27 Jun 2011 09:49 am

Don't Beware Green Lantern's Light at the Box Office

I saw "Green Lantern" over the weekend, and actually enjoyed it. This might come to a surprise of anyone who has been following the reviews of the DC Comics superhero movie. The movie received 26% on Rotten Tomatoes, with "Cars 2" receiving a not-much-better 33%. Both may be a result of over-hyped expectations.

Make no mistake: "Green Lantern" isn't "The Dark Knight". It's not up to "Iron Man" standards or "Thor" standards. If anything, it's mildly comparable to "Spider-Man 3", but we'll get to that later. That said, this movie is better than "Elektra", "Fantastic Four" and the whole crop of poorly-rated superhero slop that's hit the theaters during the comics craze.

The Green Lanterns are an intergalactic police force armed with powerful rings which can shape emerald energy in any form they can will into existence. Their only weakness is fear, which isn't a problem until the Dust Cloud of Doom Parallax is released from its planet-side prison. Parallax destroys several planets before mortally wounded its captor Green Lantern Albin Sur (Temuera Morrison) in the process. Sur heads to Earth to find someone to replace him. He winds up with brash test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds).

Hal is enough trouble on his plate as it is. He has his ex-girlfriend/childhood friend/boss' daughter Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) breathing down his neck, while his family grows increasingly concerned he might wind up like his test pilot father - in a flaming wreckage. Transported to the GL HQ on Oa, Hal's problems multiply when he has the alien narrator Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush) greeting him, drill sergeant Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan) beating him into shape and Albin Sur's protege Sinestro (Mark Strong) pointing out his many, many, many shortcomings as a Green Lantern.

Jordan isn't sure he can sweat it as a Green Lantern, but despite what his fellow GL's say, he has little choice in the matter. Parallax is heading to Earth, and to make matters worse, scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) has been infected by Parallax while performing Sur's autopsy. Harboring an stalker affection for Carol, his burgeoning psychic abilities make him a threat to everyone, especially his sleezy senator father (Tim Robbins) and mysterious boss, Amanda Waller (Angela Bassett). If Jordan doesn't beat his own self-doubt, the world will be jeopardy.

There's no question about it: Hal Jordan is Ryan Reynolds. His Jordan is vital and most importantly likeable, dashing any rumors this would be Deadpool with a power ring. He shares good chemistry with Lively, and the couple's youth is reinforced with a familiarity which really does make you believe the two are old friends and maybe a little bit more. Reynolds also works good on-screen with Taika Waititi, who plays his friend and co-worker Tom Kalmaku. As always, Mark Strong is dependable in just about any role you put him in, and as Sinestro he is the voice of the Old Guard Green Lanterns - proud and intimidating. But Strong never veers into the Snidely Whiplash territory of his character's future villainy, making him a thrill to watch especially with the character's effective make-up.

Another actor effective under a lot of make-up is Peter Sarsgaard. As Hector Hammond, he plays it more pitiful than creepy. The way he props himself up in front of Carol during a party shows a lack of self-esteem Sarsgaard masterfully emits from beginning to end. Even with an enlarged cranium and crackling voice, Sarsgaard plays Hammond not as your typical comic book villain, but as man consumed by fear from the inside out, and the filmmakers wisely parallel Hammond's decline into fear with Jordan's own journey overcoming it. Unfortunately, it's Parallax, not Hammond, who is the film's central villain.

Though with the best of intentions, the film falls victim to the "Venom Effect" which crippled "Spider-Man 3", as the filmmakers rush to do a villain they had no business doing in the first place. Parallax has a very convoluted history, but at its core, it is a entity which feeds on fear. In the comic books, Parallax is capable of pushing entire civilizations off the edge into fear and paranoia. It has even consumed the main Green Lantern - Hal Jordan - at one point. In the movie, however, Parallax works just about as well as Wes Bentley in "Ghost Rider" - dehydrating its victims into dust. It doesn't help that the filmmakers completely abandoned the bug-like design of the comic in favor of . . . a big giant head floating in space. The filmmakers should have kept Parallax as an ominous figure in the background instead of rushing him into the spotlight - by doing so they may have just shot a proposed "Green Lantern" trilogy in the foot.

For the second blog in a row, I have to say the words I dread saying - Luke was right about something. He said the amount of writers on "Green Lantern" would be more a hindrance than a help, and he has a point - they are too many cooks in this kitchen. It's very clear "Green Lantern" is several scripts stitched together, and while every script used is remarkably solid, you can still see the stitching. Certain scenes move too quickly to get to the next scene, and as a result, the pacing is off. On Oa, in particular, Green Lantern really needs to stop and smell the roses, as characters like Kilowog and Tomar-Re feel particularly underused.

Despite these factors, "Green Lantern" is not a train-wreck. Going against the consensus of Rotten Tomatoes, "Green Lantern" doesn't squander decades of comics mythology - it just bites off more than it can chew. Though ranked far, far below offerings like "X-Men: First Class", the movie is still a worthy summer action flick - even if it does look a little green in the face.

(That's it for this rant. Check back Wednesday for a new Blue Yonder

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