Here's the link to the published version of my review in my column at The Richmond Examiner:
Green Lantern (2011)
This week’s entry in the recent plethora of superhero films is “Green Lantern,” another adaptation from the DC Comics universe. This is yet another situation where I’ve never read any of the comics, nor do I know the slightest thing about this character’s mythology, so this review will be strictly based on the ups and downs of the film itself as I can’t make any judgments as to how well it was adapted from its source material. As the first film in a planned series, this entry begins as superhero films often do, with an origin story.
In a lengthy expository intro, we are told of how a group of immortal beings brought together a peacekeeping corps known as the Green Lanterns to protect the 3,600 sectors of the universe using the power of will. At the beginning of the film, an alien ship crashes on a planet in what’s known as “The Lost Sector.” There they accidentally awaken an evil being called Parallax who had been imprisoned by one of the Lanterns. Not long after, one of the Lanterns who is on a mission to find a new bearer for one of their rings of power gets attacked by Parallax, leading him to quickly head to the nearest inhabited planet, which just happens to be Earth.
On Earth, we meet Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a pilot for the Air Force. He’s not exactly having a great day, having crashed his jet during a test against a pair of AI-operated planes. That night, he is suddenly whisked away in a strange ball of green energy to where the Lantern has crashed. The alien explains that he has been chosen by the ring to wield its extraordinary power. With Parallax inching ever closer to Earth, Hal must learn to use the ring’s power in order to save humankind from this looming threat.
The funny thing about “Green Lantern” is that, while there are several events in the film, it ends up having very little plot. In fact, the majority of the film ends up feeling like it’s expository material, explaining to us everything we need to know in order to understand what’s going on with the Green Lantern Corps and the characters involved. This leads to a film that feels like it doesn’t actually get started until well over an hour into its runtime.
One of its biggest problems is the main villain, Parallax. It’s basically a humongous blob of tentacle-shaped limbs complete with a head that sticks out of the middle of it. Parallax’s attacks include firing balls of energy while devouring the fear right out of beings. This doesn’t exactly make for a particularly great antagonist. In fact, it makes for a rather bland one, which is rather surprising for an entity that can wipe out entire populations very easily.
There is a sideplot about a scientist, Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), who studies the Lantern after he dies. Dr. Hammond ends up getting infected by something that Parallax had used to kill the alien which ends up increasing his mental capabilities to the point of being able to use telekinesis. Sadly, this sideplot remains just that, on the side, never really developing into anything. One major step that the writers could have taken would have been to make Dr. Hammond the main villain instead of Parallax as he was much more interesting. Sure it would have been a lesser test of Hal’s skills, but it probably would have made for a more entertaining final battle.
In addition to a bland villain, the characters are also very thinly written. Hal doesn’t really get beyond just being the guy who has to save the world. He also have a love interest, Carol (Blake Lively), who never gets developed. It seems as though the film was mainly written as a vehicle for the special effects, which merely ended up being another problem. Much of the film is done using CGI that looks like it was done by one of the lowest bidders, giving it the look of being just slightly above a cartoon.
With all of that being said, the film does have a certain amount of entertainment value. It’s not particularly slow and Reynolds does bring a likable charm to his character as he tends to do in most of his films. The main problems that the film has lie in the writing (the characters, the abundance of expository material). The four writers behind the project seemed like they were too obsessed with explaining and setting things up rather than trying to get the audience engaged with the plot and characters. Doing another draft or two in order to work on the ailing story could have done wonders for this project.
Since I was given the choice, I opted to see the film in 2D instead of 3D. Much of this film is dark anyways, so I can only imagine that 3D would have merely made it darker. There is already talk of whether or not there will be a sequel, of course, but with the way this film was received by both critics and moviegoers (plus rumors of a $300 million budget that won’t be recouped any time soon), it doesn’t look like a sequel would happen. In the end, “Green Lantern” does have a fair share of problems and yet is not quite as bad as some are making it out to be. It merely gets added to the long list of superhero films as one of the more forgettable ones. 2.5/4 stars.