'Green Lantern' rather dim



Article Published: Jun. 23, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Green Lantern' rather dim

Ryan Reynolds stars in 'Green Lantern.'



frank@mountaintimes.com

The other day, I stumbled upon an NPR blog that touted an "official" superhero movie bingo card.

Instead of numbers, the squares featured the quintessential, and all too tiresome, comic-book movie clichés - Training montage, Acclaimed American actor chewing scenery, Acclaimed British actor looking mortified, Daddy issues, Christ allegory, Flashback to childhood. You get the picture.

Had I brought this card to a screening of "Green Lantern," I wouldn't have won. Not because it didn't have all those and more, but because those blasted squares are never in the right order, which, among other reasons, is why I never play bingo.

"Green Lantern" is your quintessential comic-book movie, but not in the flattering sense. It's more in the sense that Spam is your quintessential meat product - flashy packaging on the outside, artificial, factory-produced mediocrity on the inside.

But at least you can have fun with Spam. It's alliterative and, thanks to Monty Python, silly.

The same can't be said for "Green Lantern," which, for a comic-book movie about cosmic peace officers with magic rings and flashy green suits flying around the cosmos maintaining universal peace, takes itself way too seriously.

It's a paint-by-numbers adventure (with one prominent color, in particular) that underestimates its audience, be it clubbing a message over viewers' heads or veiling a so-called plot twist with a blanket of obvious.

At its best, "Green Lantern" is a visual effects movie, heavily saturated with decent computer-generated imagery, but nothing above and beyond today's standard fare. Sweeping shots of the colorful cosmos and alien worlds serve as ample eye candy, but then the actors start talking.

Ryan Reynolds ("Van Wilder," acclaimed American actor chewing scenery) plays Hal Jordan, a hot shot test pilot whose life is turned upside-down when he encounters a crashed alien spaceship. In the ship is the mortally wounded Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison, "Star Wars: Episode II"), who bequeaths a mysterious ring to a taken aback Jordan.

The ring, Sur says, found Jordan, who is to serve as his successor in the Green Lantern Corps, an elite peace-keeping force of beings from across the universe, dedicated to protecting their particular sector of space for the greater good - even if you're a devilish-looking alien called Sinestro (Mark Strong, "Sherlock Holmes," as the acclaimed British actor looking mortified).

Naturally skeptical, Jordan's opinion changes when he's whisked away on an interstellar flight to the Corps' planet of Oa, where he's fitted into a snazzy suit made of energy and taught to use his ring.

Harnessing the collective power of will and embodied by a bright green light, these rings allow their bearers to temporarily create any object they can imagine for use in their heroic deeds, demonstrated through a training montage.

But they'll need rings aplenty if they're to fight off the Parallax, a gargantuan, sentient embodiment of fear. Parallax hits close to home, however, when Jordan's old acquaintance, the meek Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard, "An Education"), is infected by, uhh, fear parasites, which grant him similar powers - though decidedly more evil - to those of the Lanterns.

Not only does this pose a threat to people in general, but specifically Jordan's love interest and Hammond's former high school crush, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively, "The Town").

To make matters worse, Parallax is on a collision course with Earth. Now, Jordan must overcome his own fear (stemming from daddy issues, of course, from his flashback to childhood) if he's to overcome fear itself - even if it means sacrificing himself for the greater good (Christ allegory).

But it seems director Martin Campbell ("Casino Royale") and his team of four screenwriters haven't overcome their own fear of taking chances. They're too concerned with playing it safe, and the narrative suffers for it, with flat characters and no emotional investment. Even the villain, which is supposed to embody bone-chilling, mind-melting, soul-sucking fear, seems hardly intimidating and more or less resembles a malevolent dust bunny.

And what do you do with a dust bunny? Like a comic cliché fest, make like a vacuum cleaner and suck.

"Green Lantern," rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, is playing at Regal Cinema 7. For show times, see page 16-B or visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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