In the cosmically goofy Green Lantern, Ryan Reynolds gets bejeweled with a ring that can conjure up swords, Gatling guns, even jet fighters.
Take that, puny Norse god of thunder with your winged helmet, hammer and high school Shakespeare-speak.
Semi-seriously, though, do we detect a pattern? A rainbow-roaming Asgardian warrior named Thor? Thousands of interstellar peacekeepers who make Jim Carrey in The Mask seem unimaginative? Clearly after spending years exploring the dark corners of comics mythology (The Dark Knight, Watchmen, X-Men), things have taken a detour into the downright psychedelic.
This was probably inevitable -- and, in truth, necessary. By leaving Earth for more outlandish realms, these films hope to invigorate the familiar tropes of the genre. But while I applaud the effort, I can't say Green Lantern, opening Thursday at midnight, entirely succeeds.
Still, you can't accuse it of lacking ambition. How else to describe a production that begins "Billions of years ago ..." and then broadens its scope from there?
After a prologue involving the origins of an ancient vampiric cloud, we meet brash hothead Hal Jordan (Reynolds), a test pilot chosen to inherit the power ring of a dying Green Lantern after he crashlands on Earth. Turns out, the Green Lantern Corps, formed by the immortal Guardians of the Universe, patrol all sectors of space. Humans just haven't been important enough to bother contacting -- until now.
Not long after, Hal is whisked away to Oa -- the centre of the universe, in case you were wondering -- to begin his training. Some of the Lanterns are welcoming (the all-CG Tomar-Re); others aren't (Sinestro, effectively portrayed by Mark Strong). Here, he learns the rings allow a Lantern to create energy constructs through sheer willpower. If you think it, it will come.
Not that Hal's tutelage isn't the only pressing matter. That planet-devouring vapour, Parallax, which killed Hal's predecessor, is still threatening existence. (The sinister nimbus has become Hollywood's go-to visual for creatures they can't figure out to render -- i.e. Galactus in the Fantastic Four sequel or the Smoke Monster in Lost.) And back home, unctuous Parallax-infected biologist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is developing telekinetic powers and a grotesque, overgrown cranium.
Considering all the characters and subplots, it's no surprise Green Lantern feels more rushed and truncated than epic. During the second half, especially, it seems like connective scenes are missing. At one point, Hal bursts in on evil-doings, but we have no idea how he realized his services were needed.
As for the performances, Reynolds is likeable enough, although the womanizing wiseacre-as-reluctant-crusader has been done before by Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man. More problematic? Blake Lively as Hal's childhood sweetheart Carol Ferris. To use some genre vernacular, she makes Katie Holmes look like Gwyneth Paltrow.
In the end, Green Lantern, like the character himself, is of two worlds. As someone who grew up reading the comics, the far-space sequences struck me as sufficiently cool, if animated. (One man's cartoony is another man's fake-looking, depending on your mood.) But the terra-bound scenes, which follow a fairly ordinary origin template, are a drag. If there's a sequel, maybe he should just text home.