Ryan Reynolds deserves a good superhero movie. I mean, take a good look at the guy. His broad physique, square jaw, good looks and ample charisma suggest someone who, given the right material, could be on the path to action-star legend….think Steve McQueen or Bruce Willis.
“Green Lantern” is not that movie. It’s a premise that offers near-endless creative possibilities — a talented pilot encounters a ring that turns thought into reality. But with this power comes membership of the Green Lanterns – an intergalactic peace-keeping force, with hundreds of members from various galaxies. That pilot-turned-Lantern is Reynolds as Hal Jordan, who despite his boundless ego isn’t quite sure he’s up to snuff as a Lantern (being the first human member and all). He’s up against the threat of Parallax – essentially a big, evil cloud that swallows all in its path, growing stronger as it goes.
Director Martin Campbell does solidly what was probably the biggest challenge of the film — condensing a massive mythology into a short yet fulfilling runtime, all the while preventing the admittedly goofy material from devolving into laughable camp. That said, it all feels far too mechanical, too contrived; a film that feels more like it’s moving down a checklist of necessary occurrences (action here, character development and romantic beat there, et cetera) than organically expanding and occurring.
Because of this, I couldn’t ever get fully caught up in “Green Lantern”. It’s sad, given the degree of talent that’s employed here. But when one feels like they’re watching a product motivated more by contracts and merchandising opportunity than a real desire to make a great film, a degree of distance and rejection is only natural.
I could admire from a distance some of the better aspects of the film. Ryan Reynolds is as Ryan Reynolds does – which is to say, as charismatic and enjoyable to watch as ever. He’s what keeps this film chugging along — or perhaps more appropriately, dragging along. Peter Sarsgaard as a mad-scientist type reaches lofty heights of creepiness, and is the only true wild-card of the film. Also, the visual effects are quite impressive. This film carries a greater task than most of its genre; where most superhero movies need only digitally create some characters and action sequences, “Green Lantern” must create a full-fledged universe. It does this believably and admirably enough, though never to the point of awe that it was clearly shooting for.
Another thing preventing me from ever getting into “Lantern” was the weak dialogue. Scripted by four different writers, watching it feels like a bunch of different guys fighting to get their ideas on the screen; all of them making it but never quite as fleshed out as was no doubt desired.
Reynolds and Sarsgaard aside, that dialogue is delivered flatly and without much panache. I point you to Blake Lively, playing a rival pilot and romantic pursuit of Jordan’s. I also point to you Mark Strong – playing probably his seventh consecutive villain in a film, as well as Tim Robbins’ blank turn as a senator that’s the father of Sarsgaard’s character.
It’s a mostly blank, thankless cast, appropriate for a blank, listless film. C-