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.

Reynolds: Lord of the ring

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)

3 Responses to “Green Lantern ✮✮1/2”

  1. Jonathan Says:

    I think you are right on. The movie was good, especially if you grew up a Green Lantern fan, which lets face it there weren’t that many. But the reviews were not from the perspective of a I didn’t buy into it. Good review..balanced. Thanks for that.


  2. floridaphil Says:

    Wow, a fair, objective and intelligent review, of which there are far too few. You nailed it with your characterization of the movie being “snubbed by the seen-one-seen-’em-all contingent.” My local paper’s reviewer even based his D grade largely on the fact that he didn’t like looking at so much green (?!?), and yet many reviewers are seriously snooty enough to look down upon anyone who did enjoy the film as having the intellect of a 10 year old. Thanks for not being one of them.


  3. John E. Says:

    Good review, Glenn. I feel like other critics are just bullying this film for the sake of it. I went in with low expectations and came out relatively happy. It’s much better than THOR, I thought. My beef with the film, however, is the “by the numbers” script and the under-utilization of Sinestro, Tormar-Re, and Kilowag in action sequences. I think this a movie that sets up its sequel to surpass its predecessor.

    No review for X-Men: First Class? Now that film really exceeded my expectations.


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