There are also instances when it’s painfully obvious the only reason a movie gets made is because some studio exec had it on his checklist. In that kind of situation, the desire to make a compelling, entertaining film takes a backseat to how well it can sell Blu-Rays, toys and breakfast cereal.
Guess which category “Green Lantern” falls under? If you’ve seen one of the flick’s lackluster trailers, the answer shouldn’t be too difficult. I hoped that it would be yet another recent example of a surprisingly good movie with unbelievably crummy marketing (i.e., “Tangled” and “The Adjustment Bureau”). Unfortunately, the previews were on the mark this time.
Part of me wishes that weren’t the case. Not because I’m a big fan of the Green Lantern character (I was more of Batman kid), but because Ryan Reynolds has certainly proven himself worthy of a superhero franchise. He’s totally game here, and his willingness to dive headfirst into the role is what keeps the movie from being a complete snooze.
The plot, generic hero origin story aside, seems interesting enough on the surface. The problem is with the execution, thanks to a designed-by-committee screenplay (credited to Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg) and Martin Campbell’s impractical directorial choices. Modern cinema’s first intergalactic superhero saga should be a lot more exciting than what we get here.
Reynolds plays Hal Jordan, a gifted but cocky test pilot (is there any other kind in movies?) who is tasked with becoming a member of the Green Lantern Corps, a sort of universal peacekeeping force. He’s the first human guardian in the group’s history, responsible for protecting our section of the universe. A pretty tall order to be sure, but he’s given help in the form of a ring that allows him to project into being anything he can imagine.
Of course, just as he’s learning about his new powers and responsibilities is when the universe’s most deadly villain decides to attack Earth. Parallax is an alien being who takes the form of a giant head with a cloud for a body (I’m not kidding) and grows larger by feeding off fear. I’m not exactly sure why he pinpoints our planet, though, when he has the entire universe to choose from — isn’t that a needle in a haystack situation multiplied exponentially?
It could have something to do with the psychic connection he has forged with Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), an eccentric scientist who comes into contact with the being during an unusual autopsy. Anyway, if Jordan is going to save our planet, he’ll need some help from Green Lanterns who’ve been doing this a lot longer than he has. He’s also got his childhood friend and former flame, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), on his side; she’s pretty handy with a missile when she needs to be.
“Green Lantern” had the potential to elevate the superhero genre to a new level. Rather than designating himself to one city, Jordan is responsible for an entire section of the universe. That’s a whole lot of storytelling possibilities. Instead, Campbell (who did a much better job with “Casino Royale” and “The Mask of Zorro”) and his army of screenwriters are responsible for a movie that feels corporate, soulless and — worst of all — ordinary.
Like I said, Reynolds saves “Green Lantern” through sheer will, but there’s not a lot he can do to elevate the material. Lively is also fun (and nice to look at), but whoever thought the 23-year-old would be believable as one of the country’s best test pilots needs to have his head examined. Sarsgaard is the other saving grace, fully understanding what kind of movie he’s in and shredding scenery accordingly.
I didn’t have a lot of faith in “Green Lantern” to begin with, but I’m bummed that I turned out to be right. I’m not sure if word of mouth is going to allow for a sequel, but at least there’s plenty of room for improvement if it happens.
“Green Lantern” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.