When I first heard there was a Green Lantern movie happening starring Ryan Reynolds, I was skeptical. I wanted the movie to be good, and thought it could be given what they have to work with (a space police force armed with weapons that are limited only by imagination? That’s an awesome concept), but knowing how poorly DC movies without Batman generally turn out (and even some with Batman) part of me was afraid of a massive failure. The first trailer made it look like a derivative work, and while the second trailer looked alright, it also looked like a totally different movie. However, I did see leaked footage of the fight between Hal and Parallax, and good god, it was great. That renewed enthusiasm was slightly dashed by the horrid reviews this thing’s been getting, but I still remained cautiously optimistic. And how did the movie actually hold up?
The first thing I noticed is how superfluous the 3D was, outside of the scenes on Oa. Even then, it wasn’t all that great. The second thing I noticed is just how fake the whole movie is. I don’t just mean the special effects either. When Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) discovers an alien crash landing site, the first reaction is not excitement at being the first human to have proof of extraterrestrial life, fear at whatever’s in the craft, or a total breakdown over the fact that he was whisked away from his cousin’s birthday party by smoky green light in order to see a spacecraft, but concern. He tries in vain to save Abin Sur. This would be admirable (even natural) if it was a person in a crashed jet, but Hal reacts to the very first human contact with extraterrestrial life in a way no human ever would. Hector Hammond mutates, and no one (NO ONE) comments on his freakish appearance, save for a brief mention in one scene. Then, after he kills his father, he’s allowed to return to his apartment and not, like, arrested or anything? The incalculably wise Guardians of the Universe give Hal a mask to conceal his identity…that barely covers anything at all. And most importantly, after quitting the Green Lantern Corps (but being allowed to keep his ring and lantern?) Hal asks the Guardians for assistance in saving earth. They reject his request, (though they send the three living Lanterns with lines to stop him from falling into the sun?) and then, completely unassisted and without full training, he single-handedly defeats a creature that destroyed many other, more experienced and powerful Green Lanterns, including Abin Sur, the greatest Lantern alive. Let’s repeat that: in addition to everything else I mentioned above, a weak, untrained rookie killed a monster that the greatest soldier in the universe couldn’t even hold off, and it took him less than 20 minutes. These things all defy logic, and damages, if not outright kills, all suspension of disbelief.
But let’s not be totally negative. This movie isn’t the worst movie ever made. There are positives. For one, Peter Skarsgaard is excellent as Hector Hammond. While it’s clear that he’s kind of creepy, and it’s actually believable that he would become a villain, you still feel for him. Of course, that makes his pointless death at the end more painful, but I want to keep this part positive, so we won’t dwell on that.
For all the flak Blake Lively is getting for not being able to act, I found her to be one of the better actors in this movie, and liked her character (Carol Ferris). I may be thinking this only because she’s one of the few major characters who feels real at all, however. When it turns out her ex boyfriend is a superhero space cop who saved her life, she’s shocked and conveys this well, and when he goes off to fight the bad guys, she worries and cries for him. It’s almost as if she’s a human being with emotions, and I like that.
Other than that, some of the jokes they tossed in made me laugh, even a couple of lines they didn’t use in the TV spots, and some of the fights were creative and entertaining. Oh, and when Hal first says the oath, I got chills. That’s the point in the movie where I thought that the critics were wrong. Silly me. Well, then, back to the negative!
Ryan Reynolds was so miscast that it’s actually depressing. If this movie bombs financially, it will be perceived as his fault, even though he did his best, and that could tarnish a good actor’s reputation and end all possibilities of a Deadpool movie. The character could have worked, but the transition from irresponsible and unlikeable jackass to responsible hero is so quick that it’s barely there. He basically whines, mopes, is told by his friends he’s not as bad as he thinks he is, continues to whine and mope, and then Carol tells him that courage is what overcomes fear and in the next scene he’s volunteering to save the world. Not even an introspection montage or anything. Perhaps he grew up between scenes, but that’s not all that believable.
The last thing I should comment on is the fact that this movie really tries to cram as much in as it can, while at the same time not really giving us anything. A prime example is the first fight between Hal Jordan and Hector Hammond, who has the most fun name to say in this movie (quite an accomplishment in a movie full of aliens). Hector starts tearing up an army facility, killing his dad (a U.S. Senator) and Angela Bassett’s character, Amanda Waller (who was a great villain in the comics, and also 300-some pounds heavy), and causing tons of property damage. Suddenly, Hal bursts through a wall. Why? There was a throwaway line earlier on about the ring being able to sense trouble, but the real reason is that they wanted one more fight scene. The movie tries to give us the origins of one hero and three villains (two of which die by the end anyway) and none of them are fully fleshed out. Sinestro’s scene after the credits where he becomes a villain doesn’t even make sense. His only reason to put the ring on was because they needed the “yellow power of fear” to beat Parallax, but Hal beat him without that, so there’s literally no reason left for him to use that ring. And on top of this, there’s the romantic subplot that only sort of works.
What they should have done is focused more on Hammond, with Parallax being a much bigger threat for the second movie. I can see why making the freakish Hammond the main villain would be a bad idea, at least without a sexier villain to balance him out, but there’s no reason they couldn’t find someone to fill that role. They should also have cast Reynolds as Kyle Rayner, thus forcing him to be more bearable, or cast someone else entirely. Hell, casting a black actor to play the John Stewart GL would have probably been even better, since the younger audience would be more familiar with the black GL from the Justice League cartoon more than Hal Jordan. They could have even kept the test pilot job if they wanted. And either way, the movie should have had more character development for its protagonist.
Ultimately, this is a failed and disappointing movie that should have been DC’s Iron Man (or at least its Thor) rather than being its DareDevil (theatrical release, not the director’s cut, which was great). Perhaps a director’s cut could save this steaming pile of garbage, but as it stands, I can’t recommend this thing. I originally gave it a Don’t See This Movie out of ten, because I know nerds are always chomping at the bit to see movies based on nerd properties even if they aren’t good, and that means that film makers are free to put less effort into these types of movies. Green Lantern is an excellent example of this. Hopefully, the sequel (yes, there’s a sequel coming) will be better, though that won’t be hard. My more honest numerical review is 2/10. The only movie I saw in cinemas last year that compares with GL for awfulness is Battle: Los Angeles.