Thursday, June 16, 2011
Review: "Green Lantern"
"Green Lantern" is one of the weakest comic book superhero adaptations we've had in awhile, but I still couldn't quite bring myself to hate it. Sigh with disappointment, maybe, but the strongest feeling I had was the lack of one: I was colossally indifferent to this movie.
Part of it is Ryan Reynolds. I've seen Reynolds do good work -- he showed great comic timing in the first half of "The Proposal" -- but he's started down an unfortunate career path that I'm not sure he can pull out of. He always plays the glib, fast-talking charmer who comes to realize he's out of his depth, and (usually) rises to the occasion. I've seen this guy so many times now, and I don't like him.
After the screening -- held on a Wednesday night specifically to preclude most print reviews -- one of my fellow critics commented that in many ways "Green Lantern" is strikingly similar to "Iron Man." The protagonist is a hedonistic playboy who cares not a whit for the rest of the world, until circumstances and a really awesome super-suit force him to play hero. It's attractive as a story concept, but is so familiar now I kept thinking Lantern's costume looked moldy.
In this case, the hero's powers do not actually reside in the suit, but in the ring that is bequeathed to him by a dying member of the Green Lantern Corp. There are 3,600 of them split up to guard the entire universe against evil, and the greatest of them, Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), is fatally wounded in a clash with the Corp's ancient enemy, Parallax (voice by Clancy Brown). Parallax is released from his imprisonment on a distant planet, and turns into some sort of wandering space blob with a head that looks like one of the aliens from "Mars Attacks!"
Meanwhile, Abin Sur crash lands on Earth and orders his ring to find a suitable replacement, and Hal Jordan (Reynolds) is selected. He's a cocky test pilot haunted by the death of his father, another pilot who was consumed in a fiery blaze before Hal's eyes when he was a boy. This has given him, needless to say, issues.
There's an inevitable scene where Hal discovers his powers after getting jumped by some toughs outside a bar. As soon as the scene shifted to the bar, I knew some thugs would appear shortly to serve as Lantern tenderizer. It's practically encoded in the DNA of movies like this.
Then there's a long, unnecessary sequence where Hal travels to the Lanter Corp's home planet for training, and to be told by head cheese Sinestro (Mark Strong) that he's not good enough to wear the ring. A big burly Lantern appears to teach him "ring slinging 101," which seems like an unlikely name from such a hallowed crew.
In the grand tradition of poor super-hero movies that can't come up with a worthy antagonist, there is a second villain to buttress the space goo guy. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is an introspective scientist brought in to examine Abin Sur's corpse, but he gets zapped with a bit of the space goo and his head swells to melon proportions. Oh, and he can move stuff with his mind.
The powers of Green Lantern are vague. He can create anything he can imagine out of the green energy harnessed by the ring, which is supposed to consist of the willpower of every living creature in existence. It's like The Force, except for some reason willpower manifests itself as neon-green energy on the Corps home planet of Oa. Even more powerful, but less stable is yellow energy, which comes from fear. That's space goo guy's stock in trade.
So Green Lantern conjures race cars, machine guns, swords, shields and all sorts of other things in combat. He can also fly and fire energy bolts.
The totally unneeded love interest is played by Blake Lively, a childhood friend of Hal's who now runs the big corporation he worked for (until he shoots down two of their super-duper new drone fighter planes). She does have one great line where Hal, after first appearing in the Green Lantern outfit, immediately recognizes him because he only wears a tiny mask covering his eyes. "What, did you think I wouldn't recognize you just because I can't see your cheekbones?" Fourth wall humor, but still funny stuff.
So space blog guy keeps getting closer to Earth, Hector's noggin keeps growing bigger, and Hal learns to focus his willpower and overcome his fears.
I'm bored writing about this movie, just as I was while watching it, so I'll stop now.
1.5 stars out of four