As we've been mentioning in a whole bunch of these reviews, this summer the movies belong to the superheroes ... or, rather, Marvel's superheroes. Between 'Thor,' 'X-Men: First Class' and 'Captain America: The First Avenger,' those Avengers and their mutant buddies have a near monopoly at the theaters these days, and it's been left up to Ryan Reynolds and his space-age jewelry to stake a claim for the DC Universe. Not an easy weight to carry, but Hal Jordan's hour to show 'em what heroes in neon green Spandex are made of has finally come around.
Go ahead and hit the jump to see how 'Green Lantern' fared against the big boys.
'Green Lantern' is about a race of galactic defenders called -- you guessed it -- Green Lanterns, who protect the universe from evil by channeling the power of will into a nifty little lantern which powers a nifty little ring that allows them to physically manifest whatever the heck they can think up. Everything is generally peachy in the great cosmic abyss until one unfortunate day when a seriously evil dude named Parallax breaks out of his makeshift prison, mortally wounds the Lantern who locked him up, and proceeds to wipe out one civilization after another like it's no big deal because he's just that evil. After barely managing to escape with his dwindling life, the wounded Lantern crash-lands on Earth and asks his ring to find another bearer before he kicks the bucket.
What's It About?
What's It About?
Lo and behold, the ring makes its way to a hot-shot fighter pilot named Hal Jordan, who doesn't quite know what to make of the situation but quickly finds that he's in it for the long haul despite the nagging feeling that he's in way over his head. As his training starts and he grapples with the enormous responsibility thrust upon him, so begins his quest to fulfill his destiny as the chosen one and ultimately save good old Earth from the forces of fear.
Sounds Kind of Familiar.
Well, yeah, it is.
In a nutshell, it's like a greener, spacier version of 'Spider-Man,' only switch the whole "good vs. evil" thing with "will vs. fear," and then make the hero look like one of those guys who gets paid to stand in the lobby of Abercrombie & Fitch with his shirt off for eight hours. The two plot structures are very similar in regards to the development of Hal's powers and his stepping up to the plate as a superhero along with all the trimmings of "with great power comes great responsibility" that are getting old fast. The story itself may be different and it doesn't look the same visually, but the fact is we've heard this story before and this time around it's just not as much fun. It's actually pretty boring at times.
On the one hand, if a cash cow is what the studio was aiming for, we can hardly blame all four of the writers here for drawing from proven formulas in some of the best comic book movies out there. On the other hand, if they were aiming for something higher, the only way to set yourself apart from the pack this far into the game is to go for something fresh, something that won't give the audience a mean case of déjà vu. And as eye-rolling and uninspired as much of the dialogue here is, the surprising unoriginality of Hal Jordan's story is the biggest setback.
That's not to say, though, that this thing is stale six ways from Sunday. We were lucky enough to spend $19.50 to see this in 3D (gotta love that New York cost of living), and once our retinas finally adjusted to those poor man's Wayfarers, we were pretty pleased with how things looked. It's not all gorgeous, but the time spent on the Green Lantern home world of Oa (pronounced "oh-uh") was quite nice, and there are a couple of swell action scenes filled with some pretty imaginative uses of the ring's limitless possibilities. We liked that stuff, and we wish director Martin Campbell had given us more because it made us forget about some of the script's shortcomings. But unfortunately, that's also where the film's imagination starts and ends, thanks in part to too much of the movie taking place on Earth, where things are lame, rather than in space, where things are awesome.
How's Ryan Reynolds?
He's fine as Hal Jordan, but the problem is that he doesn't really use that Ryan Reynolds charm that makes him more than just a pretty face with washboard abs. It's not like he's phoning it in or anything, we just wish he had more fun with a character who would be freakin' awesome to play. Probably more the writers' fault than Reynolds', but we still would have liked to see the spunk that got him this role to begin with.
But He's So Dreamy!
Well, he still looks like Ryan Reynolds, so at least you'll have that to look forward to.
And as for the other half of the Pretty People's Club, Blake Lively is OK as Hal's main squeeze, Carol Ferris. Granted, she doesn't have much to work with, but she gets it done, plays her part in an entirely predictable love triangle, and she's easy on the eyes. That's about it.
While the acting front does generally leave something to be desired, the saving grace of all this is undoubtedly Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond, a jealous scientist who gets infected by Parallax, turns into a walking, talking brain tumor, and uses his newfound psychic abilities to steal Blake Lively out of the arms of pretty boy Ryan Reynolds. Whenever he's on-screen, you'll wonder why they didn't just make the movie about him. He's clearly operating on a whole different level from everyone else, and it only gets more obvious as Hammond develops. Seriously, he makes the rest of the cast look like extras, and it's a total blast just watching him slowly unravel as he further embraces his abilities. One of the best movie supervillains we've seen in a long time, he was almost enough for us to bump up the final score we gave the movie.
The bummer about Hammond, though, is that of all the characters, his is easily the most unnecessary. Sarsgaard's Hammond could have easily been replaced by Mark Strong's Sinestro (whose potential as a character barely gets tapped into), and the story probably would have been a lot better for it. It's a shame when a movie's most interesting character not only isn't the protagonist, but whose impact on the grand scheme of things barely even warrants his being in the film in the first place.
Like we said, quite the questionable script at times.
Is It Worth Seeing?
Well, that's a tough one.
It's nice to look at, but it's not worth a price tag of nearly 20 bucks. There are some fun action scenes, but those are relatively brief compared to everything else that noticeably drags along. It has Ryan Reynolds in it, but the only person worth watching is Peter Sarsgaard and his gross-ass head. In relation to all the other superhero movies that are still out there right now, 'Green Lantern' doesn't bring anything all that new to the table, but as a stand-alone effort, it's all right. If popcorn fluff and superhero escapism is what you're after, there's a good chance that this is right up your alley. But if you're looking for something more significant, something that isn't an exercise in style over substance, you're probably better off sticking with the Marvel crew this year.
Poor DC. At least there's next summer's 'The Dark Knight Rises' to fall back on.
5/10 Emerald Knights