Green Lantern reeks of an assembly-line production. For all its talk of willpower and the importance of facing fear, it doesn't seem like anyone involved in it's production felt strongly enough to muster up a situation that would call for much of either. "Flat" is the most intense word the English language has given us to describe this experience, which I should not have to use when talking about a superhero movie.
The comic is one of the most fun that DC Comics produces. A consistently entertaining vision of the universe in all of it's weirdness, metaphorically expanding the spectrum of emotion out into different scenarios. The film sticks Ryan Reynolds in a tight green suit, summons an uninspiring mess of black tendrils for him to fight, tosses in a quick kiss with a pretty lady and calls it a day.
What's most disappointing is how straightforward, yet terribly disorienting, most of the film is. A voice-over introduces us to the world of the Guardians who forged rings powered by will and can form constructs limited only by the imagination and fortitude of the user. One of the Guardians went bad after being exposed to the power of fear and was sealed away by the Lantern Abin Sur. That former Guardian, long corrupted and now calling himself Parallax, is released and kills Abin Sur.
Enter Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), the most bland superhero lead since poor Jennifer Garner in Electra. Hal loves speed, danger, and flirting with his old girlfriend and current boss Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). She exists only to support Hal, challenge Hal, or get into trouble so there's not to much to speak of with her character. Shortly after Abin Sur falls to Earth the government enlists the aid of Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) through his senator father Robert (Tim Robbins) and government liason Amanda Waller (Angela Basset). Hal and Hector both gain some power - Hal through Abin selecting him to inherit the power of his Lantern ring and Hector through coming into contact with the power of fear that lies in Abin Sur's corpse.
Of the many characters introduced, the only two that have any weight at all in the film are Hal and Hector. Try as I might, I cannot find a single reason for Amanda Waller to exist in the film other than looking very serious. Then Robert, though played with expert smugness by Robbins, serves even less of a function than Ferris does in that he exists just to get in trouble and prove how evil Hector is later on. Every scene involving these supporting characters is dead weight not even given the grace of funny dialogue or interesting commentary on the nature of power.
There's some flash of creativity in the many alien designs that we see in the background of the Guardians home planet when Hal visits for training, but it would have been nice to see that effort put into the rest of the film. Hal meets some other Lanterns and there is some grave conversation about needing to give into the power of fear to fight Parallax but they are just as thinly drawn as everyone on Earth. Toss in another bland training montage and even the alien environment grows boring and stale.
Peter Sarsgaard is the only saving grace of this film and it's because of the eccentric touches he brings to Hector Hammond. He doesn't start off as the most handsome character but as he mutates he slowly begins to resemble The Elephant Man. Sarsgaard tunes his performance in accordingly, allowing his character to take a sick pleasure in the grotesque features he is slowly developing. He brings a sadistic delight to the torments he inflicts on Hal and Carol, who are just going through the motions as "hero" and "love-interest" respectively.
But even his eccentricity can't bring this corpse of a movie back to life. The ring has the ability to construct anything but even the aliens are content using human weapons instead of trying to provide us with some new sights. So each fight scene plods along with distressing briefness as we go back to Reynolds feigning stoic interest in being a hero (save one great scene between him and Carol about the usefulness of superhero masks).
The key word to this whole film is "effort" and the bare minimum was done to bring Green Lantern to life. It looks like a movie exec saw that they were sitting on a pile of money and hired the most disinterested parties to make the film. There were no problems and, since good art stems from conflict, nothing of consequence happens.
There are many exciting stories that can be made from the comics of Green Lantern. The misadventures of Tom Cruise's less charismatic cousin against floating black tendril demon is not that story.