(FYI: Spoilers, obviously.)
So… yeah. It’s okay. It really doesn’t deserve the critical beating it’s taking; it’s certainly more entertaining than, say, Daredevil (which has a Rottentomatoes score nearly double that of Green Lantern) or Ghost Rider (three percent higher) or Spider-Man 3 (forty percent higher). Ryan Reynolds gives a strong performance, as expected; Mark Strong is a very good Sinestro (despite his disappointing amount of screen time), Geoffrey Rush is simply charming as the voice of Tomar-Re (making him a clear audience favorite), the effects look much better than they did in the trailer, and the direction and editing is as professional as one would expect from Martin Campbell, who makes easy-to-follow-with-your-eyes action movies and was largely the reason The Mask of Zorro was as good as it was.
But it’s not especially good either, and I think the reason it’s getting such a critical drubbing is because instinctively we all recognize one thing: Green Lantern is, from a writer’s perspective, slow-pitch softball. Of all the DC heroes, the only superhero with an origin story that lends itself to film so smoothly is Batman – even Superman doesn’t have as simple and easy-to-write an origin story as Green Lantern does (because Superman’s powers are part of who he is rather than something that happens to him, which makes all the difference in the world). Guy gets ring, guy is exposed to wider universe because of ring, guy has adventure with ring. Done.
But Green Lantern isn’t happy to play at that level; instead, it makes this movie about Hal Jordan overcoming his fear in order to save the day, which is terminally lame. Quick, count the number of times Indiana Jones expresses self-doubt in Raiders of the Lost Ark – that’s the level we’re playing at here. Seeing Hal whining onscreen about how he’s not brave enough (and make no mistake, this is the greater part of the movie we’re talking about here) doesn’t make him relatable; it makes him a pussy. People have to deal with all kinds of real-world crap: cancer, unemployment, having cancer while being unemployed, whatever. Hal Jordan has a magic fucking wishing-ring and watching him complain about it takes the audience out of the movie, because nobody in the world thinks “yeah, if I had a magic wishing-ring and got to fly through space, I would totally freak out like a loser wimp.”
And beyond that, the movie is simply stupid in a number of ways, most of them tied to Parallax being the movie’s villain. (In the movie, he’s a former Guardian who decided to try out the energy of fear as a weapon and was corrupted by it.) Before the movie begins, Abin Sur traps Parallax in “the hidden sector” – in a prison that only takes some folks stumbling on it by accident for Parallax to escape, so apparently Abin Sur was kind of stupid, I guess. The entire movie hinges on the Green Lanterns and the Guardians not realizing that you can overcome fear, so having Hal Jordan come in and lecture these immortal beings about a concept a third-grader could explain is just silly. And the post-credit reveal (Sinestro donning the Fear Ring and getting his Sinestro Corps costume) is similarly terrible, because the entire movie has negated the point of Sinestro doing that in the first place: he wanted to use the Fear Ring because he was afraid standard Green Lantern rings couldn’t handle Parallax, but this comes after Hal smokes Parallax, so… why is Sinestro doing this?
(The movie also has a lot of Explainer’s Disease, which makes sense given that Geoff Johns was so involved in it. The entire concept of the Green Lantern Corps, Oa, and so forth is explained in a voiceover at the beginning of the film, which takes all the Green Lantern stuff and makes it blase by explaining it a second time for Hal’s benefit. Show, don’t tell – how is this hard?)
Anyway. It’s not bad, although the 3D version is a complete waste of time. It’s just not great, and this one, especially with the talent involved, definitely had the capacity to be great. That’s the fault of the script and nothing else.