THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Movie Review

Green Lantern

In ‘Green Lantern,’ electric power is off

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By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / June 17, 2011

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Green, we’re told at some point in “Green Lantern,’’ is the color of will. Based on the movie surrounding that line, it’s also the color of won’t. Won’t make sense. Won’t satisfy a soul. Possibly won’t make a dime. Green also happens to be the color associated with toxicity. It’s the color of weeds, certain scatological mishaps, antifreeze, and slime. Green is the color of the soup Linda Blair blasts in “The Exorcist.’’ If you were a club kid, it’s also the color of late nights and very early mornings in the 1990s. This is the green of “Green Lantern’’ — the neon green of glow-stick goo.

That is to say not all green is created equal — this is not the green of nature or big money. Most scenes purporting to be set on a distant planet seem like screensavers at war with one another. People claim to have waited their entire life for a movie that turns the DC comic book into a movie that re-creates how Hal Jordan the test pilot (and later a trucker) turned into an interstellar super trooper with a cosmic ring whose power is limited only by his imagination. The film’s is remarkably stunted.

Four credited screenwriters have cobbled decades of the Green Lantern into a story so basic that the can it’s been served from should just say “Superhero Action Film.’’ The ring arrives more or less from outer space to choose Hal to become a human member of an intergalactic corps of crime fighters. There are 3,600 of them, and judging from the thousands of green dots junking up the screensavers, I’d say this outfit is terribly overstaffed — even to battle Parallax, the enormous collection of dreadlocks barreling toward Earth.

What sparks of life there are come from Ryan Reynolds, who turns Hal into the same Adonis of sardonic insincerity that is Reynolds’s stock in trade. It’s the only mode his comedic acting knows and accessorizes only with itself. His testy narcissism can annoy. But when there’s nothing else afoot, at least it can form an oasis of easy entertainment.

“Green Lantern’’ is 100 minutes of desert — populated with either folks like Senator Tim Robbins and Dr. Angela Bassett or computer-borne, non-human creatures that pontificate with British accents. The humans here sound like Reynolds or a fully Malkoviched Peter Sarsgaard as a mad scientist with an engorged cranium — or far worse: Blake Lively, who’s been cast as Carol Ferris, Hal’s fellow pilot, girlfriend, and cheerleader. I don’t think I’ve experienced such a pulseless degree of acting since whatever last month’s zombie movie was. Zombies, at least, enjoy themselves. I don’t know what Lively’s excuse could be for seeming this undead.

She’s not alone. At some point a helicopter seems poised to obliterate a cocktail party. The guests just stand around unfazed. It’s as if they’re watching the movie they’re starring in. When Hal arrives in his skin-tight Green Lantern costume and creates a gaseous spiral strip and matching car to whisk the copter to safety, there’s more standing around. All his derring-do inspires from the crowd is a lone camera phone to record a piece of the action. It’s a depressing state of affairs when not even the extras in the movie care enough to record a bootleg copy. The director, Martin Campbell, and his editor barrel through scenes with the haste of a movie scared it’s missing something, like, perhaps, its own point.

In a sense, “Green Lantern’’ is refreshing, not in a Mountain Dew way (though they have that color in common). It’s a reminder that a superhero film can be only as good as the material it’s adapting. Martin Nodell and Bill Finger created the Green Lantern in the 1940s. Between the 1960s and the 1980s, the comics took on matters of race, justice, science, and metaphysics. That’s a lot of material, and extracting a compelling story from it should be daunting. I don’t care for “X-Men: First Class,’’ which is playing right now; but stubbornly misconstruing the Bay of Pigs Invasion, as it does, is a stroke of inspiration. “Green Lantern’’ is simply another movie daring to prove that green is not suitable for superhero adventure — two Incredible Hulk movies failed, although Ang Lee’s remains misunderstood. It’s certainly not suitable for 3-D. Here most scenes become the green of mildew and mold, and that’s just when the civilian cast is standing around in a hangar or on a lawn.

The movie does manage to reconfigure the romance of “Top Gun,’’ allowing Lively — as both aviator and paramour — to conflate Tom Cruise’s passion for Anthony Edwards with his attraction to Kelly McGillis. It’s unclear whether that’s inspiration or an accident. Either way, it’s boring.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com or followed on Twitter: @wesley_morris.

GREEN LANTERN Directed by: Martin Campbell

Written by: Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, and Peter Sarsgaard

At: Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs

Running time: 100 minutes

Rated: PG-13 (Some violence, kissing, and enough green goop to leave you nauseated)

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