[Text] Green Lantern, by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldernberg [review]

Ryan Reynolds is returning to the comic book genre this month, so I’ve decided to take a look back at some of his earlier efforts. Yesterday, I reviewed X-Men Origins: Wolverine, in-which Reynolds first appeared as an incarnation of Deadpool most fans of the character prefer to call Weapon X. It pushed-back the possibility of a Deadpool standalone for several years, and in that time, Reynolds defected to Warner Bros. Pictures’ DC Comics, and brought to the screen the second character to be called Green Lantern – Harold “Hal” Jordan. As I’m writing this on Super Bowl 50 night, here’s the trailer:

There’s no other way of putting this: Green Lantern is a spectacular failure. I can name a tonne of successful comic book origin films, like SupermanBatman and Spider-Man, but Green Lantern will join the ranks of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Hopefully, Deadpool, like Wonder Woman, will give us the origin story we want so I won’t have to keep ranting about it. But at least it isn’t called something stupid, like Justice League Origins: Green Lantern or something.

But what was stupid was trying to make this the start of a franchise without taking the time to justify it first. A large amount of the plot revolves around Sinestro’s plan to fight Parallax using a Yellow Lantern Ring, leading to him becoming the first Yellow Lantern in a mid-credits scene that was written presumably with the assumption that a sequel would be green-lit. But no such luck; Warner Bros. Pictures just scrapped by with a profit of nineteen-million dollars – about nine-and-a-half percent of the two-million dollar budget. Thus, we get Green Lantern committing a cardinal sin of film making: assuming there’ll be a sequel. Why would they do this?

Were they mimicking Marvel’s style? The most recent Marvel film at this point was The Incredible Hulk, but included a post credits scene setting-up Marvel’s The Avengers. The difference there, however, is that it was already a done deal. DC Comics were trying out an untested character but decided to go ahead and leave us with a scene that tells us a sequel will happen anyway.

If they were that keen for us to see Sinestro as the antagonist, why not just start with Sinestro, seeing as he’s considered the primary Green Lantern villain? Man of Steel started with Zod, Batman started with the Joker, Spider-Man started with Norman Osborn, etc. That way, we don’t have to deal with Parallax – a giant cloud of excrement that, I’m told, is completely different from the comic book version of Parallax. But then the source material is very much a problem with Green Lantern; sometimes, it’s treated with accuracy, and at others is shown to be very generic.

From what I’ve seen of the Green Lantern mythos, the source material is rich in imagination – indeed, all Jordan needs to do as a Green Lantern is fight fear with objects created from his imagination using will power. But all Jordan manifests are fists, guns and a weird, quirky car. Oh, and some missiles, because Jordan’s also a test pilot. We’re introduced to Jordan as such, hence his fearlessness, and further hence why the dying, Earthbound Abin Sur’s Green Lantern chose Jordan to become his successor.

It’s a deep moment, but it fails to resonate, because Jordan’s an unlike-able character. Not unlike-able in the sense of being written as unlike-able, but in the sense of not being written in any way resembling a person to-whom I can respond. We first see Jordan waking up next to his girlfriend, Carol Ferris. Ferris is the lone female character in a comic book film, so rest assured, only exists to serve as the hero’s love interest.

And that’s every single scene, by the way. But let’s not single-out that one character – all of them are written terribly. The corporate science antagonists made me feel, at times, like I was watching a film about a dog, and the twinkly nature of the CGI and planet Oa confused me greatly, considering how bad-ass and sexual Jordan actually is. “Whose the target market for Green Lantern?”, I feel inclined to ask.

Is it children, who’ve likely read the comic books? Is it for people old enough to be in a relationship featuring regular amounts of sex? I really have no idea. It’s like watching Twilight if Edward Cullen were a pimp – just don’t tell the tweenagers in the audience, of course.

The problem is, this all comes down to Ryan Reynolds, for no other reason than this: Reynolds is not a bad actor. And only when placed in a film like this does that really show through. When Jordan’s in ordinary situations, Reynolds make it believable when nothing else does. And when in extraordinary situations, Reynolds tries his best with a character that has a very mellow response to literally everything.

But I guess, ‘though, that’s what happens when a comic book film tries to check-list its mythology rather than treating it properly. Instead, it takes one of the most inventive ideas in fiction, and rushes past appreciating that to make sure that Green Lantern gets a film, regardless of its quality. I’d have preferred to wait for something that was left longer to stand. And I shall wait for 2020’s Green Lantern Corps on that basis.