Another week, another colossally budgeted superhero origins picture in murky 3-D: DC Comics’ Green Lantern. Apart from having no particular reason to exist onscreen, especially at these prices, it’s not half bad. The early, computer-generated scenes on Oa, the luminescent planet of the green lanterns (there are hordes), are gorgeous, saturated in comic-book greens and violets and magentas and unbeholden to petty laws of gravity, with the immortal bulb-headed “guardians” suspended on long poles and draped in 100-foot-or-so-tall red capes. It’s too bad the rest of the movie isn’t similarly unfettered. It falls to Earth wicked fast.
It falls, in fact, in the form of esteemed alien lantern Abin Sur, who has been mortally wounded by the intergalactic Parallax, a cosmic mass with a somewhat discernible head that feeds (and grows larger and larger) on fear. The color of fear, we’re informed many times, is yellow, as opposed to green, which is the color of will. Poor Albin Sur must send his super ring to find a human to replace him (“Choose well!”) despite the universally held belief that humans are too yellow to make good lanterns, being “all too human,” as the brilliant but hitherto irresponsible test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) puts it. Hal is spirited away by a green orb and plunked down on a beach beside the rapidly expiring lantern. Soon he’s in a form-fitting one-piece superhero suit trying to pretend he’s not all that humiliated. The promise of sequel money surely eased the embarrassment.
Reynolds has a slender but muscular physique and a doughy face with a hint of self-mockery, which makes him a treat in romantic comedies but less convincing when lecturing alien lanterns and guardians on the green versus yellow issue. Green, he says, is indeed the color of will and yellow of fear, but to acknowledge one’s yellow is not necessarily to turn yellow (although that can happen) but to make the green glow even more brightly. Unanswered is the question, “What is the color of boredom?”
Peter Sarsgaard gives Green Lantern a lift as the human villain Professor Hector Hammond. A balding scientist in love with a test pilot (Blake Lively) who prefers cocksure Hal, Hammond gets infected by an alien parasite and his forehead swells up to the size of the Elephant Man’s. Sarsgaard makes the man such an unholy mess of festering resentments that he’s actually worthy of his bloated brainpan.