. It's up to the actress playing them to overcome the limitations of the script and imbue the character with some personality. Any personality. Lively certainly looks good in the series of business blouses and skirts she wears throughout the movie, but that just doesn't cut it.
I don't even know what Peter Sarsgaard is doing here as Hector Hammond. Hector is a scientist who becomes infected with some Parallax blood and then can control things with his mind. His forehead grows to the size of a watermelon. He sweats a lot, and shrieks even more. Is Hector the bad guy? Not really. What is he? Beats me. The script burns through his subplot at such a clip that you feel like his scenes are an unrelated waste of time, and then (spoiler alert!) the character dies. The make-up is unpleasant and Sarsgaard's performance is even more so. Tim Robbins gets to cash a paycheck as Hector's father.
All that being said, I probably would go see another Green Lantern movie. I liked Reynolds. I like the character and the fact that his superhero world reaches out into space. That's at least a different take on the genre. I actually didn't even mind the CGI costume. The possibilities are endless for what you can do with this universe of characters and the hero's super powers. But the movie in theaters now did not tap into any of that potential. Let me be clear though. I do not want a sequel. This version of Green Lantern tried and failed. I want a do-over. A reboot. There are years and years of comic stories to draw from. Use those.