‘Green Lantern’ movie review: Ryan Reynolds as DC superhero Hal Jordan

There is, surprisingly, a lot to like in Green Lantern, a CGI-infused adaptation of the DC comic (while lesser known amongst casual filmgoers, the guy with the green ring is one of DC’s most popular creations behind Batman and Superman). It’s just a shame the movie as a whole is such a mess; for everything they get right, they get something else wrong, sometimes horribly so.

Green Lantern was directed by Martin Campbell, the usually-reliable director who has delivered the two best Bond films of the Dalton-Brosnan-Craig era (in Goldeneye and Casino Royale) along with the occasional dud (Vertical Limit). Lantern falls somewhere in-between.

Geoffrey Rush (who also voices the character Tomar-Re) begins the film with some complex narration outlining the history of the Green Lantern Corps, a collection of green-clad intergalactic superheroes who use magical rings that enforce the power of will to combat the forces of evil. They’re led by Sinestro (Mark Strong), a red-skinned alien who confers with a council of giant-headed CGI elders.

At the outset, the smog-like planet-devouring monster Parallax has been awakened, and Sinestro sends in a team of Lanterns to investigate. His friend and co-Lantern Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) is mortally wounded by the creature, but manages to jettison away in an escape pod that happens to crash land on, you guessed it, Earth.

Enter Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a womanizing, loose cannon test pilot with some unresolved father issues and a strained relationship with his brother and – bam! – he’s abducted by a green orb. We’ve just barely been introduced to the character, and he’s walking out to his car, and the orb just swoops in and carries him away. No buildup, no suspense, alien technology on Earth treated without the slightest bit of awe or wonder. It’s a terrible scene, but it’s the least of Green Lantern’s troubles.

Anyway, the orb is Abin Sur’s ring, and as his replacement it’s chosen Hal, the first human among the Green Lantern Corps. Hal is given unlimited powers (the ring, using the power of will, can create anything he can think of), whisked away to the planet Oa for proper introduction to the varied Lantern life forms – nary batting an eye in the process – and tasked with the burden of saving the universe, before going through the usual should-I-or-shouldn’t-I Last Temptation of Christ motions (spoiler warning: he should).

The introduction of Hal Jordan as the Green Lantern is about the fifth storyline to cross the screen, and the four credited screenwriters aren’t done yet: there’s still the love interest (Blake Lively) and her tycoon father (Jay O. Sanders) and the scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) and his tycoon father (Tim Robbins) and the U.S. government agent (Angela Bassett) who recovers Abin Sur’s body and gets Hammond to examine it, unwittingly exposing him to bits of Parallax contained in his mortal wound.

There is so much story here, in fact, that I’m amazed Campbell managed to make sense of it at all. The script is a mess, and by the end we’ve given up hope of this delivering on action superhero terms – given all the exposition, the big action set pieces are relegated to brief five-minute spurts. Still, it’s a surprisingly coherent and watchable film, well-paced despite tonal inconsistencies.

But there’s also so much wrong: Lively is anything but as the love interest, who is given far too much screen time. Robbins and Sarsgaard are ridiculously cast as father and son – Robbins is twelve years older, but he feels younger than his co-star, who is playing a balding, lethargic professor/scientist. 

No single storyline is fully developed, but the earthbound ones – which take up the majority of the screentime – are especially unsatisfying. The special effects are mostly acceptable, but occasionally veer into pure cartoon territory.

At least it gets one thing especially right: the greenness. This Green Lantern looks and feels just about right, faithful to the comic in appearance if not in story, delivering a vision that wouldn’t have been possible in a live-action film a decade ago. 

The scenes on Oa hint at better things, possibly to come in a sequel, which is explicitly set up a minute into the final credits. Given the film’s disappointing box office results, however, that sequel may not come any time soon.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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