When adapting a comic book character for the first time on the big screen, writers and directors often struggle with effectively recreating the hero's world. This is because condensing a collection of written works into a movie is a difficult task. The filmmakers usually need to take liberties with converting them, to maintain a reasonable running time.
Given the constraints, they must balance effectively explaining the character's back story and compelling viewers with an adventure in the present. Only the best super hero adaptations give equal attention to both though, while the rest falter, by focusing more on one aspect than the other.
Martin Campbell’s “Green Lantern” is a primary example of a film which falls into the latter category, since it spends more time trying to hook you on the current events, than getting you invested in its protagonist, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds).
In the beginning we’re introduced to Jordan, who is a cocky, irresponsible jerk of a pilot. He oversleeps for his test flight, he crappily wraps his nephew’s birthday gift while driving to work, and he crashes a multimillion dollar aircraft merely to prove he's smarter than his ex Carol Ferris (Blake Lively).
Jordan learns the error of his ways however, when he encounters a dying alien, who bequeaths him a magical power ring. This alien informs Hal, that he has been chosen to join an intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps, an organization charged with keeping peace throughout the universe.
At first, Jordan reluctantly accepts the role, but the responsibilities of his new job begin to sink in, and he decides to quit before things get too serious. Jordan tries to shirk his duty, though he changes his tune when he learns that an evil being called Parallax, which feeds on the fears of others, is hurtling toward Earth. Hal must wholeheartedly accept his new position as Green Lantern, and face his fear of failure if he has any hope of defeating Parallax.
Reynolds cashes in on his ability to portray smug dudes, a trait which has made him famous. The strange thing is that this time, he does not seem to be enjoying it. He appears to be forcing funny moments because he is either growing tired of the schtick, or the film's dialogue is so poorly written that he has to push them in order to get any laughs from the audience. Sadly, the majority of these mildy comedic moments, are already spoiled by the movie's trailers.
Campbell paints you with a shallow portrait of Jordan through brief obligatory flashbacks about daddy issues and his writing team uses sparse dialogue to reference Jordan's past romantic crimes against Carol. The lack of depth in the character makes Jordan's supposed fear of failure difficult to buy. As a result, the film's major theme about the battle between will (The Green Lantern Corps) and fear (Parallax), falls pretty flat.
While “Green Lantern” succeeds in the special effects department, creating some stellar celestial 3D sequences and nifty displays of power from the rings, they are not enough to balance out the unamusing dialogue and thinly constructed hero. Because Hal Jordan is not fleshed out, it's difficult to get invested in his struggle and to root for him. “Green Lantern” is superficial storytelling at its worst.