First, what works: Ryan Reynolds really does give GREEN LANTERN his all. He's the best thing about the film. It's an earnest performance and you can see Reynolds kicking, punching, and dragging the movie with him. It's unfortunate that the movie is dead weight on his back - the script is a mess, the direction is uninspired, and the pace is flat-out boring.
It shouldn't have been this way. There are moments when GREEN LANTERN comes to life - the first 20 minutes and the last 20 minutes the film rouses itself enough for the audience to begin to care what they are seeing - but there's so much fat, so much wasted time that it doesn't earn those moments at the end that want to be triumphant. The film works best when it embraces the silly nature of the comic book, and goes off on the flights-of-fancy that the book does. For such an epically scaled film (or at least it wants to be) it almost seems reluctant to leave Earth. It would rather stay here than live up to the potential of the premise - a galactic force for good fights evil throughout the universe, and for the first time a Green Lantern ring has chosen a human to join the Corps. That human, Hal Jordan (Reynolds) a test pilot who crashed his multimillion dollar plane to make a point, has his own baggage and issues, and turns down the Corps. In the meantime, Parallax, a giant all-consuming entity, will have its revenge on Oa, the world of the Lanterns, and the Guardians that banished him. Here on Earth, Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is exposed to the yellow energy of Parallax and becomes its minion, with hyperintelligence and telepathy. If Earth is to be saved, Hal must take up his role as Earth's protector and become the Green Lantern he was meant to be.
The reluctant superhero has pretty much been the standard since these movies really started coming into prominence, but here it's just wasting time. Much of the film has Jordan refusing to take up the Green Lantern mantle, that is of course until the plot demands he do so. It's boring and it doesn't make for interesting cinema. Reynolds really tries to inject some fun and energy into it, but it's the script that bogs him down. You get the feeling Reynolds is with the audience, saying, "I know, I want to fly in space and show you amazing things too, but just bear with this part of the film because we have to make some kind of thematic point." With the powers that the Green Lantern has - he can turn his thoughts into matter - and considering Jordan's life before then - Hal lost his father in a devastating plane explosion, and he is trying to live up to his legacy - you would think it would take all of 15 seconds for Hal to whoop it up, put the ring on, and start saving the universe. But we're treated to long stretches of time where Hal is unwilling to take the ring, and it just weighs the film down like an anchor.
Sarsgaard, as Hector Hammond, isn't particularly good - it's a weird, almost Lynchian performance and it belongs in a completely different movie. As his head deforms and grows, Sarsgaard screams and Brundleflys through the proceedings. Blake Lively does really nothing here except look pretty and get into danger. Mark Strong as Sinestro, the head of the Corps, is actually really good, but since it's Mark Strong playing him, you pretty much know where that story arc is going. I like Strong as an actor, and I liked the passion of Sinestro's character. But considering it's Strong playing him the post-credits scene with the character shouldn't come as any kind of surprise.
The special effects, heavy on the green screen and CGI, didn't bother me that much, and in fact the sequence on Oa, where Hal learns his role, is among the best that the film has to offer. I really liked how striking the visuals were, and how willing the filmmakers were to embrace the weirdness of the premise. But Oa is all too brief, and soon we're back on Earth again, moping around and waiting for things to happen. It's almost as if the film has no sense of itself.
I didn't get much sense of 3D here - this is a film that the dimming of the screen by the glasses is a detriment. Much of the imagery of the film is done no favors by having the brightness cut by half. There are moments where the 3D looks interesting, especially on Oa, but I don't think it's worth the extra money. See it in 2D instead if you have to, and the brighter images will work better, in my opinion.
GREEN LANTERN needed to embrace the wacky, weird, silly nature of the comic, and not waste so much time getting to the point. You could feel the audience wanting the film to take them to those places, but it refuses, insisting on going the cliched superhero origin route. Martin Campbell never really lets the film go where it and the audience want it to go, except in brief moments. The film strains to be let free to soar, but the terrible script, the direction, and the editing keep this bird grounded. It's a real wasted opportunity. If a sequel does happen, Warner Brothers needs to find a way to let the movie go as big as it wants, and as silly as it wants. Otherwise, it's just another bland, lifeless superhero film.