Green Lantern,
directed by Martin Campbell
(Warner Bros., 2011)

Green Lantern has a story that is simple and endearing like a children's bedtime tale: the Universe is protected by an intergalactic peacekeeping group called the Green Lantern Corps. Each Green Lantern recruit must be absolutely fearless and is given a green ring powered by the "emerald energy of willpower." This ring allows the recruit to create anything out of thin air by using their own imagination. The green-colored willpower used by the Corps is the nemesis of the yellow-powered fear used by an evil entity named Parallax. Basically, courage battles against fear.

Simplicity isn't necessarily a bad thing, but simple can quickly morph into boring. In combination with its borderline boring story, the Green Lantern's jumpy plot line and flat characters do little to make our imaginations light up and our pulses race with anticipation. Most of us will never utter the words "I wonder what's going to happen next?!" upon our first viewing (if you're a stickler for the No Talking rule, you won't think those words either).

Our protagonist is Ryan Reynold's character, pilot Hal Jordan. He is the first human being chosen to join the Corps, but much to the chagrin of his friends and loved ones -- notably his romantic interest Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) -- Hal is a notorious quitter, and it creates a predictable conflict for him throughout the film. This quitting habit is made slightly more intriguing by his pesky preoccupation with his father's death in the form of flashbacks while he's flying. A pilot, like himself, his father perished during a horrific plane crash.

Hal's sudden flashbacks of this event are a terrific example of the film's erratic plot-line. They occur within the first 10 minutes of the film and, while flashbacks are meant to be unexpected, they happen before we even have the chance to become familiar with the person named Hal Jordan. So they're not just jarring they're bewildering -- how can we possibly care about his psychological struggle with this haunting memory when we haven't had time to care about him?

As the leading man, Reynold's isn't charismatic enough to make us overlook the film's mediocre plot. He doesn't yet have a star persona grand enough to save a film (unlike, for example, Robert Downey Jr. in the Iron Man series). The five-plus writers responsible for the film's dialogue stint most of Reynold's opportunities for comedic one-liners, and the rest of the dialogue gives way to mind-numbingly redundant and hokey fear vs. courage talk.

In Reynold's defense, not even Peter Sarsgaard's delightfully disturbing performance as the scientist-villain named Hector Hammond can take Green Lantern to an interesting place.

The only moment that is truly riveting in the film is after an intense battle in which Hammond and Jordan end up on the ground with their faces inches away from one another; the intimacy between villain and hero makes us wriggle in our seats -- heightened all the more by closeups that highlight the fantastic makeup and prosthetics job on Sarsgaard that make him look like a sweat-secreting Alfred Einstein.

If there had been more scenes like this one then the film could have held a respectable ranking amongst the multitude of superhero films. Instead, well, it's mostly an unremarkable film with a pretty cast.

review by
Molly Ebert

6 August 2011

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