The Shallow Man Movie Review: Green Lantern


“In brightest day, in blackest night. No evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might, beware my power…Green Lantern’s light!”

Sure, comic lovers will thrill when Jordan recites the Lantern oath for the first time, but I bet they’d be a lot happier if he had something interesting to do afterward.

Filled with unintentionally laughable characters, intergalactic gobbledygook, sudden pacing shifts and a hero whose superpower is downright cartoony, this latest comic adaptation makes something like “Spider-Man” look both grounded and brilliant.



It’s “Star Wars” meets “Looney Tunes” with blotches of feel-good therapy thrown in, garnished with light shows and destructo scenes. The problem is, most of these elements seem to act independently of one another and the film never gels into anything remotely coherent.

None of this can be blamed on star Ryan Reynolds, who has the looks, the sense of humor and the charm required for superhero duty. But even Reynolds can’t sell scenes where he seems to be talking to blue rubber shrunken heads in 30-foot red robes. The Big Bad in this film turns out to be a huge smoky cosmic octopus of sorts (which speaks English, no less). Certainly a candidate for the 10 Worst Villains of All Time list.

Who is responsible for this mess? Former James Bond director Martin Campbell has to take the big hit for the special effects and the plain silly feel of the film. I mean, they did spend $200 million dollars on this thing. It couldn’t have all gone to craft services and Ryan Reynolds’ personal trainer, could it? Alas, Green Lantern looks cheap and cartoonish.

With a screenplay that was conceived in what will undoubtedly be remembered by the four writers who contributed to it as the blackest night of their creative lives, “Green Lantern” may well be the most punishingly idiotic superhero movie since…well, I’m going to have to go back to the pocketful of box office kryptonite that was “Supergirl.”


Our hero, you see, has been chosen for super-ness because he’s supposedly fearless. But he spends most of the film whining about how scared he is. After a while it seems like somebody should slap him. That hero would be Hal Jordan, an ace test pilot with Daddy issues, Daddy having been a test pilot who young Hal watched burn up in a plane. Hal is selected by a dying Green Lantern as his replacement, and given a power ring that lets him produce anything that his imagination can conjure up—giant hammers, machine guns, race cars, anything.


What, one might ask, is a Green Lantern? They would be a sort of galactic police force, ruled by the previously mentioned shrunken heads in long robes. Most of the characters look like refugees from the worst George Lucas film never made. There’s even a fish with backward legs creature that gives off whiffs of Jar Jar Binks. Anyways, Hal gets recruited to the Green Lanterns and then he has to take on—complaining all the time about how scared he is—the many tentacled smoke monster that wants to devour the universe.


One might wonder why Parallax—who looks like a giant set of space dreadlocks—serves as the chief bad guy, when arch-nemesis Sinestro (Mark Strong) plays a key role here as a still-good fellow Lantern. Apparently, we need to wait for the sequel for that, a fatal case of overreaching that sidelines one of the film’s biggest assets in favor of overblown CGI. Parallax is more special effect run amuck than actual villain. Strong’s terrific turn as Sinestro only pours salt in that wound.


So too does Peter Sarsgaard, playing meek scientist Hector Hammond transformed by Parallax into a psychic powerhouse. “Green Lantern” gives him clichéd daddy issues with his Senator father (Tim Robbins) and a botched background with Jordan, but Sarsgaard rapidly overcomes those shortcomings with his loopy intensity. Pity he basically serves as Parallax’s lapdog: another great component that “Green Lantern” all but squanders.

The real culprit here—as evidenced by the brazen franchise greed and the need to follow the blockbuster playbook page by page—is viewing the character as a cash cow rather than anyone people would want to pay to see.

Chris Nolan’s Batman films (and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man and Bryan Singer’s various X-Men dabblings) work because their creators commit to the onscreen figures before worrying about the product tie-ins. “Green Lantern” lacks the widespread recognition of those other superheroes, and needs the same commitment if they expect him to thrive.

Rival Marvel Studios knows how to elevate the less-culturally entrenched members of its canon to grade-A status (witness the success of “Thor” and “Iron Man”). In this test, at least, DC utterly fails to match their example, producing a depressingly routine adventure that neither excites, enthralls, nor holds our interest. You need more than a ring guys: YOU NEED A MAN.  He’s nowhere to be found here, buried beneath an indifferent production that never understands its real priorities.

As a disjointed rumble in the cosmos, it’s both too much and too little, and too dorky looking. In this case, Green means stop.

Grade ★ ★ 1/2 out of 5 stars
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