by HELEN GEIB
Does it always have to be an origins story? On the basis of Green Lantern, the filmmakers would have done better to have skipped the explanations and started with the sequel.
Ryan Reynolds plays cocksure test pilot Hal Jordan: daring, charming, and emotionally stunted. When a dying alien “guardian” crash lands on earth, it sends its ring of power in search of its successor. The ring brings back Hal, inside whom it sees something Hal doesn’t know is there. Less fortunate is a local biology teacher brought in by the government to examine the alien’s corpse. Poor Hector (Peter Sarsgaard) turns into an ineffectual supervillain after being infected by fear energy left behind in the fatal wound. Hal will have to grow up and man up if he and newly acquired powers are to stop Hector and, more significantly, the enormous evil alien about to stop off and destroy his planet on its way to visiting destruction on the home world of the guardians.
Green Lantern has a good cast, but casting is not a substitute for writing. Reynolds is really good, really charming; much better than the film. Sarsgaard does something with little. Tim Robbins as Hector’s smarmy politico father and Angela Bassett as a government scientist have nothing to work with. Mark Strong is saddled with the thankless part of the guardian head honcho, which should be a good part but comes with particularly bad dialogue.
Well, it’s a mostly good cast. Blake Lively plays Hal’s childhood friend, love interest, fellow test pilot, and savvy businesswoman, and fails to convince in all of those roles.
A selfish man who learns to accept the great responsibility that comes with great power is a timeless story, but the film packages Hal’s character arc as a dull Saturday morning cartoon. Hal’s flying visits to the guardians’ world squander even the possibilities for cartoonish fun offered by the comic book flight of fancy setting. The thousands of guardians from as many worlds are rendered in a cgi crowd scene blur and most of Hal’s time there is spent getting beat up by a couple of his fellow guardians under the guise of training. No time is allowed to Hal or the audience for exploration and wonder.
Next to Reynolds the best part of Green Lantern is the fight scenes, or rather, one particular aspect of them. It’s a fun gimmick: the ring turns its wearer’s willpower into green energy that can be instantaneously shaped and re-shaped into any form. The only limit? Imagination. Most of the film’s too few flashes of wit come in what Hal imagines will help him in his fights.
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Ryan Reynolds was also charming in the romantic comedy The Proposal.