By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
No, he’s not the Green Hornet. But you’re forgiven for confusing the two because he was a similarly garbed superhero with a comic book background, even if he was more comedic in tone and was played by Seth Rogen earlier this year (The Green Hornet movie review).
He is, instead, the Green Lantern, a DC Comics character, the spandex-clad headliner of this latest stab at launching a comics-based franchise.
Hey, it sure is getting crowded in here, where we’re quickly approaching the point of official superhero overload.
Ryan Reynolds stars as cocky, skillful US Air Force test pilot Hal Jordan, who is granted a mystical ring that bestows him with otherworldly powers, as well as membership in an intergalactic brotherhood of warriors, the Green Lantern Corps, who are committed to keeping peace and protecting justice in the universe, and who wear rings that grant them superpowers.
Reluctant at first, Hal eventually agrees to fulfill this particular destiny.
But a new enemy, called Parallax (the voice of Clancy Brown), threatens to destroy the balance of power in the universe.
This puts extensive pressure on Jordan, the Corps’ newest recruit and the first human ever selected, who must quickly master his new powers and find the courage to overcome his understandable fears.
Blake Lively plays Jordan’s childhood sweetheart, Carol Ferris, a fellow test pilot and now the vice president of Ferris Aircraft, who encourages Hal in his new crime-fighting role.
Meanwhile, Mark Strong is Thaal Sinestro, who starts out as Jordan’s Green Lantern Corps recruiter and mentor; Peter Sarsgaard is villain Dr. Hector Hammond, a scientist with powers that rival those of the lead character and who is equally and unrequitedly taken with Carol Ferris; Tim Robbins is Sen. Robert Hammond, Hector’s powerful and distant father; Angela Bassett is Dr. Amanda Waller, a former congressional aide and government agent; and the voice of Geoffrey Rush, always a comforting sound, delivers more narration than we want or care about.
All of that said, not one member of the cast makes an impression as a fully realized character rather than a glorified prop.
Director Martin Campbell, a veteran of action-adventure thrillers (Casino Royale, GoldenEye, The Legend of Zorro, The Mask of Zorro), relies so heavily on the splashy special effects to deliver the goods that half the time we feel we’re watching a light show and fireworks display with a flimsy narrative drama obliquely attached to it.
And every time we see the CGI Hal Jordan, as opposed to the live-action Hal Jordan, the film turns into a cartoon — and a not-much-of-an-illusion cartoon at that — one in which we’re never exactly sure what this costumed crusader can actually do and what he can’t.
The nonsensical, exposition-clogged, origin-tale script by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg (who earn quite a few unintentional laughs at, and not with, their clunky dialogue) sacrifices internal storytelling logic for empty, by-the-numbers flash and a backstory that only fervent fanboys would put up with.
Although Ryan Reynolds actually does wonders, maintaining his dignity despite the generic, and sometimes embarrassing, dialogue he’s saddled with, we are denied his usual winning way with comedic material, which we were treated to in such recent films as The Proposal. And he got more of a chance to show off his acting chops in any once scene in the claustrophobic Buried than he does in the entirety of Lantern.
Reynolds is, unfortunately and uncharacteristically, nearly reduced to a bland afterthought.
In the increasingly overpopulated superhero market, this one spends most of its time green with envy, as it reminds us of far-better superhero flicks and franchises, such as Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Superman. If that magic ring Hal’s wearing is so special and can help him do anything, why doesn’t he use it to make a better movie?
As for us, we’ll transform into 2 stars out of 4 for this serviceable but silly, soporific, and synthetic special effects-driven spectacle, Green Lantern, which goes in the books as pretty much of a snooze.
To paraphrase the film itself: “In brightest day, in blackest night, they tried but failed to get it right.”