The last time Warner Bros. Pictures adapted a DC comics character for the big screen, it resulted in 2010’s disastrous Jonah Hex. And now, DC comics mainstay Green Lantern has been given his own splashy summer blockbuster, and the results are just as bad – if not worse – than Jonah Hex. Green Lantern is an absolute disaster; a cosmic mess of style over substance for which everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Consulting the big book of superhero movie clichés, Green Lantern is firmly within generic origin tale territory, where the broad strokes are identical but the fine details and characters have been altered. But instead of a successful, thoughtful origin story, this turgid catastrophe comes up short when it comes to critical elements like awe, excitement, patient character arcs and gripping drama. From top to bottom, the whole production is lifeless and dreary; a true wasted opportunity considering the limitless nature of the Green Lantern universe and its cavalcade of colourful heroes and villains.
An aircraft test pilot, Hal Jordan (Reynolds) is skilled at his profession, but he’s crippled with fear due to the death of his father which haunts him. When a planet-gobbling intergalactic entity called the Parallax (voiced by Brown) mortally wounds an alien (Morrison), he crash lands on earth and his powerful ring chooses Hal to be its next bearer. Much to his bewilderment, Hal is subsequently inducted into a squad of creatures known as the Green Lantern Corps, who work from their home planet of Oa to protect the universe. Hal has the will and potential to be a great warrior, but his internal fear limits his abilities and causes the other members of the Corps to doubt him. Meanwhile, eccentric scientist Dr. Hector Hammond (Sarsgaard) becomes infected by the Parallax’s powers and begins acting as an earthbound ally for the planet-destroying entity which is dead-set on eliminating the human race.
The critics tore Green Lantern a new asshole upon its release, and for good reason. It’s hard to identify everything that went wrong with this production because the answer is just about everything. The biggest problem is the script (credited to fourwriters), which is beset with eye-rolling clichés. Rather than using the clichés to create a substantive superhero origin tale, the film simply rattles along, perfunctorily ticking off boxes on the Joseph Campbell checklist and reviving as many entries in the Big Book of Superhero Clichés as possible. And rather than mining the rich 50-year history of the Green Lantern character, the lazy writers simply threw Maverick from Top Gun into the mix and called him Hal Jordan.
Green Lantern is too ambitious – it wanted to cover too many bases during its 110-minute runtime, resulting in a disjointed mess which hastily rushes through the material, tossing out names and places but failing to give them sufficient explanation and not allowing things sink in. Clearly, the writers assumed that brief explanations about Parallax’s origins and the history of the Corps would be enough, and that spectacle would be good compensation. But it doesn’t work – it’s just plain boring to watch the rushed, wildly incoherent narrative unfold. Those expecting to see a lot of action involving the Green Lantern Corps should prepare themselves for disappointment, too. What you see in the trailer is literally all you get of such beloved characters as Tomar-Re and Kilowog in the whole 110-minute movie. All of the marketing effort which made the film out to be a sprawling superhero tale about an epic army of intergalactic warriors? All LIES! The film eventually sputters out with a rushed climax that’s over before you realise that the climax has even arrived. Hector Hammond’s treatment is especially pathetic in this respect.
If nothing else, we should at least expect Green Lantern to be a nice, glossy blockbuster…right? With competent action director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, Edge of Darkness) at the helm and with a budget of over $200 million, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect some eye candy or exhilarating action from the film. Too bad Green Lantern fails on that front, too – the usual grittiness and proclivity for practical effects and stunts of Campbell’s usual output is gone, and has been replaced with a crazy amount of CGI. Visually, the film is drab and uninvolving. Warner Bros. paid dearly for the special effects, and struggled to get them finished in time for the scheduled release date (they even pumped an extra $9 million into the budget and hired more workers). Thus, instead of getting the necessary time to make the effects look good, the effects artists were working towards a preset finish date; trying to just get the effects done on time, quality be damned. Big-budget movies should not look this cold and lifeless – the green screen work is poor, it looks and feels like it was shot on studio sets, and the overused CGI effects look unremarkable and embarrassingly digital. Ryan Reynolds’ suit was an entirely digital creation, and boy is it obvious. Meanwhile, the score is forgettable and generic, and the action choreography is pedestrian.
Under normal circumstances, Ryan Reynolds is a great, highly charismatic actor, but he looks lost in the role of Hal Jordan – his vanilla performance is without so much as a shred of charm. Perhaps the star just grew fatigued very quickly as a result of acting in front of a green screen all the time. As Jordan’s love interest, Blake Lively is the very definition of bland. The only cast member who looks as if they actually enjoyed themselves is Peter Sarsgaard, whose performance as Hector Hammond is extremely hammy. Meanwhile, the supporting players make absolutely no impact, with an instantly forgettable Tim Robbins, a weak, underused Angela Bassett, and even Mark Strong who made no effort to distinguish his performance here from everything else he’s done in the past few years. The cast are also limited by the dismal way that the script utilises them. Characters show up momentarily before disappearing, never to be heard from again, not to mention character relationships are poorly delineated. It’s just bad writing.
In addition to being godawful, Green Lantern was an unbelievable flop – Warner Bros. pissed away so much fucking money on this piece of shit (on top of the $200+ million budget, marketing costs exceeded $100 million), and it sputtered big time at the box office. Warner Bros. intended for Green Lantern to show that they’re able to make superhero blockbusters like Marvel, but instead the film is a huge creative setback. The studio also aimed to produce a Green Lantern trilogy and spearhead a Justice League of America movie… Well, it’ll be interesting to see where those plans lead (if anywhere at all). The whole production of Green Lantern simply reeks of disinterest and half-hearted non-effort – its awfulness is comparable to the infamous Batman & Robin fiasco.