It's not easy being green - Watertown Daily Times Online : Features

It's not easy being green

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Posted: Friday, June 17, 2011 10:21 am

Ryan Reynolds’ Hal Jordan, who becomes the superhero Green Lantern in the latest DC Comics film adaptation, is bequeathed with a mystical ring that gives him the ability to fly and turn images from his imagination into green-colored, tangible objects that will assist him in situations of peril.

Sounds ripe with inventive potential, doesn’t it? You would think so, but apparently someone forgot to tell director Martin Campbell (“The Legend of Zorro” and “Casino Royale”) and his team of four screenwriters that creativity is an essential ingredient in making a motion picture compelling.

Case in point: The Green Lantern first gets the chance to show off his powers and save the day during a celebratory ceremony in which a helicopter is about to crash into a crowd of people. With little time to spare, our masked and spandex-wearing hero prevents the impending disaster by transforming the chopper into a Batmobile look-alike and having it speed down race tracks that resemble something made by Hot Wheels.

Really? With all the different options out there that is the one they decided to go with?

But sadly, that feeling of disappointment doesn’t end just there. Similar to that scene, the movie as a whole is simply an example of squandered opportunities. And, as a self-professed comic book geek, that is immensely disheartening because the Green Lantern, who first appeared in All-American Comics in the 1940s, is so distinctively unique and intriguing.

Even so, at least the film grabs your attention and is easy to follow as it presents us with the mythology behind the franchise. It’s just that once we get past those well thought-out introductions, Campbell seems content with letting his characters repeat the same expository dialogue over and over again, which really does nothing to expand on the narrative.

For centuries an intergalactic police force known as the Green Lantern Corps has maintained peace and justice throughout the 3,600 sectors in the universe that are governed by the Guardians, an archaic race of immortals who reside on the planet Oa.

But the harmonious life they have grown accustomed to is gravely threatened when an entity known as Parallax (voiced by Clancy Brown) breaks free from confinement and starts murdering every living being in his sight. Growing stronger with each and every slaying, Parallax, which looks like the head of Will Ferrell’s Megamind attached to the black snakes you light on the Fourth of July, puts a massive chink in the Green Lantern Corps’ armor when he mortally wounds Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), one of the federation’s most trusted and skilled warriors.

But before Abin bites the dust, he is able to land his spaceship on Earth and hand over his ring to Hal Jordan, an irresponsible but talented test pilot who becomes the first human member of the prominent crime-fighting team.

Even though the ring, which harnesses the green power of will, has chosen Hal as its new possessor, the Green Lantern Corps is not too thrilled with the news, especially its red-faced leader Sinestro (Mark Strong), who views humans as too young and incompetent to hold the honor. But, as it turns out, beggars can’t be choosers because Hal might be the only key to stopping Parallax from taking over the galaxies and destroying the blue sphere we call home.

If none of this sounds plausible to you, it’s probably because it isn’t. Comic book movies are rarely grounded in reality, and you can definitely add “Green Lantern” to that list of over-the-top spectacles. In fact, it’s the ridiculousness that supplies the film with its greatest share of amusing moments.

In most instances Campbell and his cinematographer, Dion Beebe (“Collateral” and “Memoirs of a Geisha”), utilize the film’s special effects and 3D technology to give you an absorbing comic book experience, and the climactic clash between the Green Lantern and Parallax is one of the more visually appealing sequences you will see in theaters so far this year. (The scenes that take place in outer space are without a doubt the most spectacular.) But, on the other hand, there are times when the screen is saturated with so much computer generated imagery it feels like you are watching someone else play a video game.

And while Reynolds’ performance in “Green Lantern” will not be considered the best of his career (“Buried” takes that title right now), his customary acting style made famous in films like “Van Wilder” and “Waiting” meshes together with the demeanor of Hal Jordan perfectly. Reynolds really brings some energetic fun to the role whenever he expresses his character’s outgoing and cocky attitude, but things do go downhill when it comes time for him to get serious and show emotion. That, however, is solely the script’s fault because some of the lines that spill out of his mouth are so cheesy you could swear the movie has a contractual obligation with Velveeta.

And, as with most comic book films, “Green Lantern” contains the same typical romance angle that feels both unnecessary and forced. Here that is provided by Blake Lively’s Carol Ferris, Hal’s flying partner and boss. Lively has certainly shown that she can act (see “The Town”), but in “Green Lantern” all she is asked to do is stand around, give forgettable advice and look pretty (which she actually does rather well). 

But what’s even more confusing is the inclusion of Peter Sarsgaard’s Hector Hammond, a xenobiologist who turns evil after he comes into contact with the residue of Parallax. (He is also secretly in love with Carol. This we know because he keeps newspaper articles of her all over his office.) Sarsgaard’s character, who also holds a grudge against Hal because of his relationship with Carol, had some real potential, but he is so poorly written you’ll be left wondering why he’s even in the movie.

It’s the misfires like these that remind us of just how inadequately “Green Lantern” is put together. It is of my opinion that superhero movies are supposed to be super. “Green Lantern” is merely ordinary.

2.5 stars (out of 5)

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