I’m willing to bet money that Warner Bros’ and Martin Campbell had strikingly different conceptions of what GREEN LANTERN would look like or, for that matter what any comic book superhero movie should look like. Campbell is a 67-year old man who is known for bringing the James Bond franchise back from the dead TWICE (GOLDENEYE and CASINO ROYALE). He is an old-school director who has always primarily worked with practical effects. CG effects, especially on the scale required by GREEN LANTERN, is an unfamiliar territory for the director and Warner Bros execs should have known this and taken heed when they decided to hire Campbell. I’m sure that when Campbell set out to envision how he would make GREEN LANTERN, he saw the project being a traditional and light comic book story harkening back to the Golden and Silver Age when comic books were still strictly for kids. Warner Bros may have had the same notion, but I doubt it. The studios execs are obviously looking to make GREEN LANTERN into a new franchise and they probably hoped for a film that fell somewhere inbetween SUPERMAN and BATMAN on the seriousness level. The end result of GREEN LANTERN is a film that works great on some levels and fails horribly on others with it being an overall average experience.

GREEN LANTERN is one of DC Comics’ A-list properties alongside Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. However, unlike those other heroes, Green Lantern doesn’t have the benefit of a TV series or film to rely upon to jog audiences’ memories or use nostalgia to build audience interest. What’s more, to a non-comic book fan, Green Lantern’s power sounds a bit hokey. His power derives from a ring that allows him to generate literally anything through willpower and he can fly with it. The character has been around since 1940 and a number of people have assumed the mantle over the decades (beginning with Alan Scott, then Hal Jordan, and a number of others after Jordan). The universe is overseen by a group of ancient alien beings known as the Guardians of the Universe. They created the ring worn by Green Lantern and they formed a police force of thousands of Green Lanterns. Each Green Lantern wears the ring and each Green Lantern protects a sector of the universe. The ring cannot be worn by just anyone. The ring must accept the wearer as a worthy person who knows no fear. In Hal Jordan’s case, a dying Green Lantern known as Abin Sur gives his ring to Jordan and makes him Earth’s protector. Jordan is then transported to Oa, the home of the Green Lanterns, where he learns about his new role and a new galactic threat known as Parallax, which he ends up fighting for the survival of Earth.

Like THOR, GREEN LANTERN is not an easy property to translate to the screen. The character is a product of the Silver Age of comic books when DC Comics had its superheroes’ origin stories reflect the scientific and technological breakthroughs that marked the 1950s. DC superheroes also tended to have an intergalactic/cosmic aspect to their adventures, which undoubtedly was meant to reflect the growing popularity of science fiction. Translating this cinematically runs the risk of producing something that comes off as cheesy. GREEN LANTERN doesn’t have the benefit of being a character with a dark and cool gothic look like Batman nor can it depend on a well-known and iconic history like Superman to sell itself to audiences. I think for GREEN LANTERN to have worked, it should have either been set during the 1950s or it should have raised the stakes of the cosmic threat facing Earth to a much higher and dramatic level. Unfortunately, the film does neither.

There was much criticism (I being one of the loudest) of Ryan Reynolds being cast as Hal Jordan. Up until last year, Reynolds had never acted in anything that gave me confidence in his abilities to pull off GREEN LANTERN. To me, Reynolds would always be the goofy guy from VAN WILDER. However, my negative impressions of the actor were completely erased last October when I saw a small film that no one seemed to see called BURIED (its out on Blu-Ray and I urge everyone to see it). That film was a one-man show that finally proved to me that Reynolds could pull off a dramatic performance. As Hal Jordan, Reynolds does a fine job and he’s probably the best thing about the movie. For a movie like GREEN LANTERN, some self-deprecating humor is needed for the hokiness behind the Green Lantern mythos and Reynolds provides it in the right amount. One scene in particular hilariously addresses the implausibility of a superhero hiding his secret identity by simply wearing a mask across his eyes. Hal Jordan pays a visit to his girlfriend (Blake Lively) as Green Lantern. Not wanting her to know that Green Lantern is really Jordan, the hero attempts to disguise his voice by deepening it. However, she immediately recognizes him and remarks on the stupidity of hiding your identity by having a mask cover your eyes.

