As summer garbage goes, Green Lantern can’t go fast enough. Even in the brainless world of cinematic comic books gone bad, it’s as bad as it gets—a dumb, pointless, ugly, moronic and incomprehensible jumble of botched effects, technical blunders and cluttered chaos. Oh yes. It is also—did I forget to mention?—boring.
I retain a certain fondness for Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and my favorite DC Comics superhero, Captain Marvel, who has mysteriously never been transposed to the screen. But of them all, the never-fail cure for insomnia, even for 10-year-olds who still buy Cracker Jack boxes searching for secret decoder rings, is the Green Lantern, deadlier and dopier than even the Green Hornet. Even to a hyperthyroidal, pre-pubescent geek, any attempt to relate something as simple as the premise for a plot must be defeating.
Billions of years ago, a power race divided the universe into 3,000 sectors ruled by intergalactic peacekeepers known as the Green Lantern Corps, who live on the planet Oa. The worst threat to the world was imprisoned on the Planet Ryut. This fiend is the Parallax, sort of an intergalactic Osama bin Laden who looks like a praying mantis with rabies. Parallax is now loose and declaring war on the planets, one sector at a time. Wouldn’t you know this unspeakable enemy of mankind is headed for Earth, where the only person he can’t beat is supersonic F-35 Sabre Jet pilot and gym-pumped Esquire cover boy Hal (Ryan Reynolds). It gets worse.
The dying Green Lantern warrior who comes to warn us hands over his green Buck Rogers ring to Hal, a goof-off with Coke bottle abs who points the ring at a target and—Shazam!—there goes Afghanistan. Hal has competition (Peter Sarsgaard, trashing his career as a creepy wacko scientist, and Angela Bassett, whose specialty is examining purple aliens). He also has a sexy girlfriend (Blake Lively), who is the daughter of the demented aviation corporation owner (Tim Robbins) for which Hal works. The Lanterns seek peace, order and justice. To join them is a big responsibility. Hal scarcely has the time to pull himself away from his bench presses long enough to bother. The dialogue consists mostly of lectures about brain-eating bacteria, and the locations are identified with labels such as “The Edge of the Milky Way Galaxy.” It took four writers who shall remain nameless to think up these lines: “We must harness the power of our enemies and fight fear with fear!” Or this favorite exchange: “Why are you glowing?” “Why is your skin green?” “What in the hell is with that mask?” At the screening I attended, the critics were laughing so loud I missed a few bon mots, but you get the picture. The director is Martin Campbell, who doesn’t.
In Green Lantern’s universe, humans aren’t the strongest species, or the smartest, but we’re worth saving. As a Lantern, Hal is a hit when he rubs the ring and turns into the film’s primary color of lime Jell-O, but he’s also a flop because he has the one thing no Lantern is allowed to have: human terror!
If you care, this seemingly interminable rubble of bad technology and computerized escapades is devoted to Hal’s dilemma. Can he overcome fear and save the film industry from bloated budgets and fiscal apocalypse? Surely it is time to save Reynolds from himself. Money says it all, but after he went to so much trouble a year ago to prove his acting prowess in Buried, his loafing and posing in Green Lantern just seem like a lot of talent gone to seed. Even as a prime example of rotten summer silliness, this is a paralyzing experience.