Green Lantern, as a film, had several strikes going against it, before it even hit the movie screens.
First, GL is not one of the better known characters in the public eye, at least among those who don't watch cartoons (and probably half of those think he's supposed to be black). He isn't a Superman, a Batman, a Wonder Woman, or even an Aquaman. There's little chance that your average film-goer has been waiting all his life to see "Green Lantern done right".
Secondly, the lead actor, Ryan Reynolds, is best known for (and excels at) playing somewhat goofy wise-crackers. And the percentage of the audience that DOES know the character thinks of him as more of a straight-arrow type. When the first trailer hit, and Reynolds seemed to be using his default film persona ("I know, right?") I'm sure several fans gave up on the film then and there.
Finally, it's an origin story. And that means a chunk of the movie must be devoted to showing the main character's growth from ordinary guy to hero. Done poorly, that can be tremendously dull.
Given that, did Green Lantern overcome it's handicaps, and rise to the occasion?
Don't get me wrong, it's not a BAD film. But it's not a particularly good one either.
The human characters, with the exception of Reynolds himself, are basically window dressing. There's Carol Ferris, played by Blake Lively, who is supposed to be the love of his life, but has zero chemistry with Jordan.
There's his best friend Tom, played by newcomer Taikia "I'm not Ted Raimi" Waititi, who does best-friendish things, and looks amazed on cue.
There's secondary villain Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) who does an adequate job of filling time while we wait for Jordan to discover his inner heroism.
And a bunch of other characters (including Angela Basset's surprisingly svelte Amanda Waller, and Hal's here-and-gone again family), all of whom cash in their plot coupons and disappear from the film, often by being killed off.
As for the aliens, the only ones with anything remotely resembling a personality are Mark Strong's Sinestro and Michael Clarke Duncan's Kilowog. And those are right out of central casting: Sinestro is the proud commander, and Kilowog the tough drill sergeant.
The central plot line is by-the-book. Ordinary guy is recruited to defend the universe against an all-encompassing evil. At first, he fails, and gives up, but in the end he rises to the occasion and wins the day. While there's some attempt to give the character depth (by introducing some tragedy into his backstory, courtesy of a Geoff Johns-penned comic) it comes across as flat. Hal's supposedly traumatized by his fear, but we don't really SEE it. We're simply TOLD he feels it.
There are a few subplots, particularly Hammond's, but they feel more like padding than anything else. And, in what I consider the biggest disappointment of the film, about 90% of the scenes on Oa appear in either the trailers or in publicity clips online. I haven't added them up, but I'd estimate the scenes there, showing off the vast panoramas of the world and multitudinous species of the Corps take up about 20 minutes of the film... and about half of that is Jordan being shown up by other Lanterns.
Finally, though, Hal Jordan, Green Lantern of sector 2184, confronts the evil menace of
There are a few other minor plot holes that stuck in my mind:
- We're told the ring has a database that Hal can access subconsciously, hence his complete knowledge of sector 2813's astrography and population. But immediately thereafter, he's asking basic questions about the Corps, info you'd expect would be the first thing implanted.
- Why did it take so long for the ring to take him to Oa? Is there a bylaw in the GL charter that says "A prospective Lantern must first be beaten up in a parking lot before he can be inducted"?
- The inconsistent treatment of the uniform's mask. At first, we're told that it only appears when it's necessary to hide his identity. And at first, that seems to be the case. But even when he's alone with people who know his ID (the worst kept secret in the movie) the mask stays on.
- Why did Sinestro & the others wait until Parallax was gone to rescue Hal? Why didn't they HELP?
The movie isn't all bad, however. With the exception of one flying scene, the CGI is quite good, and the constructs and costume look much better in context. And the music is appropriately heroic (I swear I heard some motifs from the Williams Superman score).
But, ultimately, this movie is ruined by wasted potential. The most interesting scenes are actually the ones explaining the background of Hal's predecessor, Abin Sur, which hinted at a great space opera adventure. THAT is the movie I wanted to see, not another "heroic journey" tale. With the entirety of the universe to play in, Green Lantern is, literally, too mundane.
Could have been worse, though. It could have been Jack Black.