I discovered comic books back in the mid 1980s. We lived near a convenience store that stocked a fairly large number of them. I remember well going down there, getting a strawberry ice cream cone, playing some Super Mario Bros and buying comics.
Being an imaginative child, and a fan of science fictiony stuff, I very quickly gravitated to Green Lantern. And why not? Here was a set of stories that often took place in space, featured aliens by the gross and had a ring that could be used to make anything (though usually just made shield bubbles and giant fists). I really loved the comic, though as I aged I drifted away from comics in general and by the early 1990s had stopped reading any. These days I pick up the occasional graphic novel, but I haven’t read a monthly series in a very long time.
The character(s) of Green Lantern remain a favorite of mine, however, and when I heard DC was finally getting off their collective backsides and making a movie based around the comic, I rejoiced for about twenty seconds. Then reality hit. I’d always had a sneaking suspicion a Green Lantern movie would wind up being all about the special effects and wouldn’t have any real story. Sadly, I turned out to be right. What I didn’t anticipate was how ho-hum those FX would be.
The story centers around Hal Jordan, played by Ryan Reynolds, a man not entirely suited to the role. Jordan is a test pilot. Test pilots are known for being capable, disciplined and for taking their jobs seriously. Think of Chuck Yeager. Jordan was like that in the comic, but since he’s now a movie character he has to have issues centering around his dead father and be a maverick, and believe me I choose that word deliberately. The first few minutes of the film need only the sounds of “Danger Zone” playing in the background to be a Top Gun rip-off.
Anyhow, an alien and member of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police agency, ends up crashing and dying on Earth while fighting an evil space baddie named Parallax (and I’ve kept up on the comics enough to be confused, given that I know who Parallax was in the comics). His ring goes off and picks Jordan to be the next Green Lantern for this sector of space. “Hilarity” follows as we see Jordan getting used to his new ring, visiting Oa (the headquarters planet), meeting his fellow Green Lanterns and getting trained. That one of those fellow Green Lanterns is named Sinestro should serve as a warning to the people running the program, but for some reason doesn’t.
Back on Earth, in what’s a far more interesting plot development, Hector Hammond, a scientist very well played by Peter Sarsgaard, is recruited to study the remains of the alien who’d crashed. Hammond’s character is interesting, compelling and entertaining, all things Jordan really just isn’t. He eventually gets “infected” by Parallax and starts going mad. He is of course known to Jordan and in love with Jordan’s boss and ex-girlfriend, Carol Ferris. Because in comic books everyone knows everyone.
I really wanted to like this movie, but I really didn’t. The plot is incredibly boring and the movie itself is just dull as dishwater. The effects aren’t much to write home about, either. The technology exists to make photo realistic CGI people (see: Avatar), but that technology costs more than they are willing to spend for this movie. Aside from Sinestro, well-played by Mark Strong, none of the other Lanterns look very good and their world is not that impressive.
The other major problem is Ryan Reynolds. Given the right material, he’s not a bad actor, and he’s certainly quite easy on the eyes. Problem is that he’s not right for the role of Hal Jordan, and they changed too much of the character to suit his acting style rather than simply having him play a different version of the Green Lantern. Why not have him play Kyle Rayner, who is much closer to the acting style of Ryan Reynolds? Better yet, why not ditch Jordan and Rayner, and have the John Stewart version of Green Lantern? He was very popular in the Justice League animated series and it would have been a great chance to have a major super hero movie headlined by a black actor.
But, oh well. This wasn’t a horrible movie by any means, but it was dreadfully dull. If DC plans to use this as their version of Iron Man, which clearly they do as this movie even includes a post-credits teaser, and build up to a Justice League movie, well, they’re likely to be very disappointed. I know I was.