So there are these aliens, you see, who have divided the universe into 3,000 or so sectors and have chosen one being from each planet — someone absolutely fearless — to wear a green ring that brings superpowers and helps the group maintain peace and order. On Earth, that person happens to be Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a hot-shot fighter-jet pilot who is given his ring by a dying alien who crash lands on our planet. The ring comes with a lantern that is used to charge it when the batteries run low. The lantern kinda looks like a funky bong, and if you were to make use of such a contraption before seeing Green Lantern, the film will be a lot more fun.
Whereas Marvel Comics has an endless supply of well-known superheroes for movie adaptations (Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Thor, etc.), its chief rival DC Comics only has two true icons: Superman and Batman. After them, you’re down to Wonder Woman and The Flash and, yes, the Green Lantern, whose only superpower is a ring that allows him to create anything he can think of out of green light — a car, a hammer, an anvil, whatever. What the ring is not able to do, alas, is create a good movie. Green Lantern, which is credited to four screenwriters and was directed by the erratic Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, Edge of Darkness, Vertical Limit), feels like the ultimate cut-and-paste job designed to appeal to every possible viewer.
Funny, likable Hal is always cracking wise until he has to get serious and save the world. Fellow jet pilot Carol (Gossip Girl’s Blake Lively) provides the requisite love interest. Scientist Hector (Peter Sarsgaard) and his disapproving senator father (Tim Robbins) give the story some drama and pathos, to balance Hal’s happy-go-lucky demeanor. He remains remarkably unfazed even when the aliens (led by Mark Strong) draft him to their far-flung headquarters, which provides an opportunity for loads of CGI effects. The tone is all over the place, which makes the movie difficult to take neither seriously nor as popcorn fluff. Reynolds, who got his start making low-brow comedy, has grown into a charismatic actor, and he gives the character his best shot, but Hal remains a wholly unbelievable creation — someone who accepts these mind-blowing discoveries with a shrug and goes with the flow.
The 3D in Green Lantern is particularly good — some of the best I’ve seen in a live-action film . — but there are big stretches during which you can tell Reynolds is standing alone on a green screen, interacting with objects and creatures that aren’t really there. The film’s villain is a gigantic, planet-devouring monster who is going around killing Green Lanterns by feeding on their supposedly non-existent fear. The climactic battle between the eponymous hero and the huge octopus thing is well done, but it only lasts a few minutes. In fact, for a comic-book movie, Green Lantern is surprisingly leaden – light on action and fun, and heavy on talk. I never read the comics, so I have no idea how faithful any of this is to the source material. But judging by the movie, I now understand why the character, familiar as he is, never caught on in a big way. Some superheroes just aren’t meant for movies.
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins, Mark Strong, Temuera Morrison.
Director: Martin Campbell.
Screenwriters: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg.
Producers: Greg Berlanti, Donald De Line.
A Warner Bros. Pictures release. Running time: 104 minutes. Mild vulgar language, comic-book violence. Opens Friday July 17 at area theaters.