GREEN LANTERN is pretty goddamned dumb.
We probably should've seen this coming: Green Lantern has looked pretty goddamned dumb in every trailer and TV ad. That was no misrepresentation; no confused, bumbling media machine improperly selling their sci-fi epic. Green Lantern is exactly the giant-size lump of glowing green stupid it's always appeared to be.
Being dumb isn't necessarily a condemnation when it comes to the story of Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a hotshot test pilot so courageous that a dying purple alien gifts him with a Green Lantern power ring—a sparkly piece of jewelry that allows him to tap into the green light of pure will, one of the strongest energy sources in the universe. With that power, he can manifest solid objects via the power of his imagination, and fight those who've been made evil by the yellow light of fear.
That's dumb, but that's the story—and variations on it have worked over the course of Green Lantern's 70-plus-year comics history. Maybe not frequently, but people have taken that engine and used it to fuel some fun storytelling. That's not what happens here.
When it's letting itself be a goofy sci-fi movie filled with outlandish things like CG Mohawked Fish-Chicken Space Cops Voiced by Geoffrey Rush (and that's just one of the many goofy aliens Jordan meets as he's inducted into the Green Lanterns' space cop fraternity), Green Lantern's fine enough. But most of the movie's just a lazy homage to Top Gun with some decent sci-fi action haphazardly slapped on. The whole thing feels weirdly assembled, like director Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale) was handed a particularly bewildering checklist:
Step 1: Expel mountains of comic book exposition.
Step 2: Decline to augment said exposition with anything resembling "visual storytelling."
Step 3: Do exactly the opposite of what the exposition just dictated.
Step 4: Insert big dumb action sequence, now made inert by its total uselessness.
Step 5: MAKE IT LOUDER.
To be fair, Reynolds gives a good performance in a subpar movie, but also to be fair, that could describe any film on his IMDb page. Peter Sarsgaard puts in the work to make a great villain, but like Reynolds, he's lost in a movie that doesn't deserve him. Love interest Blake Lively does two things of note: Look like young Jane Seymour, and provide Hal his motivation. "If you didn't quit something you were good at for once in your life, what's the worst that could happen?" are more or less her words of encouragement. That's a call-to-arms if I've ever heard one.
Actually, even if the TV ads and previews hadn't tipped us off, a scene near the beginning of the film works pretty well as a harbinger/metaphor for Green Lantern as a whole: Hal Jordan is trying to wrap his nephew's birthday present with a wad of newspaper and absurdly long strips of scotch tape—all while doing 90 MPH in a residential area. Such is the film: a pretty thing, covered up by a jumble of throwaway words, hastily taped together, just barely avoiding a catastrophic crash.