Thursday, June 16, 2011

'Green Lantern' fails to cast a bright light

Another comic-book hero hits the screen, but doesn't make a big enough splash.
Green is the color of will. Yellow is the color of fear.

I learned this important lesson in color-coding while watching Green Lantern, Hollywood's latest attempt to find commercial life in a comic-book series, this one from DC Comics.

Green Lantern -- available in superfluous 3-D at some locations -- plays like what it is: an attempt to establish a franchise -- albeit one that falters. Hey, if yellow weren't already taken, I'd make it the color for the movie -- as in yellow for cheesy.

I'm not going to spell out a ton of Green Lantern lore, something the movie takes considerable time doing, perhaps realizing that the Green Lantern -- hardly on a par with Superman or Batman -- needs a hefty amount of introduction for anyone who doesn't fit the fanboy mold.

Here's the gist: A group of immortals known as the Guardians has created the Green Lantern Corps to fight evil in the universe, which has been divided into what seem like thousands of sectors.

Early in the movie, a wounded member of the Lantern Corps crash lands on Earth, where he passes his mantle to Hal (Ryan Reynolds), a brash test pilot who refuses to play by anyone's rules. Hal receives a ring and a lantern, keys to his superpowers, which include creating objects from mental images, flying and donning a skin-tight green suit.

Director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) tries to put the movie's tongue in its cheek, but, at times, Green "Lantern seems like an overproduced parody of comic-book movies rather than a witty version of the breed.

A fairly strong cast has been enlisted to keep the movie's mediocre wheels turning: Reynolds, who seems to have spent a lot of time working on his abs, does a fair job with a reluctant superhero.

Peter Sarsgaard gives a weirder, more captivating performance as Hector, the scientist son of a white-haired senator (a wasted Tim Robbins). By the time, Hector finishes his experiments -- beginning with dissection of the alien who fell to Earth -- he starts to look like a comic-book version of the Elephant Man.

Blake Lively provides what passes for Hal's love interest; she plays the daughter of a weapons-manufacturing industrialist. And Mark Strong signs on as Sinestro, a member of the Lantern Corp who doubts Hal's commitment and skills, and who subjects him to a good thumping from Kilowog, a Latern trainer who looks like a mutant version of Shrek. Michael Clark Duncan provides Kilowog's voice.

The movie has some fun with these training sequences, and, to Reynold's credit, he injects humor and self-deprecation into the role. But even at that, Green Lantern doesn't earn its stripes as a big-screen standout.

Ultimately, the Green Lantern must fight Parallax, a demonic creature that looks like cross between a thundercloud and a heavy pollutant. Will the Earth be saved? Will there be explosions? Will anyone past the age of 14 still be awake?

To the last question, the answer is, "Yes,'' particularly if the movie's noisy action set pieces have anything to do with it, but overall Green Lantern offers only sporadic bursts of enjoyment, and no exertion of will -- the vital ingredient behind the Green Lantern's power -- could make me feel otherwise.

No comments: