Of the big two comic book companies, DC is woefully behind Marvel when it comes to creating a movie empire. Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies aside, DC has been lost for years as to how to import its characters into successful film franchises, despite having an entire movie studio (via parent company Time Warner) at its disposal. Green Lantern is the latest attempt to jump-start a DC blockbuster, but it still comes off like it’s playing catch-up with the likes of Marvel’s Iron Man and Thor, which aren’t even exceptionally high standards to reach. The formula is there, but the execution is completely hollow.
Ryan Reynolds follows the Robert Downey Jr. model (with considerably less charm) as Hal Jordan, a rakish test pilot who stumbles into the superhero life when he encounters a dying alien. That alien is one of the Green Lanterns, a space-faring peacekeeping force powered by rings that can create objects out of pure energy. The alien’s last act is to pass his ring on to Hal, who finds himself embroiled in an interstellar war before he even understands his newfound powers.
And that’s only about half the plot that director Martin Campbell and the four credited screenwriters dump on the audience, starting with a lengthy narrated prologue. Lantern seems to mistake having a lot of plot for having an interesting plot, cramming various elements of decades of comic-book continuity into one feature film. On one hand you have a Star Wars-like conglomeration of alien races working to bring order to the galaxy, and on the other hand you have Hal’s frustrating courtship with fellow pilot and corporate heiress Carol Ferris (Blake Lively, playing the opposite of her surname). These two pieces never really connect, and thus the space adventure feels boxed in, while the human drama is mostly superficial (and the dialogue in both parts is pretty flat).
Lantern also lacks a strong villain; the Lanterns themselves are on the run from an entity known as Parallax, which is basically a roving blob of computer graphics, and Hal faces off against Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a human rival who becomes possessed by part of Parallax’s essence. Neither villain has the presence or motivation to make for a compelling conflict. Lantern ends up as a whole lot of familiar superhero elements thrown together in a haphazard, uninspired way.