“I like Green Lantern and I have a total weakness for comic book movies. I like ‘Daredevil.’ I like ‘Daredevil.’ I think ‘Hellboy II’ is one of the greatest movies ever made. And I…I cannot even fathom a world where I’d sit through this again. I cannot recommend this movie to anyone.”
— Jeff Rubin, “Nerd Alert”
“Iron Man” proved that a movie based on a second-tier superhero can be critically and commercially successful. A month before “Green Lantern” was released, “Thor” proved it again. In fact, after “Thor,” some probably thought every comic book character was a guaranteed moneymaker and crowd-pleaser. Then “Green Lantern” demonstrated that that was not the case.
So what happened? With so many great comic book movies out there, why was “Green Lantern” so bad? And it really is bad. It’s really, really terribly bad. It’s awful, and the first time I watched it I couldn’t figure out why. Why had they gotten everything wrong? How was this even possible? How did no one step in and say, “Look, this story is nonsense, everyone talks in obnoxious, awful one-liners, the characters are all terrible people and unbearably annoying. Let’s take a step back here.”
Now, I think I’ve figured it out. This is what happened: the person in charge of the project, the person calling the shots, said, “What if we combined ‘Iron Man’ with ‘Batman and Robin’? Don’t answer that, just make it happen.” And so it was.
I think this really sums up the movie. The story structure is fairly similar to “Iron Man.” And the protagonist, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), is like Tony Stark, except trying way too hard and not nearly as clever. Despite his obvious flaws, you want to hang out with Tony, and you admire him. Hal Jordan seems like a guy who needs to get punched in the face.
So you take the story and a ruined version of the protagonist from “Iron Man,” add the comic sensibility of “Batman and Robin,” and out comes “Green Lantern.” Instead of “Ice to see you!” and “Kick some ice!” you get this exchange:
Hal Jordan: Hey, Carol. Was gonna do a little flying today. What do you think?
Carol Ferris: I think you’re late.
Hal Jordan: Yes, that’s only because…I slept in [italics mine].
Carol Ferris: This is exactly why I didn’t want you for this. My father did. I would’ve gone with Jensen.
Hal Jordan: I’d have gone with Jensen too. But unfortunately, he’s busy…not being good enough [italics mine].
Carol Ferris, the love interest, is played by Blake Lively. She’s a pilot and also a high-ranking executive at a company that manufactures jets for the military. She’s also 22, maybe 24. She’s also really bad at expressing emotions. Her face does not move while she talks. Like she’s been perma-botoxed.
Hal Jordan never seems adequately affected by what’s happening. It’s like he’s on Ritalin. When he finds a dying alien in a spacecraft, when he’s transported to a distant planet via a green orb of energy, when he’s given a supremely powerful weapon that automatically covers him in a terribly fake-looking, pulsating green CGI wetsuit—throughout it all, he’s never more than mildly surprised or impressed, and usually gets distracted or disinterested very quickly, like he has attention deficit disorder. Which explains the Ritalin, I suppose.
I’m a big fan of comic book movies. I love them when they get them right and I hate them when they get them wrong. But in this one case, at least, I love how wrong they get it.
One legitimate bright spot: Peter Sarsgaard plays Hector Hammond, a nerdy scientist who becomes infected by an alien fear entity (don’t ask) and, as a result, gains psychic powers and has his head become morbidly obese. He’s quite delightful.
Recommended drinking rules. Drink every time:
1) A character delivers a groan-inducing one-liner.
2) The special effects are so awful you’d swear this movie is 10+ years old.
3) Hal Jordan uses his virtually limitless power in a boring, idiotic, or mind-bogglingly idiotic fashion. (Hint: the latter involves an out-of-control helicopter, a race track, and probably dementia.)