Was the sleep on one of your Christmas Eve nights as a kid slightly disturbed by worry that the bike you hoped to get the next morning would be everything you dreamed it would be? Or how about the lead-in to the first time you saw your favorite musician in concert as a teenager. Did you fret all day that he or she would not only do your song of choice, but do it perfectly, just the way you always heard it in your head?
If any of those applied to you, then you can identify with how I’ve felt for weeks leading up to the release of the Green Lantern movie.
You see, I’m not just a fan of the Emerald Crusader; I am an admitted fanboy. When I was a youngster, I would race home from school to watch the “Batman, Superman and Aquaman” cartoon series, hoping for a Green Lantern cartoon, even though there were only three in the bunch from the original series that premiered in 1967 on CBS.
I have Green Lantern action figures all over my home (much to the consternation of my significant other). Hanging in my den is a framed cel of the 1959 relaunch of the character, a gift from a dear friend. And I not only have the DVD with those ’60′s cartoons, but also the entire “Justice League” Cartoon Network series from the 2000′s where Green Lantern was updated, not as the familiar Hal Jordan character, but as John Stewart, a badass former Marine and a Black guy to boot .
Needless to say, I approached the new Green Lantern movie with great interest and more than a little trepidation. “Green Lantern” would require a director with a deft touch, someone who could tell the story of both the hero and the alter ego, without letting one swallow the other whole.
The critically successful superhero films (the first two Superman films, the first two Spider-Man films, the two most recent Batman movies, the Iron Man movies and Thor) have struck that balance. “Green Lantern” does, too.
Under the adept direction of New Zealander Martin Campbell (“Casino Royale,” “GoldenEye,” “The Mask of Zorro,”), “Green Lantern” moves smartly from scene to scene, never over-relying on action scenes to get in the way of character development, but never slowing things down in explanations. Special effects are a necessary evil to a film like this, but Campbell doesn’t let CGI be the be all and end all of the film. In other words, the ring is the thing, but it’s not everything.
Also, you don’t have to be immersed in comic book lore to enjoy “Green Lantern,” but the film is also mostly faithful to the legend. Fans will recognize familiar characters like Tomar-Re, Jordan’s initial handler, Kilowog, the gruff but lovable drill sergeant, and, of course, Sinestro, the leader of Lantern Corps.
The film is well cast, too, with Blake Lively in the role of Carol Ferris, the No.2 executive at the aerospace company where Jordan is a test pilot, and a love interest for Jordan. To her credit, or better yet, to that of the screenwriting team, Lively is never placed exclusively in the position of screaming damsel in distress. Carol Ferris is a fully realized, fully fleshed out character, who is smart and observant, when the moment calls for it.
Peter Sarsgaard is quite good as Hector Hammond, a contemporary of Jordan’s and Ferris’, who has unresolved issues with his senator father, played by Tim Robbins, who just avoids going too hammy. And Angela Bassett is sharp as Dr. Amanda Waller, the head of a research lab who does business with Hammond.
The revelation in this film is the performance of Ryan Reynolds in the title role. Frankly, while I liked Reynolds in “The Proposal,” I shuddered when I first heard he was cast as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern. No, the role doesn’t require the skill of Olivier or Brando or De Niro, but it does ask for more than a pretty boy, a poseur, a dilettante, which I perceived him to be.
Instead, Reynolds is exceptional, first, as a guy looking to get by in life on his prodigious skill as a pilot, then as a man who is handed an incredible gift and has to figure out what to do with it. It’s not the kind of acting that will get him an Oscar nomination, to be sure, but it places him third in the superhero acting genre behind Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey, Jr.
It’s not often that a character that has been a part of your life for decades can be put on a big screen to your satisfaction. “Green Lantern” isn’t exactly the way I conceived it, but it’s close enough. Give it, say, four power rings on a scale of five.
Oh, and be sure and stay through at least the first round of credits for the now predictable setup for the inevitable sequel.