The summer of the superhero continues as Green Lantern…blasts? Flies? Ummmm…what is it exactly Green Lantern does again? Of all the comic book characters, Green Lantern is probably one that people know the best while actually knowing very little about. So let’s catch you up. Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a hot shot test pilot who is selected to be a Green Lantern. The Green Lanterns are an interstellar force tasked with protecting the universe from evil. These cosmic cops have each been assigned a different sector to guard and protect. Each one is given a ring that enables them to harness their thoughts and convert it into energy for use as a weapon. But this weapon isn’t just a laser blast. It can become any object they need it to in order to fit their needs. They are limited only by their imagination. Oh, and the color yellow (don’t ask). Now, as a self-professed comic book nerd, allow me to state that, where top-tier characters’ superpowers are concerned, this is one of the dumber ones. And if you think that was a lot of exposition…wait until you see the movie.
The film opens with a huge swath of narration that attempts to teach the lore of the planet Oa and Green Lanterns and Parallax. It has all the charm of a dramatic reading of a Wikipedia entry. It’s never a good sign when a movie has to spend its first ten minutes essentially recapping a film that never happened. Feeling compelled to start with the character’s origin is a classic comic book film blunder. Filmmakers forget that more often than not these convoluted and bloated backstories developed over decades and, more importantly, after a character had become popular. Only a handful of these origin stories are inherently interesting to the uninitiated. Do you know how much time Action Comics #1 spent on Superman’s origin? One page. Don’t believe me? See for yourself. They gave you just enough to explain what he could do, then they got to the good stuff. It wasn’t called “Exposition Comics,” you know.
It’s not all bad, so let’s talk about what the film gets right. Ryan Reynolds is charming with just the right amount of self-deprecation. Of course, we all know (including him) that the modesty is false, but we’re flattered that he was not only polite enough to try but smart enough not to lay it on too thick. I suppose that’s where the charm comes in. But he does a fine job with the little he is given.
The film’s fatal flaw is its script. It’s a collection of genre clichés: the reticent hero, the supportive but sassy love interest, the corrupt powerbrokers looking to misuse a newfound power. While it’s solidly executed, the film lacks a soul. Comic books set against a cosmic back drop have always left me cold; feeling like a collection of deus ex machinas bumping into each other for twenty-three pages. Typically they devolve into a string of incoherent, pseudo-scientific, five-syllable words that sound profound but don’t really mean anything. You know…like half of my reviews.
But it’s a good looking movie. It wasn’t cheap and every nickel they spent definitely appears to be on the screen. It’s not so much a bad film as it is aggressively average. It says a lot about how far comic book films have come that this film doesn’t feel stronger. This same picture a decade ago would have been one of the best of its kind. So are we spoiled now, or were we starving then? It’s difficult to say, but it certainly pales in comparison to what we’ve seen of late.