The Green Lantern is armed with the incredible ability to turn will power into energy, creating almost anything imaginable, except perhaps a coherent script. Credited to at least four (and likely more) screenwriters, this fun but terminally unwieldy adaptation of the venerable DC comics franchise pinballs between above-it-all camp and gravely serious sci-fi shenanigans, never quite settling on a proper shade to paint across its many epic vistas.
Grinning, absurdly ripped Ryan Reynolds certainly looks the part of a crusader, and he takes at least his third shot at comic book heroics, as reckless test pilot (is there any other kind?), Hal "Highball" Jordan who makes a habit of pushing the limits of muscle cars, multimillion-dollar aircraft and personal relationships. His cavalier brashness and airborne daring are a cover for lingering worries that he'll crash and burn early like his fighter pilot father, who was lost in a training accident. Hal's attempts to outrace fate hardly make him boyfriend material for his leggy, lifelong crush Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), who is also now his boss at their "Coast City" (read: San Francisco) aeronautics firm.
After crashing another pricey jet, our callow flyboy gets a little responsibility when a dying, pink-skinned alien warrior splashes down and entrusts him with a miraculous green power ring and the "lantern" battery that powers it. This cosmic bling offers amazing powers, but comes along with enlistment in an intergalactic police force, complete with skintight uniforms and a snazzy oath; say it with me, dorks "In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight ..." — ah, you get the drill.
In due time, the Earthman is zapped to the Lantern's home base, OA, a planet apparently crafted from leftover matte paintings from Lord of the Rings and the Star Wars films. Hal is quickly introduced to his 3,600 ring-slinging co-workers, the Green Lantern Corps, a menagerie of odd creatures, including robots, tree people, insectoids and diamond-shaped crime fighters, all used as set dressing.
Jordan mainly interacts with a trio of instructors, including elegant fish-faced Tomar-Re (voice of Geoffrey Rush), and perennial heavy Mark Strong as the not-at-all-suggestively named Sinestro, the corps' intense field general, who may have his own secret agenda at play. The corps bosses, the Guardians, blue-hued midgets with giant craniums, have tasked them with recapturing one of their own who has harnessed the yellow power of fear and morphed into a massive, malevolent cloud called Parallax.
If your head is spinning from all this goofiness, consider that the movie is force-feeding 50 years of comic book mythos into less than two hours of screen time, and all but diehards are bound to be slightly lost. Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) also loses his way in this crowded cosmos, and the extended space sequences play more like cool video game cut scenes than truly epic cinema.
Back on Earth, things are somewhat better, though the pacing goes curiously slack, as Campbell juggles too many subplots. Tim Robbins stops by, looking a hell of a lot like Bill Clinton but playing a jingoistic fat cat senator, because that's just the way he gets his jollies. Overachiever Peter Sarsgaard gets buried under prosthetics as Hector Hammond, a weirdo who gets telepathic powers as the main baddie's flunky, and has an underwritten connection to the lead couple, as well as murky motivation.
You'll get the sense that whole scenes have vanished in favor of more interstellar whiz-bang. Try as they might, the actors get dwarfed by all the special effects mayhem, as the movie insists on dazzling you with spectacle every single second of screen time. The Green Lantern has always taken a back seat to stablemates Superman and Batman, and his movie is a dimmer version of their brightest hours — good but not great. The potential is all there for a sequel, and with a bit more imagination and willpower, the stars might be within reach.