Though predictable due to its slavish adherence to familiar comic-book tropes, director Martin Campbell's Green Lantern still manages to entertain thanks to its massive scale, imaginative action sequences, and colorful special effects. But even then, inconsistent pacing and hasty plotting prevent this ambitious superhero epic from achieving greatness. In the end, the good just narrowly outweighs the bad, though opponents of the current 3D craze will only find more ammo for their arguments due to the fact that the stereoscopic projection makes the Clash of the Titans remake look like Avatar.
Ever since he saw his fearless father perish in a tragic aviation mishap, all Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) could think about was flying -- it was the only thing the brash, cocky, and irresponsible test pilot ever truly excelled at. Little did he realize he was destined for something much bigger. Somewhere out in space, a powerful force of evil known as Parallax is spreading fear and destruction; the only hope for defeating Parallax is the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic warriors powered by the force of will. When legendary Green Lantern Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) is sent hurtling toward planet Earth after a deadly encounter with Parallax, his ring chooses Hal to continue the fight. The ring spirits our hero away to the Green Lantern's home planet of Oa for training. The first human ever to receive the honor of becoming a Green Lantern, Hal is viewed with scorn by the league's leader, Sinestro (Mark Strong), who trains him alongside the hulking Kilowog (voice of Michael Clarke Duncan). Later, on planet Earth, frail scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) becomes infected with Parallax's evil while performing an autopsy on Abin Sur, and uses his newfound powers to stake claim on Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), Hal's lifelong friend and fellow test pilot. When Hal learns that Parallax plans to consume all life on Earth to gain the energy needed to conquer Oa, he begins looking inward for the courage to defeat the malevolent force and embrace his destiny as a super-powered peacekeeper.
On first glance, Green Lantern bears all the hallmarks of your typical comic-book fantasy: flawed human selected to serve a greater cause that will empower them to unlock their true potential; planet-crushing force of evil threatening to wipe out all of humanity; pretty love interest caught up in the fight between good and evil; and obvious sequel setup. Perhaps, as do some movie lovers, comic-book fanatics find comfort in the familiar model, rather than frustration with the fact that so few filmmakers are inspired to smash that paradigm to create something original. But that would involve serious risk taking -- the kind that makes Hollywood producers break out in a cold sweat when 150 million dollars is the wager.
Green Lantern works best when Hal Jordan is combining creativity with superpowers to combat evil. Sadly, this seems to be low on the list of priorities for director Martin Campbell and screenwriters Marc Guggenheim, Michael Green, Greg Berlanti, and Michael Goldberg. Though it's obvious that the writers were all striving to get the details right, the final product is like an especially decadent desert meticulously crafted by four pastry chefs who each insist on adding their signature touch before the dish is served -- each individual flavor is a treat for the senses, yet together they clash. As if Parallax weren't a big enough threat to two entire planets, we also get Sarsgaard channeling Brad Dourif as a telekinetic Elephant Man, a cosmic force of evil that can't seem to decide which planet it wants to devour first, and a good guy who inexplicably embraces evil after not only devoting his entire existence to conquering it, but seeing firsthand just what it can do to an infinitely wiser being. Scratch that last part; perhaps it isn't quite inexplicable when it's nothing more than a shameless sequel setup.
If all of this sounds a bit harsher than it was meant to, it's because both the character and the movie had the potential to transcend the tradition, but the filmmakers repeatedly take the easy way out. It's genuinely exciting to see a superhero film that embraces the sci-fi/fantasy angle with as much commitment as Green Lantern; if the screenplay had been streamlined, we might have gotten a movie that actually lived up to its potential. Instead, what we're left with is a colorful, easily digestible summertime distraction and an obvious 3D cash grab.