From the moment Green Lantern starts you instantly know something is up.
As a grave and exhaustive voiceover tries to cram as much information as it can before the movie’s title appears, it becomes painfully obvious that Warner Brothers – in a rare non-Batman/non-Superman related superhero movie – that DC is making a play for the Marvel Formula and fucking it up royally.
By this point in 2011, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was a mere 3 films old with 2 more due that year and The Avengers team-up movie threatened the year after that, alternatively DC was 2 movies into it’s highly praised Dark Knight Trilogy but had no Extended Universe of it’s own. Enter Green Lantern, quite possibly the most brazen attempt so far to copy and paste Marvel’s hugely successful style of world building.
Protecting space with the harnessed emerald green energy of will power itself, the Green Lantern Core is an elite group who police the known universe for good, however an old enemy, Parallax (a giant space cloud that looks figuratively and literally like a big smear of shit) has resurfaced after freeing itself from imprisonment and intends to feed on all the known universe by utilising the yellow power of fear. The purple skinned Abin Sur, one of the finest of the Green Lanterns despite not realizing that green does nothing for his skin tone, attempts to fight off the ever more powerful villain but is critically wounded during the battle.
Retreating to earth and dying from a fist sized hole in his chest, he leaves the job of choosing his successor to his power ring – no, not a disturbing porn term – but in fact the weapon that Lantern’s use to focus their will into physical constructs they use to defend their sectors. Enter Hal Jordan, a cocky, flawed, test pilot whose egotistical nature makes Tom Cruise’s Maverick from Top Gun seem like a Buddhist monk in comparison. Forcibly grabbed by the ring (ouch), Hal finds himself hurled to the distant planet of Oa, base planet of the Core, where he has to undergo what seems like a curiously brief training regime considering what’s at stake. Being the first human chosen to become a Lantern makes him the scornful target of Sinestro – somewhat of a big deal in the world of green clad, space faring, ring-slingers – who thinks Hal simply isn’t up to the task. Unfortunately, Hal seems to agree but back on Earth, Parallax’s influence has infected the withdrawn Hector Hammond, a childhood friend of Jordan’s, who seems to gets his look from the pages of Sex Offender Monthy magazine and obtains telepathic powers along with an obscenely swollen cranium that looks like a giant bollock for no extra charge. As a maddened Hector moves in on Carol Ferris – another childhood friend of Hal’s who despite also being a pilot AND vice president of an aeronautics company is still somehow utilized as a damsel in distress on two separate occasions – and Parallax moves in on Earth, can Hal get his personal doubts under control and prove himself as a full fledged Green Lantern or will this swirling fear-monster from space eat his fill at the massive buffet that is our planet and then go on to destroy Oa?
For a film that was supposed to kick start a whole new cinematic universe, Green Lantern seems horribly not well planned and you get the sinking feeling that their sole big plan for making this movie was literally “Copy Marvel”. Think I’m being too harsh? Watch then as all the phase one tropes are here, trotted out shamelessly one at a time: Hero with father issues? Check. Large amounts of self-aware, jokey dialogue? Check. Bright visuals? Big old check. And yet virtually none of it lands. The film, despite it’s potentially massive canvass, feels small and slight with an endless parade of alien creatures sidelined in favour of it’s dull main character who’s main (and only) character trait is that he’s played by Ryan Reynolds.
Before finally hitting big with his later attempts with a certain merc with a mouth, Reynolds’ glib and very funny witicisms have long made him the standout of many a duff comic adaptation from Blade: Trinity to X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but even his desperate mugging fail to make Hal Jordan even remotely likeable or three dimensional. The distracting CGI suit doesn’t help matters either which, like almost all of the visual effects in this film, are decidedly sub-par (quick side bar: if you make the effort of throwing a stuntman around your set, try to remember that if you put him in a CG suit it’s just going to make the stunt look fake).
While the cast is suitably starry, there are some odd names in here. Blake Lively does well, Peter Sarsgaard screams a lot, Tim Robbins looks unsure if he’s on the right set and Taiki Watiti appears as Hal’s best friend while taking valuable notes on how NOT to make a space-set superhero movie; but it’s Mark Strong as Sinestro who you truly wish could be surgically removed from this movie, put on ice and then inserted into a better, future reboot.
It’s unfathomable that DC and Warners could make such similar mistakes as they made with Batman & Robin but while director Martin Campbell has great virtues (the man successfully rebooted and reinvented James Bond. TWICE), he obviously has no idea how to make a CGI heavy comic book movie, despite having two Zorro movies under his belt.
In 2018, DC finally got the “charismatic lunk-head surrounded by a vast CGI world” formula right on the money with their gargantuan Aquaman movie, but here they caused so much damage to the character that any post attempts have gone absolutely nowhere despite the fact that the DCEU managed to make money from such lesser known titles as The Suicide Squad and Shazam!.
It’s green glowy space cops. How hard is it to sell the concept of green glowy space cops for Christ’s sake?
In brightest day, in blackest night, this Green Lantern movie, is utter shite.