“Green Lantern” is the the third superhero movie of the summer, but the first based on a DC comic following Marvel's “Thor” and “X-Men: First Class.” It is also the least successful of the bunch, but that says more about the quality of the other films than this one.
Critics have been particularly brutal to “Green Lantern,” but while it is definitely a middling quality film, it isn't without its entertaining moments, strong performances and worthy messages. The biggest thing “Green Lantern” has working against it is the raised expectations people have for superhero movies thanks to films like “Iron Man” and “The Dark Knight.”
Much like “Superman,” another DC propriety, “Green Lantern” deals with alien beings, but the difference is the title hero, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), is not an extraterrestrial, but a human.
Hal is bestowed the power to fly and to make anything in his mind a reality by a magic ring. The ring is given to him by Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) a member of the Green Lantern Corp, an intergalactic police force that defends against evil, who crashed landed on Earth after a fatal battle with the evil Parallex (voice of Clancy Brown). By accepting the ring Hal joins this team and is whisked to the Planet Oa for his training.
Instead of a traditional good versus evil scenario the film has will against fear. Hal Jordan and his fellow Green Lanterns get their strength from the green energy of will. Parallax gets his power for the yellow energy of fear. The film explores what it truly means to be fearless. There's a good theme about overcoming fear. albeit it one that is presented a bit too heavy handedly with Hal dealing with issues involving his father's death.
Before taking on the role of hero, we see Hal in his day job as a cocky, risk-taking test pilot who works for a company run by his ex-girlfriend (Blake Lively). Reynolds and Lively have a genuine chemistry together and the dynamic is not the traditional one for these kind of movies. While she does need saving at one point, she isn't just a damsel in distress. She helps to shape and push Hal into the hero he will become.
The best thing about “Green Lantern” is Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond, a hunched-over scientist with self-esteem issues who is infected by a part of Parallex. Hammond goes through a physical and mental transformation that gives him telekinetic and telepathic powers. Sarsgaard creates a truly fantastic, not entirely unsympathetic villain. His line readings and acting choices are unexpected and he helps the movie become something more than what it might've been.
Unfortunately, Hector Hammond is merely a secondary villain to the far-less compelling Parallax, which is basically a giant snog creature that, while having the formidable voice of Clancy Brown, doesn't really have a personality. He is just an evil entity that must be destroyed in the climax of the film.
Reynolds, a good, genial and funny actor who often misplaces his talents, slides nicely into this role. The script does give him several dry quips to deliver, something he has always had a knack for doing, but he also dials down his comic impulses. He is a charming and believable as a hero.
The rest of the cast is filled out with some fine actors including Tim Robbins as Hector Hammond's father, Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clark Duncan as the voices of some of the other Green Lanterns, and, most notably, Mark Strong as Sinestro, a high-ranking Green Lantern who is skeptical of their latest recruit. Strong gives an effective performance, which is all the more impressive considering he is purple.
“Green Lantern” is marred by relying too much on CG effects and is a bit more simple-minded than a lot of superhero movies, but it isn't without its charms. In fact, “Green Lantern,” despite its PG-13 rating, is a good film for kids.