Superman, Batman, Spider-Man and other superheroes have flown across so many movie screens in recent years that it's enough to give an air traffic controller a headache. The latest such do-gooder, "Green Lantern," does not even fly as high as a similarly colored superhero, "The Green Hornet," who flew through as recently as a few months ago.
Part of the problem is that "Green Lantern" has never had a very strong grip on the pop-cultural imagination. Although this green-hued comic book figure has been around for decades, he definitely seems like a second-tier superhero.
It's evidently his turn for the big-budget, special effects-laden movie treatment, however, and the movie is pretty much what you would expect in terms of predictable characters and a formulaic story. The world needs to be saved yet again and guess who flies through to do the job?
Realizing that most viewers will not be familiar with this particular superhero's biographical background, "Green Lantern" opens with a ponderously conveyed synopsis of what life is like on a planet called Oa. Its wise little leaders rely on a group called the Green Lantern Corps to enforce humanitarian policies throughout the universe.
All of this introductory information is conveyed with something resembling clarity; but the opening section still has the effect of bombarding viewers with more nonsensical quasi-mythic data than we can either process or care about.
"Green Lantern" then literally comes down to Earth as a test pilot, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), encounters a dying Green Lantern Corps member who passes on his powers to the understandably bewildered human pilot.
These powers also come with a suitable wardrobe, namely, a form-fitting green suit and a tiny green mask that is closer to a fashion accessory than to something that would mask his actual identity. This is a crucial point in the story. Unlike Superman, who can't let on that he's really Clark Kent on steroids, this flashy green superhero is obviously Hal Jordan wearing a great Halloween costume. In other words, potential girlfriends know what they're getting into.
Between time put in by Ryan Reynolds at the gym and keyboard time put in by the busy people who produce the numerous computer-generated effects, the star looks fine in this superhero role. Although Reynolds' good looks and good-natured personality ensure that audiences will remain on this crime fighter's side throughout the picture, the picture itself is so unimaginatively straightforward that it merely resembles earlier and more compelling superhero movies.
Similarly, such capable actors as Peter Sarsgaard, Blake Lively, Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett generally seem to be trapped in a narrative that cares more about bombarding viewers with special effects than it does about developing a story that would be in any way special.
Even taken on its own special effects-reliant terms, the movie seems technologically wobbly in some sequences. Audiences have become accustomed to first-rate special effects, especially when they're wearing 3-D glasses. The effects here aren't bad, but they often feel like hasty explosive jolts that simply toss us into the next supernatural confrontation.
Although it's not giving anything away to note that good usually triumphs over evil in such stories, it would be nice if that also translated to a good movie here. Instead, this merely seems like a relatively minor superhero who briefly occupies our attention until one of the major superheroes flies our way again. Grade: C
"Green Lantern" (PG-13) is now playing at area theaters.