Notice I said, "a hit". I didn't say anything about it being good.
Bottom line, Green Lantern is probably the most mercenary movie I've seen since the Fantastic Four movies (the big budget ones or Roger Corman's, take your pick). Any imagination or creativity you might expect? Forget it. You have literally seen the basics of this story a million times already. It's that guy again with a different suit on.
For the sake of brevity, I'm going to focus on the movie as its own entity, not compare and contrast it with the comics. Although it doesn't take the liberties Steel did, I know enough about the DCU to know Hal Jordan didn't behave like that. Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is chosen to be a new Green Lantern, intergalactic space cops. Why was he chosen? Because of his character arc. No kidding. Hal Jordan is a test pilot whose dad was a test pilot killed during a run. Yes, a kid who saw his dad turned into baked Alaskan became a test pilot himself. What is it with DC movie characters doing the exact opposite of what you expect? Remember Batgirl doing illegal street races when her parents were killed in a vehicular accident in Batman And Robin? Jesus. Anyway, Jordan is a goofball with daddy issues who doesn't really take things seriously who suddenly has all important responsibility thrust upon him, which forces him to mature and become a hero.
Yup. We've seen this before. Several times. Even Iron Man did this, although they at least gave it the twist of Tony Stark as the perpetual adolescent who never quite leaves his adolescence behind. It's always a prophecy or something, signaling that the character has some special attributes that makes him more than he seems. It's a generic plot to give an acceptable character arc to feed the two goal, three act story structure. In other words, the screenplay is on autopilot here, folks.
What else have we seen before? How about the unimpressed authority figure who doesn't see what makes the hero so special? That would be Sinestro (Mark Strong), who dismisses Jordan as a loser. After all, Jordan has literally just started training when he shows up, how dare he exhibit a learning curve. I kept expecting Sinestro to explain to Jordan at some point, "Mr. Mestopheles raped me."
How about stretching out the plot with completely illogical actions? That would be the Guardians, who know exactly what Parallax is and what dangers it presents, but don't reveal that information to Green Lantern leader Sinestro right away. They come up with some bullshit that they have to weigh their actions against eons, but why they withhold information from their own enforcers is never explained, and believe me, an explanation would be nice.
What else? An enemy that is the opposite of the hero, failing where he succeeded? That would be Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard). He doesn't have Jordan's looks or respect, even when Jordan attempts to send some love his way. He gets infected with Parallax DNA and starts changing, given amazing power but prone to abuse it while Jordan rejects it as too much for him. Might as well mention Parallax while I'm at it. I was having serious flashbacks to Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer. Parallax is a lot like Galactus in that movie, just with a face like Blizzard's Diablo.
Everything happens to keep things moving. Parallax gets sprung from his prison remarkably easy, and Abin Sur falls to him really quickly. Jordan takes abuse that sometimes does heavy damage to him and sometimes he just bounces right up from, God only know why some of the hits he takes don't kill him. Jordan gets an inspirational speech from his girlfriend (Blake Lively, completely forgettable in her role) that gives him the key to defeat Parallax. Yeah, very Joseph Campbell. Even the ending, setting up the sequel, is arbitrary, with no reason given for why Sinestro puts on the yellow ring after it has been proven they don't need fear in order to succeed.
I do not envy the director of photography on this shoot. Thanks to the directing of Martin Campbell (GoldenEye, Casino Royale, No Escape, and other movies desperate for flash that just don't deliver), he has to constantly use green and yellow lighting motifs in the course of things, including an insultingly obvious metaphor with Hammond's guinea pig running on an exercise wheel. Peter Weir did so much better with everyday objects as metaphors in The Truman Show. Campbell has no subtly or creativity whatsoever. Also, I sense a lot of pre-existing locations instead of sets. Cameras are sometimes placed in odd locations, indicating this wasn't on a set where things could be moved around to accommodate the gear. The money, $200 mil of it, chiefly went to the construction of Oa, the Green Lantern planet, and the shiny costume Reynolds wears (it is a digital effect in itself). It takes a looooong time for anything interesting to happen here, and when it does, it doesn't really dazzle or amaze. Although I did appreciate the placement of an NFL Blitz video game. It was made by Midway, which is now owned by Warner Bros. Mad props.
The editor needs to pay more attention. The opening has a traveling shot showing three marooned aliens, and the camera has them almost off screen when it cuts to a close up of them. It makes it feel like the camera is getting jerked around. (Just like the audience! I know! I don't know how I got so funny, either!) And I counted one scene where the multiple shots didn't match up.
Character moments are off and on. There's a couple of good moments here. I especially loved when Jordan's girlfriend recognizes him in costume and thinks him expecting her not to know who he was is a huge insult to her intelligence ("I grew up with you! Did you really think I wouldn't recognize you because I can't see your cheekbones?!?"). But lots of character stuff just falls flat. Reynolds has definite comic talent (and some truly amazing teeth), but he just doesn't get any good lines. He is mostly there for eye candy for the gals in the audience (his sweat pants in one scene have a strategically placed bulge in them). The role gives him nothing to really play up his comedy skills with, and it doesn't resonate enough for any gravitas. He's at the mercy of the script, and it wrecks him.
The music, oh lord, the music. James Newton Howard, what happened?!? You dealt aces with the two Nolan Batman movies! Here, he just provides musical stings that encapsulate the action instead of actually conveying anything. Like the screenplay, it's forgettable. Someone get John Powell on the phone, stat.
Green Lantern is soulless, joyless, and really only good as a head movie. Stick with the DTV animated movies shepherded by Bruce Timm. He knows how to make the characters work and keep them engaging. This movie does not.