MindFood: Who is ‘Green Lantern’ Good For?

Green LanternYou’ve no doubt heard plenty of talk over the last week or so about The Green Lantern, about the critical reaction, about the fan reaction, and about the box office performance. If you’ve somehow escaped the discussion, let me catch it up to speed. Critics mostly hated it, fans mostly liked it and thought that critics, like parents, just don’t understand (as is often the case when a beloved property is at play), and the box office was fairly middle of the road for a first-time superhero property, yet just as many people called it a flop as they did a success (the definition of success here being that it didn’t flop).

Basically, it’s your average blockbuster clustercuss. Everyone wants to get in on the ground floor to make some kind of proclamation about the film’s future. And, hey, would you look at that; I’m an everyone! I’d like to take a bit of a different approach, however, and muse about who, of the film’s three biggest components, Hollywood’s latest superhero actually helped and who it hurt along the way.

Ryan Reynolds

Unsurprisingly the star of the film is the only person who comes out of The Green Lantern mostly on top. Critics and fans alike have appreciated the casting and generally praised his performance as the slightly aloof maverick thrust into a universe of responsibility. It’s proven that he can anchor a blockbuster and hopefully that opens him up to better and bigger scripts down the line (if only the vastly more interesting Buried had been the film that did that).

Blake Lively

Obviously scoring a starring role in a tentpole film is going to be a huge deal for any young actress. Even if you wind up pulling a Megan Fox and getting yourself fired from the franchise, it puts you on the map in a way no CW TV show ever can. So in that regard, obviously TGL is good business for Blake Lively. It’ll increase her asking price while also increasing her brand awareness.

But let’s be realistic here. Blake Lively is the blandest asset in TGL. Her character, and by extension she, has no personality, no spark and nothing to do but stand there and be eye candy. Yes, she’s a pretty gal, but she’s a total mannequin; the kind of meticulously sculpted form you acknowledge but are never truly attracted to. So even though having TGL on her resume is going to be great for Lively’s future contracts, did seeing her in the movie actually spark any further interest in her career? Are movie goers everywhere going to suddenly get excited about new movies solely because she’s in them? Not a chance. In fact, I’d wager a movie like TGL hurts her more than it helps. It may have raised her profile but it’s sentenced her to mannequin land.

Martin Campbell

There’s no question that The Green Lantern hurt director Martin Campbell more than it helped. This was his first foray into high tech, heavily CGI filmmaking and it only proved to highlight all of his weaknesses and while bestowing on him no new strengths. Sure, give him a Bond movie and he can kick real ass. Hell, give Campbell a good thriller script and he can turn Mel Gibson haters into lovers. But give the man a hugely animated movie and he’s entirely out of his element. He just doesn’t do fantasy well.

TGL hurts Campbell in the same way it hurts Lively: it’s tarnished interest in any similarly-themed projects. It’s like hearing Scarlett Johansson’s Tom Waits cover album. Sure, it’s not a disaster, but it’s such a curious artistic indulgence you spend your entire time with it wondering why it even exists.