(Martin Campbell, 2011, USA)
Much like Thor earlier this year gave a cinematic voice to the lesser known Marvel god of thunder, awarding itself a surprisingly accepting reception, Green Lantern sees semi-rival DC Comics scraping the figurative barrel and delivering us our second green-themed superhero of the year, after Michel Gondry’s misplaced The Green Hornet, but the results are far from similar. Directed by the guy who single handedly revived the Bond franchise twice over in the forms of Goldeneye and Casino Royale (but also made the less-than-great Vertical Limit), Green Lantern had the opportunity to be both original and daring, yet it is not only one of the most boring extensions of the genre, it’s also mind-numbingly stupid.
Ryan Reynolds, who has never been so emotionally passive, plays Hal Jordan, a cocky aircraft test pilot thrust into the fold of the Green Lantern Corps after having been given a mystical ring by a dying earth-bound purple alien. Once arriving on the planet Oa, Jordan learns that the ring isn’t just a garish fashion accessory but a relic belonging to an intergalactic police force (the lanterns) consisting of around 3,600 members, of various species, who protect each individual section of the planet. The ring also allows the wearer to physically produce whatever their imagination can conjure to help vanquish evil, which is just as well as, just as Hal becomes the first human Lantern, a cloud of evil black smoke approaches earth hellbent on destroying it, naturally. Can Jordan battle this octopus-like nemesis and win over childhood sweetheart Blake Lively (anything but), all the while dealing with some laughably tacked-on daddy issues in the process? The answer is a resounding: who cares?
Campbell, and more importantly Warner Bros., clearly have no interest in conveying anything in the screenplay as being something to be taken seriously, instead focusing much of their attention on a special effects department that’s never heard of the term ‘less is more’. There were times where the film consisted solely of CGI, looking and playing out like a generic video game. The script is half-hearted at best, with predictable dialogue and events that conspire for either no apparent reason or to try and add depth to an already shallow project. Furthermore, what makes the already baggy narrative even more unbearable is the subplot concerning Peter Sarsgaard as a scientist infected by the black smoke (aka the Parallex), whose head bulges threefold to the point where he becomes about as menacing as a veiny Jimmy Neutron:
He is supposed to be the predominant antagonist, but he spends most of his time screeching and hiding away in the helpfully labelled ‘science building’. As if we couldn’t have guessed what it was already.
A submissive audience member may overlook the gaping narrative holes and plot points that go nowhere, but what sticks in the mind most is the distinct lack of threat. Both adversaries are entirely tame, and a ring that needs to be constantly (and bafflingly) charged up to grant its owner limitless possibilities renders the action without much in the way of risk. The Lanterns are seemingly immortal beings, so the stakes are raised significantly in their favour.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh on Green Lantern; it does have a handsome couple of lead actors, serviceable yet repetitive action set pieces and plenty of overblown special effects, all in headache-inducing 3D. That should tick all right boxes for a modern day moviegoer, right?