In an attempt by the script to be both epic and snarky, director Martin Campbell and actor Ryan Reynolds did the best they could with what they were given to work with.
An evil force, the literal embodiment of fear, is rising in the universe. Standing against it is the Green Lantern Corps, an elite legion of warriors harnessing the green power of will to protect the innocent. When one of their bravest and best is mortally wounded and crash-lands on Earth, he sends the green power to find a worthy successor, a human with the qualities to become a Green Lantern. It chooses Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a test pilot who strives to win at any cost but is seen as reckless by his peers. As the first human ever recruited, the rest of corp holds out little hope for his success, but to save his world, Hal will have to find a way.
Comic fans know how much Green Lantern has changed over the years. When first introduced, he was a fearless warrior who used his green power ring to create constructs of whatever he thought of, and the only limitation was the color yellow (due to a necessary impurity in the construction of green power rings). Fast forward a few decades (where the yellow limitation has been revised to merely an embodiment of fear to be overcome by the wearer), and a film version finally gets its own green light (now that special effects have caught up with the concept). It’s clear from the script that Ryan Reynolds was perfect for Hal Jordan in the kind of Green Lantern the filmmakers wanted, but in a comic book drama about an emerald paladin who’s every thought can become reality and the strength of those constructs an extension of their will, the relaxed “Van Wilder” lack of seriousness (meant to make him more family friendly than a pompous elitist) undermines both the character and the core concept of what a Green Lantern is supposed to represent.
When compared to other comic-to-film franchises, director Martin Campbell must have been keenly aware that all of this sounded familiar. Most of what Green Lantern borrows from is the original Superman film starring Christopher Reeve. From wing-over flybys to a failed attempt to sweep the girl off her feet, Reynold’s Hal Jordan practically steals all of Clark Kent’s moves, even saving Lois… sorry, Carol (Blake Lively) from (of all things) a helicopter (no, really!) Even the real villain in the film is a disembodied, smoke-like force of evil that looks like something right out of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer). Fortunately, the key difference is Campbell manages to make it all work, improving on every borrowed source and surprisingly delivering a watchable origin film that many said was unfilmable. Even the dogfight sequence feels like a Top Gun ripoff, right down to the aerial maneuvers and flat spins.
The all-CGI costume works. The “Parallax” effect works. Even the ending works (plus the customary nod to a sequel a few minutes into the credits, and for once it’s not Nick Fury). Similar to Peter Jackson’s King Kong where every key scene in the remake is bigger than the original (three rexes instead of one, jumping up to smack down planes from the Empire State Building), Campbell manages to make each stolen scene work better than its source inspiration. It’d have been nice not to see so much time wasted on the whole relationship thing with Blake Lively (who’s very pretty to look at but essentially little more than a damsel in distress disguised as a love interest). Even Hal’s terrestrial foil, Hector (Peter Sarsgaard) manages to revel in a potentially throwaway role, one final bit of proof that a great cast and director can succeed in spite of a mediocre, derivative script. Now that we have the formalities out of the way, let’s see what they can do with the inevitable sequel.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)