If this was any other film, I might have been inclined to be a little more charitable, but for a film that is resolutely about duty and will, I have to come out and say it - this is a poorly-executed, bland film that does not deserve attention save the craft and enthusiasm involved in making it.
It is disappointing to see where Green Lantern got to - it has a smart director, Martin Campbell, who gets spectacle. His imagination never really runs that wild, but the effects and the space moments show his quality as an action director. Ryan Reynolds, ever a fullhyd.com favourite, is an amazing talent, and does great with whatever little he is given in the film. The rest of the cast is good, too, and the characters created are interesting, the likes I'd want to see again.
And yet the soul is missing - the space weirdness is never fully explored, hamstrung with very bland earth bits as backdrop. The script is extremely poor - the dialog never pops, the characters are not explored either, and their motivations never clear. The motivations and relationships all have meat on them - they're just never put front and center enough for us to chew on them.
The most egregious example of this is Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond. Not only is he a great villain - he is portrayed as a sniveling and spiteful person that plays well against the Big Bad of Parallax - there are some great moments dedicated to showing his relationship with his father. These moments create Tim Robbins' character greatly, but never get to the clear motivations for Hector turning out as evil and full of malaise as he is.
But I get ahead of myself - we need to first talk about a brash test pilot called Hal Jordan who is chosen to succeed a dying alien. Turns out that there is a ring that creates and does anything that the wearer can gather the will to think of, and is one of many - the alien was one of the many space policemen called the Green Lantern Corps who protect the Galaxy. Under threat from Parallax (a huge space vortex that exists only to destroy things), the lanterns must teach Hal Jordan, the first human to wear the ring, to be better and must prepare him to face Parallax.
Writing that bit of exposition as a comic fan made me realise how great the concept is - they truly did choose a very good origin story for ol' GL - but the Earth bit, where most of the exposition and character stuff happens, is extremely bland and one-note.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how great the acting is. As one of the Green Lanterns who train Hal Jordan, Mark Strong's Sinestro brings all the charisma he can to the role. Comic fans will know that Sinestro turns evil at some point, though not in this film. Mark Strong gets that and creates a character that is driven by duty and seems frustrated whenever that is impeded.
Ryan Reynolds too, is great as Hal Jordan. Green Lanterns are supposed to be fearless, and he is completely convincing when he is the hero who overcomes his fear.
All of this is not in the script; the actors do it themselves, adding subtext and subtlety to a script that's completely bland and useless. This is how most of the movie is - great imagination stymied by hamstrung execution, great acting with nary a script to work with, cool characters reduced to a shell by lack of polish.
The movie would have benefited greatly from another year in development, but the enthusiasm of those involved is still palpable. A poorly-made film is still a poorly-made film, regardless of how much fun it appears they had making it, and it is a shame that this was the flick where I had to make this stand. It isn't a cynical, money-grabbing poor production, but merely a movie made with care and not given enough time to settle. Strictly for fans of the comic series.