Unfortunately, the strongest characters in the film are also the most underused. Peter Sarsgaard plays the role of the villain Hector Hammond. Hammond is a genius scientist whose career aspirations haven’t panned out the way he hoped until he is hired to investigate the body of the alien that gave Hal Jordan his ring. Inside the alien’s body is the remnant of yellow energy, which basically makes you evil and gives you powers. Hammond is a far more interesting character than Parallax, which is just a giant octopus-looking cloud with a head. Parallax is a one-dimensional antagonist that is given absolutely no motivation for why it does what it does. Hammond is more dimensionalized, but given the short amount of screen time he’s given, he’s not given a chance to develop further as a character.

The other character worth noting is that of Sinestro, who is played by Mark Strong (KICK-ASS). Sinestro steals every scene he’s in, but unfortunately the director, the screenwriters, and/or Warner Bros execs were too shortsighted to use him properly (make sure you stick around for the end credits to catch one of the best scenes in the film). In the comic books, Sinestro is one of Green Lantern’s archenemies. In the film, he hasn’t become evil yet, but he’s set up to become the villain in the sequel (that is, if this film makes enough money to justify a sequel). GREEN LANTERN makes the same mistake SHERLOCK HOLMES made a few years ago by reserving the best villain for a sequel. I’m not sure if this is some best-for-last kind of thinking, but whatever the strategy behind it, it’s a stupid one. Instead, we’re stuck with an uninteresting, one-dimensional villain who made me only care about the poor CG effects that were used to create him.

The rest of the cast is a mess of lifeless concoctions that come and go without making any impact on the audience. Blake Lively as Carol Ferris isn’t even good enough to be labeled as the stereotypical damsel-in-distress we often see in superhero movies. Anytime she opens her mouth, she delivers some generic dialogue that can be found in any bad movie. She doesn’t even perform her bad lines well. What’s more, I was confused as to exactly what her relationship was to Hal Jordan. At the beginning of the movie, she’s pissed off at him and ready to get him both fired and investigated for misconduct. However, we then see her friendly with him. None of this worked and the two actors lacked any chemistry. The cast also features Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett in completely wasted roles. I wasn’t even sure why Bassett was cast for a role that anyone could have played. As for Robbins, I may be the only one, but did anyone else think the father-son relationship between he and Hector Hammond seemed a bit weird given the fact that Robbins isn’t that old and Sarsgaard isn’t that young?

There is much to criticize about GREEN LANTERN, but the absolute worst aspect of this film were the CG effects. The effects were done by Sony Imageworks, which is one of Hollywood’s powerhouse effects houses. However, if you didn’t know of Sony Imageworks, you would have thought the effects were done by a team of amateur students working with 1990’s effects software. The effects are THAT bad. None of the CG looks integrated with the real world (i.e. the effects are brighter and more glossy looking than their real world surroundings). This problem is especially noticeable during the 3rd Act climax when Parallax attacks Earth and is spreading himself all over Coast City. It doesn’t look at all like Parallax is really on Earth since nothing he touches looks like its being affected by him. Most disappointing is Oa, the world where the Guardians of the Universe and the Green Lantern Corps inhabit. I didn’t see the film in 3D, but I still got eye strain trying to decipher the details in the world. Oa basically looks like a jumbled blend of colors. The design is horrendous and it looks even worse than THOR’s Asgard. For all the money that was spent making GREEN LANTERN, it makes me wonder where the hell it all went.

So there you have it. GREEN LANTERN starts off promisingly with a nice, brief explanation of the backstory and Hal Jordan’s introduction. However, once he receives the ring and travels to Oa, the film loses all momentum and jumps back and forth between Hal Jordan, events in Oa, Hector Hammond, etc. The filmmakers seemed to want to tell us so much, but without a plan as to how they would tell their story. As a result, I lost focus and interest during the 2nd Act, which was made up a bit in the climax and resolution, but not enough to salvage this film. Finally, it would have been nice to have established some connection with the rest of the DC Universe. Marvel Films does this nicely and DC has the potential to do it even better than Marvel because unlike Marvel, Warner Bros owns all the DC properties. I would have liked to have seen a reference made to Superman or Batman and I’m curious why Warner Bros has not done this in any of its DC films. All in all, GREEN LANTERN has some noteworthy aspects, but its not enough to make it a memorable or enjoyable experience.

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