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'Green Lantern': Bright for boys, at least


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Bright for boys, at least

'Green Lantern.'

All this time we wondered what a Ryan Reynolds was for and it turns out he's perfectly serviceable as a cocky man-child who goes from flying jets to becoming an intergalactic super hero with the power to shape reality into a Tex Avery cartoon. He doesn't ask to be taken too seriously as Hal Jordan in "Green Lantern," and neither does the rest of the movie, which is just skippy, because it's so thoroughly a geeky sci-fi comic book flick that any hint of pretense would burst in a green cloud. "Green Lantern" is a fine example of a movie that accomplishes almost everything it sets out to accomplish, and still isn't all that great. Twelve-year-old boys will love it while their chaperones at least are able to tolerate it.

The huge comic universes of Marvel and, in this case, DC keep churning up characters that might have been vaguely familiar to non-fans. The Green Lantern, despite some level of name recognition, turns out to be a more challenging fellow to film than, say, Batman or some other heroes who aren't ostensibly made of malleable green space energy. His powers and back story require so much illustration, in fact, it seems like long stretches of "Green Lantern" are just Reynolds' talking head superimposed on a CGI suit on a CGI deep-space background along with the CGI aliens he's fighting or chatting with. Picture the Toontown sequence from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and you're getting close.

Before he gets whisked into the void, Hal is a test pilot whose first act on-screen is to outfly a pair of fighter drones, crashing his own jet in the process and raising all sorts of consternation that he's the least-responsible person on the planet. Thus it seems incongruent when a member of an alien guardian brotherhood crash-lands on Earth and passes his green ring and green lantern onto Hal. Understandably he's a touch concerned, even after realizing that the ring has the power to manifest thoughts as objects; if he can imagine a thing, he can instantly conjure it out of energy. He becomes more concerned when he learns a long-imprisoned superfiend named Parallax, played here by a digitized blob that looks like scorched calamari, threatens the universe and everything Hal sort of cares about.

Parallax is fueled by fear, whereas the Lanterns, of which there are thousands, fuel their exploits with the will power gathered from the living beings of the cosmos. This is as deep as the metaphorical aspects of "Green Lantern" reach: fear vs. will, who ya got? Along the way we get to ogle the nasty descent that Peter Sarsgaard makes as Hector Hammond, a biology teacher who's exposed to some truly unpleasant elements, and admire Tim Robbins semi-slumming in a turn as a Machiavellian senator. There are a couple of women in the movie, including Angela Basset as a government scientist and the perfectly pleasant Blake Lively as Hal's romantic interest, but "Green Lantern" seems doomed to fail the Bechdel Test, as it's virtually all dudes interacting, boys with men, men with space men, space men with space monsters. A sequence midway through the closing credits gives strong hints on the path for a "Green Lantern" sequel, of which there may be several, but you wonder whether Warner Bros. can crank 'em out fast enough to catch the true fans of this movie before they sprout chest hair and start noticing girls, or the lack thereof.


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