“In brightest day, in darkest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might…beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!” That’s the oath every Green Lantern recites when in possession of the power ring. Hal Jordan stays true to his oath in Green Lantern in an attempt to save earth; unfortunately Warner Bros. failed to let the evil known as mediocre writing escape its sight, creating a tacky, over-produced mess for a beloved superhero that deserved much better.
The film follows Hal (a surprisingly charming performance by Ryan Reynolds), a cocky, reckless, self-deprecating pilot who attempts to do good, but fails to do so because of his lack of courage. With recurring visions of his father’s death, Hal blindly goes about his bachelor life failing to live up to others’ expectations, including longtime friend and love interest Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). We are also introduced to Abin Sur, a respected Green Lantern soldier who is attacked by Parallax, a powerful being who feeds off the fear of those in his way. Abin Sur is critically wounded during their brief encounter, and flees to the nearest planet. He crashes on Earth, and his ring sets out to find a suitable replacement in Hal Jordan. After reciting the oath, Hal is transported to Oa, a planet inhabited by the Green Lantern Corps, where he is taught the origin of the soldiers and the ring (powered by will).
The introduction of the Green Lantern Corps is where the film shines, but that bright green light goes out quickly. Tomar-Re, Kilowog and Thaal Sinestro are compelling characters that don’t receive the depth and screen time they deserve. This fast-forwarded introduction to Hal Jordan as a Green Lantern and the rest of the corps fails to establish any connection between the character and its audience. It’s as if the screenwriters (Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg) and director Martin Campbell wanted to skip dinner with us and go straight to bed (I’m not that easy, Warner Bros.). How is it possible that Green Lantern boot camp only lasts five minutes?
The film also introduces us to Dr. Hector Hammond (a good performance from Peter Sarsgaard), a scientist brought in by government agent Dr. Amanda Waller (Angela Bassett) to operate on the extraterrestrial corpse of Abin Sur. While performing the autopsy, Hammond is injected by a piece of Parallax’s DNA in the alien body, which causes his head to swell larger than Barry Bonds’. Connected with the Parallax, Hammond develops telepathic powers and battles Hal in a battle of fear vs. will. Can Hal overcome his fear and use his will to destroy Parallax and save the world? Sure he can, but what exactly is he afraid of? Hal is haunted by the death of his father, a pilot who died in an explosion. Any person would be affected by such a terrible loss, but what is he running away from? These are questions that the writers don’t bother to answer, instead giving a clichéd superhero story that that is as hollow as the worst comic book films (i.e. Fantastic Four, Daredevil).
Nowadays, the bar for comic book movies is raised so high, it is risky to introduce a hero such as Green Lantern to the world. What makes these films so successful isn’t the hero’s super abilities but the human element. Christopher Nolan’s Batman and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man are well introduced characters with emotional depth. We see a funny, charming Hal Jordan onscreen, but we don’t know or understand him. Warner Bros. added $9 million to budget to improve the less-than-stellar visual effects last month. Maybe they should have invested that money to hire another writer to re-edit the script.
I am a big fan of the Green Lantern, and I didn’t find this movie to be that bad. But those not familiar with Hal Jordan and the mythos of the comic books will be disappointed.