REVIEW: This is one comic book that should have stayed on the page. Superhero powers couldn't even save this mind-numbing movie.
What is the deal with green superheroes? The "Hulk" movies don't work, though they've tried and tried again. "The Green Hornet" was a self-indulgent mess. And now comes "The Green Lantern," a mind-numbing, misguided pandemonium that ranks as the biggest comic book misfire since "Batman & Robin" battled Poison Ivy. Who was green.
The new film takes genial Ryan Reynolds and casts him as an insecure, self-doubting guy. Reynolds has made a career of playing smug, humorous jerkholes. Playing against type here, the right tone eludes him. He's still funny, but only half the time on purpose. This is a role for Paul Giamatti, but he wouldn't look right in green spandex.
Even fanboys insatiable for superhero origin stories will agree this is one comic book that should have stayed on the page. Green Lantern's gimmick is too far-fetched to render literally. A ring that can materialize anything its owner imagines is a device demanding the most extreme cartoon treatment. After a rushed, semi-coherent voiceover compresses the rules, rituals and interstellar creatures of the Green Lantern mythos (synopsis: they're space cops), test pilot Hal Jordan discovers a dying, crash-landed alien who wills Hal his Green Lantern ring.
Hal seems like a poor choice to become Earth's protector. He flies jets to compensate for the willies that seized him when he witnessed his jet-jockey father's fatal crash. But like Harry Potter's Sorting Hat, the green ring is infallible. Somewhere inside Hal is a core of courage waiting to be revealed. He gets a hint of the ring's potential when three roughnecks beat him up and a giant emerald fist materializes to smite them.
The scale of the fist is too big, an image better suited to a cartoon panel than a theater screen. Like most of the ill-judged effects on display here, its exaggeration inspires derision, not awe. "Superman" made us believe a man could fly, and "Spider-Man" left us convinced that a teen could swing, but "Green Lantern" is never so persuasive. Overkill seems to be director Martin ("Casino Royale") Campbell's prime directive, followed by aggressive product placement. Hal's superhero debut involves rescuing a falling helicopter by conjuring a giant Hot Wheels racetrack as a landing strip.
The film, reportedly costing $300 million, never gets the cadences of storytelling right, delivering clamor and locomotion in place of well-timed tension and release. The Elephant Man makeup disfiguring resident mad scientist Peter Sarsgaard makes him look like the pitiable victim of a genetic deformity, not a bad man who needs some justice pounded into him. Green Lantern's chief nemesis is Parallax, a planet-devouring squid-thing with a skull face suitable for glowering and bellowing doomsday threats. Of course, computer-generated monsters can be programmed to spout nonsense.
Reynolds, despite his square-shouldered action-figure looks and his martial-arts skill, hasn't mastered the combat skill of deflecting second-rate material. Even a superhero couldn't rescue this one.
Colin Covert • 612-673-7186