Rating: 2 stars out of 5
With the deluge of superhero movies hitting screens this summer, studios have tried to differentiate them from the rest of the pack. Thor was a fish-out-of-water saga, X-Men: First Class placed the mutants in the Cuban Missile crisis while studying the relationship between the two founding members of the team, while the upcoming Captain America kicks off during WWII.
So it’s surprising to find a superhero movie which just goes for the plain vanilla flavouring, except with some green colouring to taste. The Green Lantern is a second-tier superhero that’s unlikely to strike a chord with most folks, lacking the instant recognisability of Spider Man or Batman.
Hard core fans of the series would love this adaptation, which spends a lot of time on the whole Green Lantern mythos and the cumbersome origin story. There’s more than one Lantern; the whole cosmos is filled with them and those rings, which recharge by coming in contact with lanterns, are as common as the toy ones you find in cereal boxes.
The green energy represents will power, while fear, represented by yellow power, is its opposite. The ring can turn thought into physical objects, including gatling-style machine guns and race tracks. There’s just so much exposition the audience can take in one movie, and it’s not very well-handled here, with some parts coming across like a well-filmed BBC documentary.
The bucket load of backstory establishes the big villain of the piece; a gigantic yellow glob of evil called Parallax, which has nothing to do with optical errors. Parallax is, surprise, surprise, out to destroy the Green Lanterns.
The last hope of the universe is Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), the freshly minted human Green Lantern who’s also an air-force pilot. Reynolds appears to be a torso with abs rather than an actual presence. It’s hard to sympathise with the arrogant Jordan, and it’s made even harder with Reynold’s limited dramatic range.
On the other side of the ring is his antithesis; Hector Hommand (Peter Saarsgard), a socially awkward geek scientist with daddy issues who gets possessed by Parallax’s powers, and lusts for Jordan’s squeeze Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). He’s the total opposite of the Calvin Klein model Reynolds, and actually the more interesting of the two.
Visually the film does often look stunning, and the alien Lanterns look gorgeous, such as Sinistero (Mark Strong) and Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan). The Lantern homeworld of Oa is intriguing, even though one wonders about the Guardians of the Galaxy, who sit around on blocks of stone. Don’t they need to take toilet trips once in a while?
Casino Royale director Martin Campbell can’t lift this superhero tale from being utterly generic. Even the action set pieces have a been-there, done-that feel, seemingly culled and reworked from other superhero movies. Like Green Lantern’s power, this film needed far more creativity to stand out from the rest of the crowd.