While Marvel have been cluttering up the big screen with more superheroes than you can shake a gnarled fist at, DC has been a bit more sedate with adaptations of its properties.
Batman (gloriously resurrected by Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy) and Superman (dead on the operating table since 1980’s Superman II) have been hogging the spotlight, with the lesser known heroes given short shrift (Swamp Thing anyone? Catwoman? Jonah Hex? *shudder*)
Step forward Green Lantern, the first of the second-tier superheroes to get a full-on star treatment. Unfortunately, despite a cracking extended trailer which promised so much and Ryan Reynolds, who on paper is an excellent fit for any superhero, Green Lantern is a lack-lustre affair, a hollow pastry case with no meaty filling.
It’s the story of Hal Jordan (Reynolds), an irresponsible test pilot still haunted by the death of his father (something of which the film is keen to remind you every 10 minutes – yes, we get already, he has daddy issues!). When his recklessness gets him grounded, he is surrounded by a green light which takes him to a crashed space craft where a dying alien hands him a ring and a lantern, informing him that he has been chosen.
Whisked away to the planet Oa, he’s told that he is the latest member of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic peace keeping organisation and that the ring allows him to focus the power of his will to create anything his mind can imagine. But trouble is brewing in the shape of Parallax, an evil entity that harnesses the yellow power of fear (try not to think about that too much) and when a scientist on earth (Peter Sarsgaard) becomes infected with Parallax’s powers, he captures Hal’s girlfriend Carol (Blake Lively).
It starts well – Geoffrey Rush’s sonorous voice over sets the scene for a film which seems like it’s going to take its material seriously. But this is rapidly scuppered by Ryan Reynolds, whose glib insincerity, while still likable, diffuses any sense of emotional connection to the character. Supposedly, the ring chose Hal because he has the power to overcome fear but it seems more likely that it chose him because he’s got abs you can crack rocks on and he looks the best in profile. One can’t help but think he will fare infinitely better as perpetual smart-alec Deadpool for Marvel in 2014.
Meanwhile, reliably excellent Mark Strong is merely functional as the not quite trustworthy Sinestro (with a name like that and a Mephistophelean moustache, he’s bound to go evil). Much better is Peter Sarsgaard who throws himself into the role of bulbous-headed scientist Hector Hammond with great relish and suggests a film that has a much darker edge than it actually does.
But all the talent in the world means nothing when the script’s this poor. There’s laughably clunky dialogue and the constant diversions to deliver plot exposition derail any momentum before it even gets out of the station. For example, for reasons not really explained, Hal quits the Green Lantern Corps almost as soon as he joins only to be given a pep talk by his girlfriend 10 minutes later where she explains how courage is important and why he should resume his duties.
That’s the worst of writing mistakes – telling, not showing – and it doesn’t allow Hal to grow as a character. A sequence showing Hal learning to overcome his fear would have made a convincing story arc; then at least there would have been a sense of accomplishment. Instead, entire relationships are reduced to speeches and explanatory dialogue with characters given no chance to develop personalities.
It’s a problem which dogs the entire film. Some of the action scenes are fun to watch even if there aren’t enough of them but for all its millions of dollars spent on CGI and sparkly flashing lights, it’s difficult to evince anything more than a desultory super-suited shrug.
It’s not actively bad – it’s far from the tumbling car crash that was DC’s biggest boob Batman & Robin and there’s a lot of potential but it’s been mostly squandered, leaving a film which is pretty but utterly underwhelming.
The Green Lantern’s powers are only limited only by the scope of the user’s imagination – should the Green Lantern Corps come looking for a hero, none of its writers would be chosen.
Also be sure to check out this Green Lantern Muppet trailer.