Comic book movies tend to have an air of exclusivity about them. You have to understand the complex, ever-fluid histories of a whole cast of characters, and if you’ve joined a franchise late, you’ll need to have seen earlier films to have any clue what’s going on. Green Lantern has the makings of a great, inclusive adaptation, but it falls victim to the Hollywood formula.
Since time immemorial, the Green Lantern Corps has protected the Universe with the power of free-will harnessed in the rings that they wear. Only one enemy was ever able to threaten their cause, Parallax, but he was defeated by Abin Sur, the Corps’ finest warrior, and locked away on a distant planet—until now. Parallax breaks free, seeks out Abin Sur and mortally wounds him. He crashes on Earth where he hands over his ring to the first ever human Green Lantern, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds). It’s up to Hal, a reckless but talented pilot, to save the world.
There are a number of high-points in Green Lantern, beginning with its opening sequence narrated by Geoffrey Rush (who later voices the half-bird half-fish Green Lantern Tomar-Re). Our introduction to Hal in a dogfight exercise gets the adrenalin flowing, every scene that takes place in space is captivating and the implements conjured up by Hal using his ring are imaginative, if not absurd. At each of these peaks, Green Lantern is an accessible and entertaining origin story, but it gets hammered flat every time it returns to Earth where plastic romance and sitcom humor reign. The movie tries to take on some higher meaning about “being human” and accepting your flaws, but it simply doesn’t succeed. For every hint of subtext, we have to sit through a few dull scenes with Hal and his squeeze Carol Farris (Blake Lively, who’s more like Blake Half-dead in the role).
The result of this wasteful treatment is that Green Lantern doesn’t have time to be anything more than a flimsy, anti-climactic flick which sinks beneath the weight of its own intent. It’s a flashy but ultimately unsatisfying exercise in getting to know a character who isn’t worth knowing. The lights are on, but nobody’s home.