Directed by Martin Campbell. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, Temuera Morrison. (2011, PG-13, 114 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 24, 2011
Eye candy of the purest, most vibrant sort, this long-awaited big-screen adaptation of the cult DC comic – now in its 72nd year – is also, not all that surprisingly, a muddled mess of a superhero film swathed in layer upon layer of (fairly necessary) exposition and burdened by a seriocomic turn by lead Ryan Reynolds. Reynolds looks the part well enough. As the hotshot, jerkwad test pilot Hal Jordan, Reynolds, an actor who has challenged himself over the past few years with a couple of out-there parts in a couple of not-quite-great films (The Nines, Buried), rocks the cheekbones, sass, and frat-boy panache to the end of the universe and back. This Hal Jordan is cocky to the point of smackability, but as so often happens in origin stories these days, it's all a setup for his eventual, superpowered redemption. Said redemption comes in the form of a dying purple alien (not Prince!) who bequeaths the titular torch and ring containing the “emerald energy of willpower" to a perplexed/bemused/irritating Hal. As it turns out, the alien was a member of the eons-old Green Lantern Corps, a 3,600-strong band of intergalactic police. Quick as a bipedal verdigris bunny, Hal is spirited off to Oa, the corps' home planet, where he trains for his new gig as a galactic do-gooder and meets-none-too-cute with the waterfowl alien Tomar Re (voiced by Geoffrey Rush), porcine Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan), and Sinestro (Strong), the corps' human-distrusting leader. Before long, however, Jordan is back on Earth, where, in another exposition-heavy subplot, we're introduced to scientist Hector Hammond (Sarsgaard) and his father (Robbins), a U.S. senator. While performing an autopsy on the original purple alien, Hector is infected by Parallax, a former Green Lantern gone bad, who uses the "yellow power of fear" to slay all comers. Trouble, and Hal's redemption ensue. Director Martin Campbell (The Mask of Zorro, Casino Royale) has a way with action set-pieces that shines whenever this story takes flight into the CGI-infused reaches of outer space and Oa, but it can't sustain the more earthbound sequences and endless, endlessly confusing (to newcomers) expositional passages. It's fun enough to see Reynolds trying to smarm his way around the green tights and CGI mask, and the film's 3-D adds a certain amount of engaging weirdness to the Green Lantern’s main superpower – an ability to create anything he can imagine out of thin air (or, um, space). But it's just not enough to make Green Lantern anything more than a second-tier, superhero also-ran. It's a helluva comic book, to be sure, but it's a godawful mess of a movie.