Just in case you thought there weren't enough comic-book superheroes crowding our screens, here’s “Green Lantern,” starring Ryan Reynolds in green jammies and matching mask, to set you straight. The way things are going, the only movies getting financing will be franchise installments. Or are we already there?
Franchise-wise, “Green Lantern,” which reportedly cost $300 million to make and market, is not a done deal yet, although Warner Brothers, which owns the rights to the venerable DC Comics character, boldly offers up the mandatory sequel teaser in the credits.
Since quite a bit of “Green Lantern” is slowed down by exposition, a sequel might actually be an improvement – less time spent setting up situations already known to fanboys of the comic book. On the other hand, it’s been my experience watching these films that things inevitably bog down anyway. New villains need back story just like old heroes.
Reynolds represents an altogether different mode: His retro-handsomeness looks naturally airbrushed. He’s also blithely affable, although this may not bode well in the long term. On the other hand, I’ve kind of had it with darkly brooding comic heroes, even when they're played by Robert Downey, Jr. It’s time to lighten up.
That is not to say that “Green Lantern” is a marvelous antidote to all this gloomy gravitas. It’s not only light, it’s thin. It’s self-deprecating to a fault. Reynolds is required to practically wink at the audience, as if to say,“I know this looks silly.” But at least the filmmakers acknowledge that Reynolds in green tights and mask still looks like his non-Green Lantern alter ego, cocky test pilot Hal Jordan. There’s none of this Clark Kent/Superman silliness, where Lois Lane can’t seem to figure out that both men are one and the same.
For those who haven’t been schooled in the DC Comic mythos, Hal is chosen by the intergalactic police squad Green Lantern Corps to wear the ring that grants him the power to conjure up anything his mind can conceive. (I’ve never understood why Green Lantern can’t just conceive of an invincible weapon to vanquish his enemies, but I guess I’m being annoyingly literal-minded.)
Before the movie is through, he has battled not only renegade scientist and Elephant Man-look-alike Hector Hammond (deliciously played by Peter Sarsgaard) but the megavillain Parallax, whose power comes from absorbing his combatants’ fear, or some such. Parallax (voiced by Clancy Brown) resembles a tarantula that has ingested the entire Gulf oil spill.
The love interest is supplied by Blake Lively’s Carol Ferris, herself an ace test pilot who doubles, not altogether convincingly, as an aviation company honcho. It’s “Top Gun” meets “War of the Worlds.” At least she isn’t fooled, Lois Lane-style, by Hal’s green jammies.
By the way, for Ryan Reynolds completists, there is now a new comic book in Bluewater Productions’ “Fame” series. The comic book, as it's been reported, is all about Reynolds's rise as an actor from bit roles to “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder” and “The Proposal” to his current Greenness. Next up in the series: Michael Jackson, 50 Cent, and Howard Stern.
Where is Parallax when you need him? Grade: B- (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action.)