I am usually the very first person to discount movie Critics (capitalized for those who specifically do it professionally) when it comes to genre flicks, and most especially “popcorn” flicks that are simply meant to entertain. I actually really enjoy movies that simply entertain. CLASH OF THE TITANS, PUSH, UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS, DOOMSDAY, were all pretty much pissed on across the board by the Critics, but if you looked at audience reactions, those were more varied and there seemed to be a number of people, like me, who actually enjoyed those movies for what they were: fun, genre, popcorn entertainment. I’ve always been of the mind that the Critics won’t like such a flick unless there is something IN it that their Critical eye can glom onto (like gorgeous cinematography, or in the case of IRON MAN, Downey Jr.’s amazing performance) and tout. I think they’ve forgotten what it was to just go to a movie and enjoy it for enjoyment’s sake.
That said when it comes to Martin Campbell’s live action DC Comics film GREEN LANTERN starring Ryan Reynolds...they were SPOT on the bean. For lack of a better phrase it is fairly awful.
As far as bad comic book-to-screen adaptations go, the bottom of the barrel is usually occupied by the first FANTASTIC FOUR, SPIDERMAN 3 and DAREDEVIL. So where does GL fall? Somewhere in between those...but really NOTHING is worse than DAREDEVIL.
I’m also kind of baffled as to how this movie is so bad. I mean Martin Campbell directed CASINO ROYALE and almost single handedly revived the James Bond series!...but then I remember that he also did VERTICAL LIMIT and THE LEGEND Of ZORRO and things settle into place in my head.
Where does GL fall apart? Well, it’s not in the effects department, as the film LOOKS just fine, especially the scenes on Oa everything looks lavish. Even GL’s suit is nicely presented and doesn’t look too CGI that I couldn’t get past it which I had been worried about. That all worked fine. No, I think because this film went through more than one script re-write is probably problem one. There is some seriously clunky dialogue and some strange plot progression moments where I wondered if we were missing a reel. As far as acting goes I have to only give any credit to Reynolds who does his very best to pull off Hal Jordan (and Mark Strong, see below), but even his best (I’m afraid) is just not good enough and there were whole sections where he descends into goofy one-liners. Hal is a sarcastic, cocky guy...not a goofy, cocky guy. I give Reynolds credit for trying, but in the end I think he was the wrong choice to play Hal. While we are at it, I don’t think every huge animated character in movies needs to be portrayed or voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan...there I said it. I would preferred Kilowog to have been gruffer (but that’s a personal nitpick). Geoffrey Rush, on the other hand, as Tomar Re was genius, he works perfectly. However, Sarsgard, Robbins, Basset and Lively get reduced to carboard cutouts gibbering pointless dialogue and being too over the top for their own good. Sarsgard especially doesn’t come across as villainous as Hector Hammond but actually seems to be doing his level best clowning bad guy sidekick impression. When people like Jeff Bridges, Wilem Dafoe, Heath Ledger and Tom Hiddelston have come before you playing comic book villains you really need to come with your “A” game, and the best Sarsgard can seem to manage is his “F” game. Robbins is almost laughable as Hammond’s Senator Father as he seems to just be an afformetnioned cardboard cutout of the asshole father, right down to the scene where it looks as if he’s going to macho-ly punch Hammond Jr. in the gut and shout “Hey Tiger!”, and we KNOW that Robbins is capable of much subtler performances and much better acting. Even the bit character of Kalmaku played here by Taika Watiti (Hal’s mechanic in the comics) is reduced to comedy sounding board for Reynold’s goofier moments as Jordan. The only real standout is the always amazing Mark Strong as future baddie Sinestro, who chews scenery in every scene he’s in.
Okay, you say, so the acting’s bad, is that all? I’m afraid that’s not all. As I said above the script is really messy and tries to jam too much into the hour and forty minute running time (who told them to make such a densely back grounded story into a movie that is 1 hr 40?!). The funny thing about that is that this is basically Geoff John’s Green Lantern: Origin story which isn’t that deep. It basically establishes Hal into the role and has him fight an enemy. It SHOULD have been easy as hell to do, but instead someone decided to complicate things. I think Chris’ comment to me after the film spells it out best. Having Parallax show up VIA Hector Hammond was a bad bad idea. As he noted, what could have happened is Hal could have fought Hector in the downtown streets with Hal making constructs and Hammond throwing shit at him with his mind and that could have made a decent climax battle. But someone decided that Parallax needed to show up now. So we get the too many villains angle and Parallax never has time to be painted as anything too much. Sure it can destroy people on a whim and seems to delight in taking out a few city blocks, but was I ever really frightened by this creature that supposedly feeds on fear? Not at all. In as much as I think Sarsgard’s portrayal of Hammond was bad, I think Parallax was worse. He may as well have been called “Big Nameless Cloud Macguffin that destroys”.
Lastly, what do you go to see a GL movie for? You got to see Hal make ring contructs right? Well he does that for all of 12 minutes over the course of the whole 1hr 40 minutes...and I’m being generous. Mostly he does it on Oa, and those scenes are great but there isn't enough. Likewise we never get enough of Oa as a setting... the Guardians who are totally interesting in the comics, are here completely underused as the dudes who actually created the GL Corps. Then there are Sinestro, Kilowog and Tomar Re who don’t get oodles of screen time either. I don’t really mind that as this is Hal’s show, but if you are going to introduce us to a whole world of Space Police, please at least spend more time there. It seems like Hal gets an hour or two of training (that in the film lasts as a 4 minute montage) and then off he goes to save earth. Even in John’s origin book he spends a bunch more time there before returning to earth, going to the central battery to learn things about the Corp. Ect. I needed more of that in a GL movie.
GL is a wasted opportunity to make a third big DC character into a viable franchise. With Nolan's Batman films doing so well, and Zack Snyder re-launching Superman next year in MAN OF STEEL, we COULD have had a decent, serious GL movie and instead we get something that isn’t even as good as the animated origin story GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT that came out last year. GL is a squandered opportunity and a practically lifeless, definitely soulless effects-ridden movie that gave me memories of the second Mummy movie. Seriously. I feel awful saying that. I went in with lowered expectations, and I don’t think I could lower them enough to enjoy the dog’s breakfast mess that is GREEN LANTERN.