Considering the countless superheroes that Marvel has taken to the big screen, it must be kind of embarrassing to be Marvel's longtime rival DC, who until now has only managed to make movies out of Batman and Superman – again and again and again. But now we finally get the cinematic debut of their Superfriends cohort Green Lantern.
I never read the comics, but the story is kind of cool: irresponsible test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds, well cast) is chosen by a mystical alien ring to join the Green Lantern Corps, a humongous police force that protects the entire universe. With his ring, Green Lantern can fly and create anything he wants out of green energy. It's a little bit Star Wars, a little bit Matrix, even a little bit Lord of the Rings. Perfect for a movie adaptation, right? Well, yes, but Green Lantern never quite had the cult following that other superheroes enjoy. And the jury's still out on whether Reynolds is a bona fide movie star or just the dude of the moment. So it's no surprise that Green Lantern isn't breaking any box office records.
Still, I don't think it's a bad film. People are funny: Marvel's Thor got mostly enthusiastic reviews across the board, while Green Lantern has received an equal amount of pans, yet neither film is any better or worse than the other.
Reynolds is appealing, the infallible Peter Sarsgaard has a swell time as creepy arch enemy Hector Hammond (who is infected with some yellow energy, the stuff of evil), and I actually kind of dug the old-fashioned values of the story, where the green energy that powers the Corps is made of the "will" of every living being in the universe, while the yellow energy that fuels the movie's menacing über-villain Parallax feeds on fear. Will vs. Fear: you can't get any cornier than that in today's comic book climate, where every hero has to have some damn dark side. Hal Jordan's darkest secret is that he can't live up to his late father's legacy (in fact, most of the film's human characters have daddy issues of some sort). That's it! But I bought it.
Now, I'm not saying that Green Lantern is great cinema. It is, in fact, thoroughly mediocre, with middling action sequences and a too-small cast that doesn't give us the sense that GL is part of something so, well, universal. But the movie is sweet, funny, and a welcome DC palate cleanser amidst the endless Marvel movies being thrust into our faces.