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Candy Colored Clowns

by Ann Morrow on June 22, 2011

Green Lantern
Directed by Martin Campbell

When an astonished Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) tells a co-worker about his extraordinary encounter with a dying extraterrestrial who presented him with a green ring, the co-worker asks, “Was he proposing?”

And so Jordan’s transformation from “irresponsible” and “cocky” test pilot to fanatical intergalactic peacekeeper begins with a bit of humor. And it’s these teeny bits of cheeky awareness that keep the first half of Green Lantern from being a crashing bore. The film’s visualization of the planet Oa, home to the Green Lantern task force, looks like it’s constructed from hard candy, with its resident Oh Powerful Ones sporting complexions from irradiated hot pink to bar-sign neon green. Hal is chosen as the first-ever human member of the elite Lanterns because he has the potential to be fearless. The point of the dully retro narrative is that Hal isn’t really fearless, he’s reckless—and within that crucial difference lies the fate of the whole entire universe, which is being threatened by a blob-like entity called Parallax. Parallax feeds on fear, and therefore grows from man-size to planet-size while Hal is being trained to use the ring, the lantern, and a skinlike latex membrane of a suit that showcases his every muscle bundle but apparently squashes any and all spontaneity.

Everything in Lantern land is by rote, from Hal’s boot-camp training sessions with sentient creatures (that look like they’re pulling side jobs in between Star Wars movies) to a blandly rekindled romance with his teenage sweetheart, Carol (Blake Lively). Despite massive doses of CGI in the set pieces, the film looks more like a Saturday-morning cartoon on steroids than an imaginative rendering of the stalwart DC comic. Everyone has father issues, especially Hector (Peter Sarsgaard), a shy scientist whose power-broker father (Tim Robbins) recruits him for the government’s top-secret, dead-aliens research project. Geeky, introspective Hector accidentally gets some intergalactic goo on him, and in the long-hallowed tradition of scientists who get gooed upon, Hector begins to transmogrify (or putrefy) into an utterly irrelevant and uninteresting alter-ego. Sort of like how Hollywood has been glomming onto every superhero it can, with the rather unheroic intention of forcing an unstoppable movie franchise upon an unsuspecting public.