Ryan Reynolds once suggested that his Green Lantern movie would be somewhere in the middle between Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies and Christopher Reeve’s Superman films, and even had the audacity to draw comparisons to the original Star Wars. A more apt comparison is a movie somewhere between Fantastic Four and the sticky floor of a strip club the morning after St. Patrick’s Day. The only thing in common with Star Wars that Green Lantern has are the CGI-cousins of Jar Jar Binks and the stool of Jabba the Hutt after a meal of Marvin the Martians. The Green Lantern is a pus-filled bedsore of a film, a wacky incoherent mess of Ryan Reynolds’ forehead, Blake Lively’s legs, and cheap CGI-creatures straight out of a Sid and Marty Krofft television show.
The Geek Bashers among us have resorted to every stereotype in the Handbook for Lazy Writers Who Want to Get a Cheap Rise Out of Comic-Book Nerds. Comic Book Geeks are dateless overweight bearded pasty white dudes who live in their parents basement and survive on a steady diet of Mt. Dew and Cheeto dust, right? But the one thing you can’t honestly say about the average comic-book dork is that they are dumb. Pedantic to the point of annoying? Absolutely. But dumb? Never. And Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern is dumb to the point of suicide. It’s insulting not just to the comic-book fans, but to everyone. It’s a puke green abomination, a terrible film that’s only real redeeming quality is in its ability to unite geeks, non-geeks, and the Male Society for the Appreciation of Ryan Reynolds’ Abs alike into a Hulk-colored maelstrom of contempt and repulsion.
In short, the movie is green-day dookie, and it’s not because of what many perceive to be flaws in the powers of the Green Lantern superhero or in the supposed daffy mythology. It’s shit because Greg Berlanti, the pissant television writer behind “Eli Stone,” “Brothers and Sisters,” and “Dawson’s Creek” had no business adapting Green Lantern for the screen. I gained more understanding of Green Lantern reading the Wikipedia page and skimming this Den of Geek article than Berlanti will ever understand about the superhero. Berlanti pays lip service to the title, but that’s it; he has no interest in the details.
Structurally, Green Lantern alternates between two worlds, Earth — where Hal Jordan (Reynolds) resides — and Oa, the planet inhabited by Sinestro and the poorly rendered CGI Fraggles that make up the Green Lantern Corps. In the opening act (easily the best 20 minutes of the film), we learn that Jordan is a second generation test pilot who has a history with boss’ daughter, Carol Ferris, a gorgeous wooden vessel with legs, hair, and lips played vacuously by Blake Lively. During a test mission, Jordan pulls some Top Gun shenanigans and nearly gets himself killed when he gets trapped in a flashback of his father’s death. Soon thereafter, a dying purple alien named Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), crashes his spaceship into Earth after he’s injured by Parallax, a creature of fear that looks like a larger, cartoon version of Marjory the Trash Heap. The Parallax, as the story goes, was once a member the Green Lantern Corp who attempted to master the power of fear (instead of the power of will); the plan backfired, and now Parallax goes around literally scaring people to death.
Ultimately, Hal Jordan is pulled against his will into this war with the Parallax by a pink CGI-version of a 70’s porn star, Sinestro, the leader of the Green Lantern Corp played by a criminally wasted Mark Strong. Sinestro believes that the only way to defeat Parallax is to master the yellow fear, but Hal Jordan convinces him otherwise after heroically creating a green racetrack to prevent a helicopter crash.
Meanwhile, parallel to these events on Earth, Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a scientist with Daddy issues, absorbs some of the power of the Parallax while studying the corpse of Abin Sur. Hammond mixes that fear with petty jealousy in order to attempt to steal the affection of Carol Ferris, who would be an amazing character as depicted by Blake Lively if only she weren’t allowed to speak. Ever. Hammond snipes with his bullying father, a U.S. Senator played by Tim Robbins, and eventually succumbs to the full power of the Parallax’s fear and eventually his forehead grows almost as large as Reynolds’. After another hour of wacky nonsense, all of these elements — Hammond, the Parallax, Sinestro and the Green Lantern Corps — eventually converge almost spontaneously into a cataclysmic orb of stupidity so profound that you may experience dizziness, nausea and a bad case of the giggles.
I’ll grant Green Lantern this much: The scenes on Earth are passably bland, not unlike those in Thor, and Ryan Reynolds delivers a few breezy lines and — at least when he’s not covered in Slimer ooze — acquits himself respectfully. Unfortunately, at times it looks like his head has been inexpertly photoshopped onto a cartoon body, and Reynolds’ leading-man charisma is no power up against that full-body CGI suit. Once it comes on, not even Double-R, bless his poor wry heart, can wiseacre his way though that level of silliness.
Saarsgard is great, really truly honestly great, and his uncomfortably creepy villain feels almost as though it belongs in a different, better film. If Green Lantern had been more focused on the conflict and history between Jordan and Hammond and less on Jordan playing hologram footsie with Kilowog (who looks like a large kitty-litter chunk crossed with a troll), the film might have been salvageable. But that would’ve also necessitated less CGI, and almost as much as the weak story, it’s the effects that kill the movie. They’re not just overdone, they look cheap and unrealistic, and take away any chance that Green Lantern has of building a believable universe.
To the uninitiated, which is most of us, the Green Lantern superhero is an easy target, ripe for sarcastic mockery. “Hey! Magic ring. Wow!” But even a half-brained idiot with 20 minutes of research can see the comics contain rich mythology and often dense plot lines. There’s more to the story than a dude who recites an oath and creates a green Uzi with his ring, but Martin Campbell’s film doesn’t have much interest in exploring it. There are some interesting themes about courage and overcoming fear at play here, but the movie reduces them to a juvenile level, afraid to embrace what it is about the Green Lantern that comic-book geeks are attracted to. Campbell and Berlanti crap in the face of the fanboys, and in doing so, fail to find anything that resonates with the rest of us. Green Lantern is worse than a mess; it’s a mess without any ambition. It wants to cash in on the surge of comic-book movies, but never wants to make an effort.