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Published: Friday, 6/17/2011

'Green Lantern' doesn't shine very bright

Even likable Ryan Reynolds can't save CGI mess

BY KIRK BAIRD
BLADE STAFF WRITER

We've had a spider man, a bat man, an iron man, and a man of steel. This summer we've already had a Norse God with a thundering hammer, and now, arriving in theaters Friday, there is a ring-bearing galactic patrolman whose powers are limited only by his imagination.

Yep, we're officially at the 1-A tier of superheroes.

That's not to slag Thor and Green Lantern but there's a reason why these comic-book heroes have never fully connected with the mainstream the way that Spider-Man, Batman, and Superman have.

This means the movie studios and their marketing departments have to work hard to A) Make general audiences aware of these films; B) Convince audiences to see these movies, and C) Get audiences to connect with them.

Like Thor before it, Green Lantern is a mixed bag. The film features a well-cast hero and an undeniable sense of escapist fun, but it also suffers from unconvincing CGI, an uneven script with some noticeable plot holes, and an overall feeling that's there's nothing special about the superhero.

There's also no getting around the fact that Green Lantern isn't as readily accessible to the masses as are many of the comic-book franchises. To address that problem, Warner Bros. opted to build Green Lantern around the bankable, likable star Ryan Reynolds. The actor is/was the perfect choice to play the cocky, flippant, and ripped test pilot Hal Jordan, who is troubled by failure. Reynolds has the chiseled looks and abs to give Brad Pitt self-esteem issues, and Jordan is the kind of likable smart-aleck that Reynolds plays so well.

Ryan Reynolds stars as Hal Jordan in the 'Green Lantern,' which opens Friday in area theaters. Ryan Reynolds stars as Hal Jordan in the 'Green Lantern,' which opens Friday in area theaters.
WARNER BROS. Enlarge

So the actor should own this movie the way Robert Downey, Jr., does the Iron Man franchise. And he does, sometimes -- when the film lets him off the leash long enough to do his thing. More often, though, Reynolds is reined in by a script that doesn't take enough advantage of the actor's charm, humor, and smirk, and instead saddles his character with lingering issues from the tragic death of his test pilot father years earlier.

In short: Jordan is crippled with fear of failure and, by extension, fear of commitment. While these problems would cost him thousands of dollars for therapy, they somehow make him the perfect replacement for a dying alien Green Lantern who has crashed landed on Earth.

As a Green Lantern, Jordan joins a universal peace-keeping corps numbering in the thousands, each armed with powerful rings limited only by the wearer's imagination, and charged with special green lanterns that derive their power from the willpower of every life form. (Just try to keep a straight face as the movie explains this.)

Enticing as his superhuman abilities are -- including flight, space travel, and conjuring giant green fists -- Jordan decides to quit the Green Lanterns after being humiliated in training combat by the red-skinned, pointy-eared Sinestro (Mark Strong, sporting a David Niven 'stache), leader of the Corps. Jordan's decision to leave the group is much to the dismay of his longtime friend and sort-of love interest Carol Ferris (Blake Lively).

But he has a change of heart after he learns of the powerful creature Parallax, which feeds on the fear and souls of living beings and its plans to feast on humans.

Parallax infests a nerdy scientist, Hector Hammond (an unrecognizable Peter Sarsgaard), the son of a contemptible U.S. senator (Tim Robbins), changing him into a super villain with telekinetic powers. The script inexplicably says Jordan, Hammond, and Lively grew up together, if for no other reason than to create a love triangle between the trio. Then again, this is the same film that gives us Angela Bassett as a government scientist, a part so small and unnecessary you wonder if someone was just helping her pay the bills. Robbins doesn't fare much better in a slightly bigger but equally pointless role.

Director Martin Campbell is responsible for the classic James Bond movies Goldeneye and Casino Royale, and the under-appreciated Mel Gibson thriller Edge of Darkness. Campbell has proved he can assemble exciting action sequences, and so it goes with Green Lantern. But the film too often gets lost in the subpar spectacle of unimpressive CGI. The shots of the Green Lantern Corps' home world of Oa, for example, look like rejected effects from a Star Wars prequel. And the CGI of Parallax is hardly menacing; thankfully, the vocals of actor Clancy Brown, who provided its voice, are.

Avatar might have had its share of problems, but advancing computer-generated effects in cinema wasn't one of them. And that was one and a half years ago, so why haven't we seen digital effects in movies at least reach that level again if not surpass it rather than regress?

 

GREEN LANTERN

Directed by Martin Campbell. Written by Greg Berlanti. A Warner Bros. Pictures release, playing at Rave Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, Levis Commons, Fox Theatre, and Sundance Kid Drive-In. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action. Running time: 105 minutes.

Critic's rating: **

Hal Jordan/Green Lantern .......... Ryan Reynolds

Carol Ferris .......... Blake Lively

Hector Hammond ........... Peter Sarsgaard

***** Outstsanding; **** Very Good; *** Good; ** Fair; Poor.

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.



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