Unoriginality and superhero cliches galore run amok in “The Green Lantern”

Green Lantern
Warner Brothers/Courtesy

Movies like “The Green Lantern” make it easy to lose hope in originality. Perhaps there really are no new ideas out there. Perhaps the only way to make a film today is to throw together a hodgepodge of successful past franchises, add in some shiny 3-D graphics, and hope summer audiences are too dazed with sun to notice they are paying more than ten dollars for a deeply mediocre movie.

“Lantern” is unoriginal and forgettable; its bright spots — besides the glowing green of Ryan Reynold’s costume — are few and far between. Director Martin Campbell was responsible for 2006’s “Casino Royale,” but he seems to have lost his creative spark in the past five years. This movie embraces every imaginable superhero trope, from the sassy and sensitive female companion to the Lantern’s well-timed dashes of emotional vulnerability.

The plot is equally insipid, as the storyline mashes together intergalactic space battles and the transformation of Hal Jordan (Reynolds) into a righteous superhero. It might have been better all-around if “Lantern” hadn’t hurried through the character development in order to feature more showdowns with a giant superbrain fear octopus. While canon demands a supervillain for every superhero movie, the connection between these narratives is more tenuous than most. Instead, the audience must sit through a superhero transition that consisted of nothing more than a few training montages and a challenge to live up to the ring by a stone-faced alien. Peter Parker had to watch his uncle die before he understood great power and great responsibility; Hal Jordan just winks at himself in the mirror a few dozen times.

The filmmakers’ neglect of character growth is not helped by uninspired acting performances. While Reynolds was probably selected for this role because of his unusual ability to look good in shimmering neon green, was it too much to hope that he not be completely predictable? He plays Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern with a type of canned bravado and artificial sensitivity. “I think we both know I’m pretty good at walking away,” he says toward the end with a look of emotional constipation on his face. The film showcases many unimaginative lines like this made worse by strangled delivery.

Surrounding the Lantern is a cast comprised of Blake Lively, Tim Robbins and Peter Sarsgaard –— all who exist only to say tinned lines at convenient times. “Lantern” is an exercise in monotonous plagiarism, and the actors plod through the two-hour chore of a movie with little effort. At points, the alternately bland and outrageous performances approached so-bad-it’s-good campiness, but they always fell short.

Instead, it is a movie that will enter the trash compactor of the summer film industry as yet another boring and expensive exercise in superhero unoriginality. Its only saving grace is the glory of the 3-D graphics. Intergalactic peace squadrons may not make for a stirring plot, but the grandness and desolation of space is perfect for 3-D technology. There is nothing quite like watching objects and characters hurtle through space on the big screen, the glow of the bright colors smeared on the vast darkness.

But a few moments of admiration for the work of the special effects team does not forgive the director and the producers for wasting every audience member’s time with a boring film that has been made before and been made better. If you need a superhero fix, watch the interpretation of the Cuban Missile Crisis in “X-Men: First Class” or rent 2002’s “Spider-Man.” Don’t fuel the franchise machine of “Green Lantern,” because those ten dollars will contribute to another boring incarnation in a few summers.