Movie Review: “The Green Lantern”

Well, “Green Lantern” isn’t “Jonah Hex” bad. But it’s silly enough to be part of the same “silliest Warner Brothers comic book summer movies of all time” conversation.

This DC comic adaptation goes just as far as the off-hand charms of Ryan Reynolds can carry it. And unlike the equally impressive Josh Brolin in “Jonah,” Reynolds doesn’t have the dead weight of Megan Fox to carry around for 100 minutes.

This adaptation is the origin tale in the saga, all about how wiseacre-loose cannon test pilot Hal Jordan (Reynolds) is chosen by The Green Lantern Corps to help defend the universe from evil, “in brightest day, in darkest night,” etc., as they chant in their oath.

It’s a credit to Reynolds, Mr. Arched-Eyebrow, that the moment he takes that oath is played, at least at first, as a vamp. We’ve already been through a long digital green prologue, seeing the Lantern Corps on its home planet, and met the villain-unleashed (Parallax) and seen how Jordan’s seeming lack of fear is what makes him right for admission to this elite force. Reynolds wears the cockiness, the bravado, well. He makes the tiresome encounters with his fellow intra-species lanterns (Mark Strong, digitally Vulcanized, and Michael Clark Duncan, turned into the Fantastic Four’s “Thing”) amusing enough.

His super-power ring allows him to fly through space, smack-down bad guys and whip up these “constructs” –  green chains, bunkers, race cars — that he uses to protect himself and others. The constructs shown here are a half-hearted chuckle.

But it’s the life outside of the green suit, the green ring and the green face mask (that fools no one) that’s more interesting. The lovely Blake Lively is the fellow test pilot and boss’s daughter of the aviation firm that Hal works for, the “one who got away.” Tim Robbins is a senator making sure that firm gets the big contracts, and Peter Sarsgaard is the senator’s scientist son who is infected when he does the autopsy on the alien who delivers a lantern and a ring to Hal.

Up to that moment, Hal has been a Devil-may-care womanizer, happy to cheat death in experimental jets, drive his vintage Dodge Challenger too fast and drink too much. The ring must teach him responsibility and to face his own fears and master them.

Sarsgaard, spending much of the film in Elephant Man makeup, makes little impression as a character whose streak of resentment is no explanation for his transformation to not-quite-super-villainy. Angela Bassett is wasted in a tiny role as a fellow scientist, Robbins is never built up into anything but white-haired set dressing and nobody else in the cast registers at all.

Parallax is a digital octopus with a skull straight out of every version of “A Christmas Carol” you’ve ever seen. Scary? Barely.

“Casino Royale” director Martin Campbell faces a “Thor-sized” handicap — too many scenes on the digital effect green planet of Oa. He stages the action in a “When is quitting time?” rush, but can’t sprint past the inherent foolishness and pointlessness of it all. The only time 3D comes into play is a Reynolds-Lively scene in which a fly got onto the set. No, I’m not making that up.

At least Reynolds cares and almost makes the “No evil shall escape my sight” oath work. But this summer, mark “The Green Lantern” down as one comic book movie too many, one more 3D ticket worth skipping.

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong,
Tim Robbins

Credits: Directed by Martin Campbell, written by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldberg, based on the DC comic book, produced by Gregg Berlianti and Donald De Line.  Running time: 1:45

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