Synopsis: Hal Jordan is given a green power ring by a dying Green Lantern, Abin Sur, and takes Sur’s place as a Green Lantern. As he learns how to use his new powers he has to take an alien menace known as Parallax and save the world.
Green Lantern…….sigh…….so much potential, so little realization. It wasn’t a terrible movie in my opinion but given where we were with superhero movies in 2011 it fell extremely short of expectations. Had this same movie been made and released in 1988 or even 1996 it would have been much better received. But in the 2000s the bar went up significantly for these films because the quality of the best ones went up significantly. In a movie world with the Nolan Dark Knight Trilogy and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, movies like this one and the first two Fantastic Four movies look a lot worse than they were. On my scale of superhero movies the absolute worst movies that were major releases are Superman 4, Supergirl, Batman & Robin, Elektra, and Catwoman. Those films have no redeeming qualities and are known to induce vomiting. As an adolescent without much of an eye for movie minutiae I could tell that Supes 4 and Supergirl would bad movies. That’s how bad they were. Green Lantern is not that.
But it isn’t very good, either. And it’s worse than Spiderman 3 and X-Men: The Last Stand, two movies that still had some cool moments amongst the botched storylines and too much going on. If I had to describe Green Lantern, I would call it perpetually underwhelming. By that I mean that they literally zero ‘wow’ moments. And given all the potential for CGI awesomeness with the power rings and what they can create they sure as heck didn’t capitalize on it. Now as to why I’m going to break this down given all the ‘meh’ I’ve used to describe it….well, it’s not much fun to talk about good movies. Unless you want to venture into poorly crafted, trying too hard hot takes on the Avengers films that can be debunked by anyone who’s seen the movies, and I’m not going there. So here we go:
All the scenes on Oa, the Lantern home base planet, were cool. Those are the few times we got to see what was possible onscreen with the power rings. Mark Strong did an excellent job as Sinestro, the Lantern who in the comics goes on to become Lantern Hal Jordan’s greatest nemesis. The training sequences between Jordan, Sinestro, and Kilowog worked pretty well. I thought Ryan Reynolds was adequate as Hal Jordan. I don’t think he’s to blame for the movie failing.
Too much Earth, regular people stuff, most of which was boring. All we needed on Earth was Jordan getting the ring from Abin Sur. After that it should have been off to Oa and the out space to fight some bad guys. Even in the comics Jordan isn’t an interesting enough character to have spend long stretches on Earth having long conversations with other people. So to do that in a movie where we really want cool CGI action with the rings was just a bad move. The Lantern Rings are like a DC comics version of Jedi Lighhtsabers; the last thing you want to sit through are scenes with the people wielding them doing stuff other than using them. And we got way too much of that.
The villain was also a bad choice. In the comics Parallax is a much bigger deal than he was made out to be here. Parallax is a force that requires more than one guy to take down and is a much more complex entity than what was presented here. And a much easier, ready for movie storyline was easier with Sinestro. They could have very easily gone through the betrayal of the Green Lantern Corps by Sinestro and culminated in a super awesome Lantern fight between he and Jordan to end the film. And in future films you could introduce the other Lantern Corps and built to an eventual Blackest Night-style third movie to close out a trilogy. But they totally screwed the pooch by giving us an Earth-bound Hal Jordan-Carol Ferris love story with a green ring as an obstacle. So sad.
This movie could have really been a contender had it been done differently. One silver lining to it is that it’s a testament to the improved strength of superhero films overall at this point that this film is considered such a failure. But that doesn’t save it. I watched it on cable and it barely held my attention. And since then there were zero repeat viewings. It’s just a boring, uninspiring piece of film making. Hopefully they’ll do better when they try again as part of the new DC Cinematic Universe. A word or two of advice: more Lanterns, fewer people.