While Marvel’s fans have become steadily accustomed to what is now a veritable buffet of very respectable big screen renderings of some of the finest properties (X-Men, Spiderman, Iron Man, etc.), those flying the DC banner so often take on the role of the battered spouse, a terrified victim of a cruel and abusive relationship. With the notable exception of the Batman franchise – Superman fans, we don’t want to hear it. The last good Superman movie was almost 30 years ago – the devoted faithful return time and again, convinced that this time will be different, only to be given yet another black eye in the form of one more poorly judged adaptation (see Constantine, Jonah Hex, Catwoman, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Etc.).

As source material goes, Green Lantern is not an easy beast to bend to your will. Even for a director such as Martin Campbell, with both Bond and Zorro on his CV demonstrating a proven track record in making larger than life characters seem grounded and relatable. Green Lantern goes far beyond your standard superhero mythology. According to it’s lore the known universe is divided into 3600 separate sectors, each one protected by a Guardian – a sort of intergalactic special forces soldier – who by the power of his will projected through his power ring watches over us at the behest of a council of immortal aliens, who provide power for all the Lanterns, which power the rings, which power the Guardians, who protect the universe. As each Lantern falls, the ring chooses a successor and bestows upon him its power.

Confused? You will be, especially as Campbell lays out the lore via a drab, horribly rushed voiceover from Mark Strong’s Sinestro – one of only three lanterns given any dialogue – apparently under the impression that we would much rather watch Ryan Reynold’s daredevil test pilot, Hal Jordan, whom the ring chooses, act like a dickhead than learn anything about the story we paid to see. Reynolds – truly the poor man’s Chris Evans – manages to descend to previously uncharted depths of irritating with his now trademark cocky hotshot routine forever confusing wooden with mysterious. Is that a nest of tables? No, it’s Ryan Reynolds trying to look enigmatic.

To be fair to him, he is certainly not helped by an uninspired script that systematically manages to waste every vaguely interesting element the property has going for it. As mentioned, there are 3600 lanterns and we get to meet precisely three of them. The ring, we’re told, can manifest anything you will it to and that “the only limit to its power is your imagination.” Wow, awesome! Too bad then the only vaguely ambitious thing conjured up is a gigantic ‘Hot Wheels’ track seemingly designed less to wow us audience members than to coax a big fat promotional consideration check out of toymaker Mattel.

Behind our reluctant hero with daddy issues is the bog-standard love interest (Blake Lively, demonstrating all the spark of a cigarette lighter fished out of a puddle), who at first hates Hal then is won over by his incredible valor. In front of him is Peter Sarsgaard’s underwritten evil scientist/mirror antagonist, who also fancies Blake’s plain-Jane and so is driven to destroy Hal. He’s barely on screen long enough to register before the swarming, intergalactic, planet-munching fear cloud shows up to gobble up our planet and everything on it (seriously, just don’t ask).

So, after much promise we’re left with what essentially amounts to an origin story for a really unlikable character, representing a storyworld we’re not invited to invest in, for reasons that are never at any point rendered anything other than opaque. There is always Part II, of course, which right now excites us only so far as a vague curiosity as to which of Mattel’s extensive range of toys they’ll be punting this time.

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Mark Strong, Peter Sarsgaard, Angela Bassett, Blake Lively, Tim Robbins

Director: Martin Campbell

Runtime: 114 Minutes

Distributor: Warner Bros

Rating: PG-13

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