Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Short Take: Green Lantern

This review was originally published on Pol Culture.

Director Martin Campbell did a bang-up job relaunching the James Bond series with Casino Royale. But he lays an egg with the prospective Green Lantern franchise. His big-screen treatment of the DC Comics character just goes to show that movies may have effectively exhausted the costumed-superhero genre. Created in 1959 by editor Julius Schwartz, scriptwriter John Broome, and cartoonist Gil Kane (and derived from Martin Nodell's earlier character of the same name), Green Lantern isn't a pop-culture archetype like Superman or Batman. He doesn't have the underdog appeal of Spider-Man, nor does he have the allegorical resonance of the X-Men. He's just a spacefaring cop with a magic ring and a costume that emphasizes the finer details of his musculature. Almost every element of the film can be described with one word: bland. Ryan Reynolds, who plays the title character, is a handsome, slightly goofy piece of beefcake. The hero's love interest (Blake Lively) is beautiful, intelligent, pragmatic, confident, successful, etc., etc., and of course more sensible than he is. (It goes without saying that she gets to patronize him for being irresponsible, and those scenes lay there, too.) The mission is the usual--saving the world--and the hero's personal conflict is the usual as well: he must conquer his fear in order to effectively use his power. The character is a member of an intergalactic police force made up of aliens of all shapes, colors, and sizes, but the film doesn't even have much fun with that. The CGI alien landscapes and character designs all seem to blur into one another. Michael Clarke Duncan is enjoyable as the voice of the alien who trains the hero, but he's around for less of one scene. Peter Sarsgaard, who plays the earthside villain, reminds one of his talent, but one still can't help thinking he sacrificed his dignity in accepting the check for this role, particularly after one sees his make-up job in the film's second half. Prepubescent boys--the audience for the original comics--might find the film entertaining, but it's hard to imagine much of anyone else will.

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