- Ryan Reynolds dons the green suit and magic power ring as the titular superhero. Submitted photo.
3.5 stars (out of 5)
Comic book films are enjoying quite the renaissance lately. Ever since The Dark Knight grounded Batman in gritty reality, these films have been rising above standard popcorn fare. Their characters have grown more complex and their worlds more tangible. Fortunately, Green Lantern is no exception.
Although it doesn't have the aesthetic realism of The Dark Knight, Green Lantern brims with emotional realism and depth. That should come as no surprise considering the film is directed by Martin Campbell, who seamlessly balanced surrealist spectacle and humanist substance in such action films as Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro, and Casino Royale. Thanks to his direction and a solid cast, the performances in Green Lantern exude down-to-earth credibility.
Much of the film doesn't take place on Earth, but on a lush planet called Oa. The beginning of the film finds this alien world threatened by an amorphous blob named Parallax, a creature that feeds off of fear and consumes entire civilizations. This portion of the film is thick with the atmosphere of a 1950s creature feature (which is fitting considering the Green Lantern comics first became popular during that decade).
To help in destroying this creature, the alien warriors of Oa recruit a human: Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a cocky test pilot in the vein of Han Solo.
Once bestowed with this intergalactic responsibility, Hal's self-assured persona is revealed to be a façade. Beneath his brawn lies vulnerability and fear. In this regard, Reynolds is perfect for the role. Like Hal, he bears humility and sensitivity behind his cocksure smile and chiseled physique (which is real, not computer-generated).
Hal finally dons the green suit and magic power ring when he realizes that his fear is not a weakness - and that admitting it is an act of courage. This revelation is uplifting and unprecedented. Never before has a comic book film exposed a hero's fear in such an upfront manner. Reynolds' charisma makes Hal a hero that audiences can root for.
On the flip side is Hector Hammond, a mad scientist played to creepy perfection by Peter Sarsgaard. While performing an autopsy on an alien from Oa, Hammond absorbs the same alien powers as Hal, but doesn't go on to use them for good. With a brain the size of a planet and yellow eyes gleaming with hate, Hammond is a ghastly sight. His urge to defeat our hero stems from his envy of Hal's physical perfection. See, villains have insecurities, too.
Sarsgaard is perfectly cast here, as he truly is the opposite of Reynolds. While Reynolds has goodness beneath his foreboding exterior, Sarsgaard smolders with menace beneath his frail body and soft voice. Despite brief screen time, he leaves a lasting impression as a supervillain.
In regards to the other supporting players, Blake Lively is largely wasted as Hal's love interest. And as Hammond's father, Tim Robbins doesn't bring the gravitas the filmmakers were probably expecting.
In the end, the film is like Hal himself in that its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses.
Amidst all this talk of acting, I forgot to mention that the film is action-packed and visually arresting.
Most critics are panning Green Lantern, but to me, it is a pretty bright star in this dim sky of summer movies.