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The Green Lantern--A movie review
The Green Lantern doesn't shine very brightly
THE GREEN LANTERN (2 stars out of 5)
It’s not easy being green, especially when you don’t have a very good script to work with. This long-awaited adaptation of one of the most enduring and well-known comic-book heroes should have been a fun, rousing adventure, but instead it’s a disappointing bore. Director Martin Campbell has helmed films about other iconic characters, like James Bond and Zorro. Sadly, that experience hasn’t helped him create a compelling hero or a captivating movie.
The Green Lantern tries hard to capture the lite tone of superhero films like Superman: the Movie, Spider-Man or Iron Man, all of which found a nice balance of humor, characterization and action. However, Green Lantern never finds its balance, leaning too much toward humor, and suffering from weak character development and uninspired action sequences.
The film opens with a voice-over prologue which gives us the necessary back-story. Centuries ago, a group on little, blue Yoda-like wise men called the Guardians harnessed the “Green power of will” and created the Great Power Battery, which is the ultimate force for good. They use the energy of the green battery to empower their league of “space cops” known as the Green Lantern Corps. The GLC is something akin to the Jedi Knights; an inter-galactic peace-keeping force, made up of a multitude of species. Instead of light sabers, they wield Power Rings, which can manifest will power as physical, solid objects. “Whatever I think of, I can create” our hero, Hal Jordan tells us after getting his ring.
Before getting his ring, Hal (Ryan Reynolds of X-Men Origins: Wolverine) is a talented but wild test pilot, who feels the need for speed. But Hal sabotages himself at every turn with his recklessness and lack of commitment. “I’ve screwed up every other part of my life, but one thing I can do is fly!” Hal tells his adoring young nephew. Hal is much like Tony Stark from Iron Man--a womanizing, undisciplined, Peter Pan type—except without the wealth and genius. Hal is an under-achiever, obsessed with the death of his father, who was also a test pilot. (Hal has flashbacks to his dad’s death at the most inappropriate times, such as when he’s in a nose-dive in his jet.) Hal’s lovely love-interest is Carol Ferris (Blake Lively of Gossip Girl). Carol is one of those idealized, all-too-perfect women you often find in these films. She’s beautiful, rich, smart, brave, affectionate, a great pilot, helps run her father’s Aeronautics Company and to never lets Hal forget he’s a man. (If she can cook, she’s a keeper.)
Into Hal’s messed-up life comes Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in the Star Wars prequel trilogy), a Green Lantern mortally wounded in battle with an entity known as Parallax, (A big head with flailing tendrils for a body) the ancient enemy of the Guardians and the Green Lanterns. Parallax is the nemesis of the Lanterns because he eats fear. A key element for the Green lanterns to control their rings is to be fearless but Parallax can bring out the fear in anyone, no matter how deeply it’s been repressed. Parallax defeats Abin Sur who crash lands on Earth, and uses his ring to find a worthy, fearless successor to carry out his mission. No surprise, the ring chooses Hal.
Hal doesn’t know what to make of this gift at first, but soon he is whisked away to the planet Oa, where he meets the rest of the Green Lanterns, including the kindly Tomar-Re (A fish-like alien voiced by Geoffrey Rush) and the field-commander of the GLC, Sinestro (Mark Strong of Sherlock Holmes, Kick-Ass and Robin Hood) who doesn’t think Hal has what it takes to be part of the Corps. Hal goes through a brief training period, which you might expect to be a cross between training scenes in Rocky and in An Officer and a Gentlemen, but instead plays out like a magic wand duel between Harry Potter and Drago Malfoy.
Aside from Parallax, Hal also has to deal with Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a scientist who is infected by the “Yellow fear power” and becomes a telekinetic, telepathic super-villain. Hector is motivated by more than his connection to Parallax. Hector also hates Hal because he’s in love with pretty Carol. As with the love interest of every good hero, she is kidnapped by the bad guys and our hero has to rush to the rescue. Can Hal save her? Can he save Oa from Parallax? Can he overcome his inner-demons and become worthy of the ring he wears?
Ryan Reynolds has a gift for comedy and he’s good at playing the screw-up aspects of Hal, but he doesn’t do a very good job conveying the deeper layers of the character. His journey from self-doubt to confidence isn’t very well done. Whenever he’s in his Green Lantern costume, his body is altered by CGI effects, which mean that for much of the film, we’re only seeing Reynolds’s head. (That makes him a good match for Parallax, who is also just a head.) Reynolds will be reprising his X-Men role as Wade in the upcoming X-Men Origins: Deadpool. Hopefully, he’ll have better material to work with.
Lively doesn’t have a whole lot to do here other than to look desirable, which she excels at. The evil, deformed Hammond is a creepy-looking villain and Sarsgaard does his best to inject some personality into an otherwise mediocre bad guy. Tim Robbins has an undemanding role as Hammond’s Senator father and Angela Bassett appears briefly as the mysterious Amanda Waller. (Waller was played by Pam Grier in Smallville.)
The underlying theme of the film is supposed to be Will versus Fear. “The will makes you do things; fear stops you!” Sinestro says. It’s a nice concept but it isn’t well realized here. It plays out as a typical good guys vs. bad guys scenario, with green and yellow substituting for the white hat and the black hat. The film tends to drag in spots, even though it’s not very long. The climactic fight scene is underwhelming.
The Green Lantern tries hard to be more than the sum of its parts but it doesn’t succeed, and the parts don’t add up to very much. This could have been so much better than it is. Very disappointing.