June 15, 2011
“Are you ready to have your mind blown?” asks Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern.
It’s a leading question that lays down the gauntlet for Martin Campbell’s belated intro to one of DC Comics’ second-tier crime-fighters. Put a line like that in your script and it practically requires you to be mind-blowing. Unfortunately, Lantern isn’t.
It’s instructional to compare and contrast with Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, the last attempt to alchemise a lesser-known property into box-office gold. That movie, you’ll remember, started off on Planet Earth, putting down roots before flashing back to fantastical Asgard.
Lantern, though, begins in outer space with a bewildering prologue that tries to convey a complex mythology in a few narrated minutes.
The universe, we’re told, is divided into 3,600 sectors, each protected by a guardian with a ring that gets its power from a lantern that gets /its/ power from a big green reservoir of good vibes back on base planet Oa.
Green, apparently, is the colour of will, while yellow is the colour of fear. It’s also the colour of Parallax, a marauding cloud of space puke that goes around absorbing anyone who gets in its way.
Did you get all that? Good, because there’ll be a test later. As it happens, there’s also one for Hal Jordan (Reynolds), a cocksure test pilot whose job it is to trial hi-tech fighter jets.
Jetting into the stratosphere with wing-woman Carol (Blake Lively) he proceeds to destroy one of these costly toys (the film’s most exciting set-piece) and get himself shit-canned.
Not to worry, though, as he quickly obtains alternative employment as the first human Lantern, a role he inherits from dying alien Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) after he crash-lands on Earth.
Thor, you’ll recall, was also a swaggering upstart brought low by hubris. Over the course of Branagh’s film, however, he learned enough maturity to re-acquire his powers.
Jordan, alas, is a bit of a tool who – bar an unlikely third-act conversion to noble warrior – stays a bit of a tool. He is, in short, a hard guy to root for, even when having his clock cleaned back on Oa by a rhino-like alien with the unfortunate name of Kilowog.
Oa, incidentally, is a deeply unimpressive realm: a vast CG screensaver that feels as false and phoney as Reynolds’ CG super-suit.
Parallax, too, fails to cut the mustard, even when made flesh in the form of a bulbous-headed Peter Sarsgaard.
The result is a film that’s all set-up and no pay-off: an origin story for a hero we don’t much care for with an elaborate lore we have zero interest in, toplined by a star who’s little more than a torso and a smirk.