Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) can’t make up his mind. He doesn’t know whether he wants to be the hotshot flying ace who always has a clever one-liner; the tortured young man, who still suffers from the loss of his father; or the superhero and the dutiful boyfriend. He better hurry up and decide, because a huge energy monster is about to destroy the Earth.
Like Jordan, “Green Lantern” can’t quite decide what type of film it wants to be. Should it be a campy, funny comedy full of tongue in cheek self-references to the absurdity of comic book superheroes, or should it be a more serious story of the reckless young man turned hero. Since neither director Martin Campbell nor the film’s four writers ever seem to fully commit to one or the other, we are given a bizarre mish-mash of “Top Gun” and “The Never Ending Story.”
Our tale begins with a heavy-handed voice over, bringing those of us who are not privy to the ways of the Lantern Corps up to speed. It seems that the Corps, led by the exceedingly purple Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), have defeated and imprisoned, Parallax, a being so evil that he’s comprised almost entirely out of slow-growing firework snakes.
Parallax escapes, of course, and comes after Abin Sur. In the battle that follows, Abin Sur is wounded but manages to evade Parallax and tumbles to Earth in his glow pod.
On Earth, the reckless yet sensitive Hal Jordan, a hotshot test pilot, finds Abin Sur, and is chosen by the dying alien’s green ring to succeed Abin Sur as a Green Lantern, an intergalactic policeman. This causes Jordan no end of grief as he tries to decide whether he is up to the task for which he has been chosen.
“Green Lantern” has many of the trappings of a silly fun superhero movie. The cartoonish look of the film, with its hyper-color glow effects, is amusing once you accept it, and Peter Sarsgaard is great as the smarmy and villainous Hector Hammond. Even the largely unnecessary 3D effects play into the B-movie quality of the film.
Unfortunately, “Green Lantern” never fully commits to the campiness, and is burdened with too many, too serious characters, like the stony Sinestro (Mark Strong), or the evil Parallax, who tries to up the ante and the scariness as he consumes city streets with his black snake tendrils. Even, the normally plucky and cheerful Reynolds seems to have been miscast for a the role of Jordan, since most of the film calls for him to look sullen and contemplative as his character tries to decide whether the green power ring is meant for him.
“Green Lantern” has a number of fun and funny moments that show us it could have been a stupid fun movie had it embraced its own goofiness. Instead its often-serious tone just serves to accentuate that this is a pretty stupid movie.