Andy Bockelman: In brightest day, in blackest night, ‘Green Lantern’ retains some might

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Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

'Green Lantern'

2.5 out of 4 stars

114 minutes

Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard and Mark Strong.

Now playing at the West Theatre and at Steamboat Springs’ Carmike Chief Plaza 4.

The last set of movies that pertained to the ownership of a piece of jewelry turned out very well for Hollywood. While the comic book feature “Green Lantern” isn’t likely to lord over the Oscars like a certain trilogy, the tale of the ring involved in it has its moments.

When he’s in the air, test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is a sight to behold as he performs incredible aerial feats that others could only dream of. It’s when he’s on the ground, however, that he doesn’t look quite as good, ruining one relationship after another with his swagger, which hides a myriad of self-doubts.

But, Hal’s claims that he can handle anything are put to the test when he’s swept up in a green beacon of light that transports him to an alien (Temuera Morrison) who has crash-landed on Earth and is slowly dying. With his final breath, the being bequeaths a very special token to the dumbfounded Hal: the ring of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic society of guardians who oversee the wellbeing of the 3,600 sectors of the universe.

As the new Lantern for Sector 2,814, Hal is expected to ensure the safety of everyone on Earth using the power of the ring, which allows its user to generate anything their mind can create. He is hardly ready for such a responsibility, but with an evil force sweeping across the cosmos looking for his predecessor, he might not have a choice.

With two other comic movies behind him, Reynolds makes an impressive entry into the world of DC Comics, capturing both Hal Jordan’s jocular flyboy nature and his more pensive side that includes many deep-seated uncertainties about his talents. When you’re the only human joining a police squad comprised of thousands of otherworldly organisms in emerald costumes, maybe that’s the time its acceptable to re-evaluate yourself.

But, he does look pretty cool in the outfit, a skintight, computer-generated piece of clothing that looks like it’s wearing him rather than the other way around.

Mark Strong gives the most stirring performance of the Lantern Corps as red-skinned Sinestro, who has little faith that Hal can replace his deceased colleague Abin Sur, who was the best of the best before he bit the bullet. But, the newest Lantern has some support, with fish-bird Tomar-Re (voice of Geoffrey Rush) offering some kind words as Hal is put through the paces in using his new finger decoration by ugly-as-sin combat instructor Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan) on the Lantern headquarters, the planet Oa.

Back on Earth, Blake Lively is less than spectacular as Hal’s ex-girlfriend and current boss, Carol Ferris, who isn’t fooled by the defense mechanism he puts up, nor the miniscule mask that’s part of his new costume. You’d think the fact that his eyes turn blue — for whatever reason — when he’s in Lantern mode would throw her off.

Speaking of people whose peepers are enough to make you say “jeepers creepers,” Peter Sarsgaard looks fantastically menacing as scientist Hector Hammond, whose autopsy of Abin Sur accidentally results in him getting a bit of a swelled head. He must have had to borrow Eric Stoltz’s makeup artist from “Mask” to get that look, but that’s nothing when you see the source of his new powers — Parallax (Clancy Brown), a swirling, smoky entity that resembles an infinite-tentacled octopus and feeds on fear, the antithesis of the Lanterns’ existence.

The battle between the green energy of willpower and the yellow energy of fear is what drives the story of the superhero whom nearly everyone has heard of though much fewer people have actually read his adventures.

The Green Lantern name doesn’t have nearly the following of comrades Batman or Superman, which makes it easier to introduce him to new circles without the same expectations as the Caped Crusader or the Man of Steel.

The downside of this is that it takes much too long to introduce us to Hal and the rest of the Lanterns, with Reynolds and Strong the only members of the cast who are given enough breathing space to bring out their characters. Having completed two James Bond films and two Zorro movies, director Martin Campbell is more accustomed to tackling heroes who have a lot of history in the theater, which explains why his origin story takes a while to develop.

Once we finally dive into some real action, it works well enough, but when Hal is told over and over that using his ring takes total concentration, you’d think Campbell would apply that lesson and make his feature more focused, even when Hal is creating hot rods, and jets made of light.

The giant fist he thinks up to handle a group of rowdies sends a message, though.

While “Green Lantern” doesn’t pack quite the punch that it should considering its staggering production budget, it’s the kind of movie that could lead to a better follow-up A pivotal scene midway through the end credits stands as a beacon of hope that a second film could make its mark, providing Reynolds and company are willing to go again.

It’d certainly be a more welcome presence at the cinema than seeing Seth Rogen bungle his way through another go as a different hero with green in his title.

Now playing at the West Theatre and at Steamboat Springs’ Carmike Chief Plaza 4.

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