In the season’s latest superhero spectacle, director Martin (Casino Royale) Campbell ironically displays the same inexplicable affliction that affects his main character: a total failure of imagination. Given $200 million to play with, the filmmaker is at a loss to deliver a single memorable image or moment. Given a ring with the power to create anything his mind can envision, newly recruited savior of the universe Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) finds himself incapable of thinking up anything terribly interesting. For a movie named after a light source, Green Lantern suffers from an appalling dearth of ideas that anyone over the age of 10 would be inclined to characterize as bright.
How does this DC adaptation disappoint? Let me count the ways. First, its writers appear to have scoured more than 70 years’ worth of the comics’ back issues to distill the least intriguing elements of the emerald-suited figure’s mythology. Before Jordan begins his career as a superhero, he’s employed as a test pilot for a corporation that manufactures military aircraft. This part of his story actually might have been good for a few cheap thrills, but the movie’s creators couldn’t resist the temptation to turn it into an imitation of Top Gun.
No need to bring the oven mitts. Green Lantern serves up the least sizzling screen romance in recent memory. Jordan has a thing going on with the daughter of the company’s owner (a completely lost Jay O. Sanders). Carol Ferris is played by Blake Lively, and together the two have all the chemistry of a pair of mannequins.
But we didn’t buy a ticket to watch Hal Jordan make a love connection. We bought a ticket to watch him save the world. Which is why the second half of the film is an even bigger letdown than the first.
Through a series of events I will not bore you by recounting, the cocky hotshot comes into possession of a ring and a matching lantern that basically functions as its battery charger. The ring, in turn, brings him in contact with an intergalactic peacekeeping organization known as the Green Lantern Corps headquartered on the distant planet Oa.
There bubbleheaded immortals sit atop goofy towers, their impractical capes flowing hundreds of feet downward as they dole out assignments to what are essentially interstellar beat cops. The computer-generated landscape and aliens are jaw-droppingly cheesy.
Cheesiest of all is the Parallax, public enemy No. 1 as far as the Corps is concerned. It’s on a collision course with Earth, naturally, so nothing stands between it and extermination of the human race except our buff hero, who’s still learning the super-ropes. You won’t believe your eyes when this thing comes looking for a fight. Picture a scowling skull engulfed in a nest of tentacles made of brown clouds. When anyone is foolish enough to approach it, the creature sucks the souls from their bodies in precisely the way Dementors do in the Harry Potter series. This may be the first movie to get its effects at a used CGI sale.
You doubtless can guess where all this goes. There’s not a surprise within a mile of the script, and, except for a scene or three featuring Peter Sarsgaard as a mutating mad scientist, nary an iota of imagination or fun, either.
Along with the effects, the cumbersome exposition and most of the performances, the dialogue is howlingly laughable. It’s the viewer’s only hope for anything approaching entertainment — however unintended. The creators of Green Lantern don’t succeed at much, but I’ll give them this: By making a movie so bad it’s a joke, they do put the comic back in comic book.