By Matt Brunson
DIRECTED BY Martin Campbell
STARS Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively
Considering all the advance negative buzz that had been building with the steadiness and scariness of a Category 5 hurricane, Green Lantern, just one of the approximately 428 superhero flicks that will be released this year alone, isn't the catastrophe that had been all but foretold as far back as the Book of Revelations. To compare this big-budget effort to such truly abysmal efforts as Catwoman and Batman & Robin would merely be an exercise in misguided grandstanding; at the same time, the middling results suggest that, the excellence of X-Men: First Class notwithstanding, Hollywood might consider cooling it on the super-sagas for a while (fat chance) and seek inspiration from other types of comic characters. Little Lulu or Andy Capp, anyone?
Actually, Steven Spielberg does have that Tintin adaptation arriving in time for Christmas, but as long as the outdoor weather calls for cold colas rather than hot cocoa, it's the masked heroes from Marvel and DC who control the multiplexes (up next: Captain America). And when all is said and done, Green Lantern is really no different than the film which kicked off this summer season: As with Thor, this one also features slick special effects, a likable (if vanilla-flavored) leading man and effective use of 3-D, but it likewise gets bogged down in protracted exposition and has trouble sorting out its cluttered screenplay.
Ryan Reynolds, flexing his puppy-dog eyes almost as much as his rock-hard pecs, stars as Hal Jordan, a test pilot who becomes the first human to become a member of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic watchdog group tasked with protecting the universe. The preeminent threat at the moment is a fearsome entity known as Parallax, who preys on fear to absorb the souls of anyone around him. Other scribes have described this creature as "an alien enemy with a skull head and the body of a dryer-lint octopus" and "a composite of fecal matter with a head" while my fiancee tagged him "the dirty dreadlocks of doom"; at any rate, Parallax is certainly an imposing villain. (Let me put it this way: I wouldn't want to wake up in the morning and see him hovering outside my bedroom window, sucking up neighbors' souls left and right.) His agent of evil on earth is Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a nerdy scientist who's infected by Parallax and promptly becomes a telekinetic mutant with a bulbous, oozing head.
Hal's battles with Parallax and Hector are ably handled by director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale), and they allow the FX crew to show off their hard work (a few extra million bucks were poured into improving the visual effects after the initial wrap, and it shows). But whenever the movie isn't moving at a fast and furious speed, the banality of the script (credited to four writers) takes center stage. Whether it's Hal's tepid romance with fellow pilot Carol Ferris (Blake not-so-Lively) or the soggy father-son dynamics between Hal and his deceased pop (Jon Tenney in flashbacks) and between Hector and his dad (an oily politician played by Tim Robbins in full shit-eating-grin mode), Green Lantern's luster dims, and we're left with another costume caper that doesn't quite know what to do with itself whenever its characters aren't playing dress-up.