Green Lantern (2011)

You know what the worst part about having to write this review is? It’s that I was fully prepared to enjoy Green Lantern, despite the problems I was certain would be present. Any reviewer who tells you they approach every movie in the same way is lying, and movies like this one-movies with the clear intention of selling popcorn and building franchises-don’t come with high expectations. Which is why about two minutes into the film I found myself, not just annoyed that I spent eleven bucks on a ticket to a crap movie, but incensed at the abysmal execution of this big, green mess. Nearly every last choice made in Green Lantern is a bad one, and even aside from the technical stumbling, the film just isn’t much fun. No, “Director” Martin Campbell has done nothing here worth any praise. Certainly the effects work is good, but I’m giving the computer geeks credit for that.

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is unreliable. There’s never any question of this, as the script says it in ten or twelve different ways. Though he’s a hell of a pilot, he’s too brash and irresponsible to ever be taken seriously in any other regard, and even though he already seems to be in some kind of bizarro relationship with the perpetually beautified Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), she enjoys nothing more than telling him how terrible he is at everything, often just prior to losing herself in his eyes and hugging him tenderly. When an alien member of the Green Lantern Corp., Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) crashes on to earth, his ring is sent on a journey to find a replacement, bringing back a terrified Hal. What follows are a few cross-universe treks to the Lantern’s home planet Oa, some face-offs with their leader Sinestro (Mark Strong), a battle or two with the hysterically creepy Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), and a final, epic, winner-take-universe slugfest with the fear-mongering Parallax. And then the credits roll and everybody groans.

Let me just get this out of the way: the special effects are cool, there is some genuinely impressive action, and the CG characters are amazing. Though they seem to have simply pulled them directly from the source, the film’s alien lifeforms are easily the most pleasing eye candy on display. None of this is enough to save the film from its script and direction, but they’re present and, as of now, accounted for. Literally the only other elements of the film that could be called remotely enjoyable are the performances of Tom Strong and Peter Sarsgaard. Strong is just an excellent actor and brings whatever he can to an uninspired role. And while there’s no doubt that people are walking out of this movie talking about how weird and out of place the Hector Hammond character feels, that’s sort of what makes it good. Everything else is so rote, so under developed and poorly directed, that watching Sarsgaard vomit up such an insane performance is somehow the fresh air breathed into this thing.

The really frustrating thing is, on paper this is actually a pretty good cast. Ryan Reynolds is certainly likable, and backed up by names like Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Geoffrey RushMichael Clarke Duncan, and Tim Robbins, it seems like your main performances should be locked up. Though still a bit of an unknown quantity, Blake Lively showed up stronger than anyone expected in The Town, and even if she did end up being miserable, that alone certainly wouldn’t bring everything else down with it. The long and short here is that the actors aren’t really to blame. Reynolds is certainly capable of being an arrogant charmer, yet his character spends more time looking worried and sort of scared. Guys like Strong and Sarsgaard, who are without a doubt immensely talented actors and perhaps the best live-action pieces of the film, still end up feeling at best inconsistent, and at worst just boring. And Blake Lively wouldn’t seem nearly as terrible if she wasn’t padding around her home office in a skin-tight dress and six layers of makeup. This is a case of so much inconsistency, and so little worth, it can’t be anyone’s fault but Campbell’s. It may seem unfair to heap criticism on a guy who’s clearly not just a talentless director (Casino Royale was pretty good, right?), but he hasn’t left his audience with any other options. The mistakes here are endless, and the fact that they seem to all stem from a thoroughly misguided approach to the material means there aren’t a whole lot of other culprits.

Green Lantern may be the worst comic book movie yet made, which is a helluva statement. But when held up next to the true baddies like X-Men: The Last Stand or Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly that this thing is legit. And that’s a damn shame. It’s hard to make a truly great comic book flick, but it’s not nearly so hard to make an ok one, and these days, that’s pretty much all we expect. Building impressive action scenes on a massive scale just doesn’t seem like a real challenge for most studios, and ultimately, that’s what we’re all there for. Yet Green Lantern spends valuable time attempting to grow unlikeable characters, and setting too much scene with boring exposition. Martin Campbell, with 300 million and a loyal fan base, has directed himself a real stinker. Oh, and Warner Bros. have officially committed to a sequel. Darkest night has arrived.

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