Irresponsible test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is given a ring by a dying alien, making him a member of the Green Lantern intergalactic police. His powers are based on his strength of will, but there is another power in the universe, one based on fear. Parallax uses that power to destroy worlds, and he’s on his way to Earth.
Ryan Reynolds kept trying superheroes till he got it right. This wasn’t that time. But Green Lantern isn’t as bad as its reputation suggests. It just isn’t very good.
Reynolds has plenty of charm and the basic idea of the Green Lantern corp, which is powered by will, having to fight an enemy of its own making, powered by fear, is a solid one. And the rest of the cast, particularly Mark Strong, does the best it can with some clichéd characters. The foundation is here for a good action flick, if not a great one. The problem isn’t the one-liners or the CG, as is often suggested, but a pointlessly unlikable protagonist and a lack of imagination. For twenty minutes we’re shown that Hal is an asshole, and not an interesting asshole like Tony Stark or an understandable one like Steven Strange. He’s just an asshole. He screws over everyone at his company, supposedly due to daddy issues, expressed in a way that made me want Hal to die in a fiery crash. When he is confronted with angry ex-coworkers, we are supposed to be on Hal’s side, particularly as this is the first time he uses his powers (and in such a way that should have killed his opponents if the movie cared about things like physics), but I found myself siding with the out of work men and their desire for revenge. Sure, Hal gets better, but that’s demonstrated in speeches we’re heard a hundred times before.
The battles are not exciting, and there is too much CG, but the problem is with character. I’ve seen a lot worse action, but with no one to care about, and nothing innovative or unexpected, Green Lantern ends up as a might have been.
As is common now, a second cut of the film was released for home viewing. Sometimes adding footage helps. More often it harms a film. In the case of Green Lantern Extended Cut, it is a disaster. It contains the positives and negatives of the theatrical cut and then adds significant pacing problems. The Extended Cut slaps on ten minutes of footage, all of which is unnecessary. A majority of it involves young Hal. Pre-MCU superhero movies had a strange obsession with childhood flashbacks and they are never a good idea. Here it is worse than normal. We learn nothing about Hal that wasn’t clear from later scenes, but we do get to spend a lot of time watching him run around, gaze at his father, and violate any reasonable safety protocols (jet test sites let kids run around on the runway during dangerous tests? I don’t think so.). The additional scenes slow the film to a crawl, destroy the opening, and so irritated me as a viewer that the movie never won me back. Green Lantern had a lot of problems already; it couldn’t afford more.
The original cut is also available, so skip the extended one.