Green Lantern ✮✮1/2
Green for Go
by Glenn Lovell
In a summer crammed with comic book superheroes, the Green Lantern as played by Ryan Reynolds in spray-on tights may be the most personable. He’s a lot smarter than the guy in the Nordic helmet and certainly less sarcastic than Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. I’d place Reynolds more in the realm of Tobey Maguire as Spidey, but much less solemn. His pepper-shot gibes are semi-irreverent, mostly self-effacing.
Stymied on how to activate the green ring, “chosen one” Hal Jordan reasons, “Everybody knows the oath. We used to sing it in camp.” His first go: “To infinity … and beyond!”
Later, hovering over former girlfriend Carol’s balcony, Hal models his new look: green spandex and mini-mask. No Lois Lane she, Carol (Blake Lively) is mystified for, oh, about half a second. “How did you know it’s me?” he asks, disappointed. “I’ve seen you naked,” she snorts. “Did you think I wouldn’t recognize you because I can’t see your cheekbones?”
I can’t speak to how faithful “Green Lantern” is to its DC Comics source because I haven’t thumbed comic books in a few decades, but I can say that I found this adventure fairly entertaining and, even if its wraith-like monster feels like recycled Harry Potter, the effects overall are dazzling. We have action ace Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale”) to thank for this. He does a nice job of juggling the Hal Jordan / Earthling narrative with the backstory/lore about how the Green Lantern Corps, headquartered on the planet Oa, was activated to protect the galaxy from Parallax, an amorphous, hydra-like beast (voiced by Clancy Brown) that feeds on the fear of its victims before literally deboning them. Ooouch!
The emerald ring, which channels will power, has already sought out some 3,600 heroes from the far reaches of the universe. Brought to Earth by a mortally wounded warrior named Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), the ring makes a beeline for hotshot test pilot Jordan, wraps him in a green force field, and spits him out in a mud puddle near Sur’s downed ship. Once he learns the secret oath ‒ “In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight” ‒ Jordan is transported to Oa, where the mandatory space probe, orientation and boot camp await. “The ring chose you ‒ the ring never makes a mistake,” intones the all-wise Tomar-Re, a fishy cross between Obi-Wan and Jar Jar Binks (voiced by Geoffrey Rush). The hand-to-hand tutorial, a comic highlight, is inflicted by a rhino-like drill sergeant named Kilowag (Michael Clarke Duncan). “Gravity’s a bitch!” he laughs, peeling his new pupil from the floor.
Reluctant at first to heed the call, Jordan soon warms to the perks, such as a Looney Tunes-like ability to will objects into being, such as heavy artillery and, to ease a falling helicopter to the ground, curlicue race tracks.
Since this is a comic book adventure, a nasty government cover-up and arch-fiend can’t be lurking too far in the distance. The arch villain role is filled by a nearly unrecognizable Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond, son of a devious senator (Tim Robbins). Hector, a xenobiologist, is infected during an alien autopsy and quickly morphs into a jabbering, bulbous-headed disciple of the fast-approaching Parallax.
It’s really a shame this fantasy-adventure arrives in a summer swamped by superheroes. It’s the best of the batch so far, but it’s in danger of being snubbed by the seen-one-seen-‘em-all contingent. The shots of the airborne Jordan, in pursuit jet and in emerald green, are as exhilarating in their way as the Chris Reeve/Superman cape work was all those years ago, and the CG rendering of Oa, particularly the Citadel where the supreme council presides atop giant barstools, is more tactile and inventive than anything found on the alien planets in “Thor.”
Does the green space cop have what it takes to sustain a franchise? “What happens now?” asks Carol in an obvious sequel set-up. “I’m going to go look for trouble,” Hal says. Good news. I for one look forward to his next challenge. This is one superhero who’s just human enough to make us care about who, or what, is left standing after that eternal good-vs.-evil slugfest.
GREEN LANTERN ✮✮1/2 Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett. Directed by Martin Campbell; scripted by Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, Michael Goldenberg. 105 mins. Rated PG-13 (for exaggerated violence, gruesome makeup effects, slight profanity)