It's not easy being green, especially when expectations are that you will become the tent pole for the latest super hero movie franchise from Warner Bros.
So it is with Green Lantern, the much ballyhooed introduction of the DC Comics character who receives a powerful ring from an alien and is charged with becoming a defender of the galaxy.
Ryan Reynolds is Hal Jordan, a cocky test pilot still haunted by the death of his seemingly invincible pilot father. Hal uses that memory to sabotage his own happiness; he's at loose ends until a mysterious green orb whisks him from the parking lot of a bar to the crashed ship of an alien life form. The alien hands Hal a ring a ring fueled by the strength of will power and tells the young pilot that this special jewelry has chosen him for his courage.
The alien soon expires, and Hal is left to wonder what to do with the ring and the green lantern that goes with it. He learns soon enough, when he's whisked by the same green orb (think an electrified blob of Jell-O) to a planet light years away and told that he is now a member of the Green Lantern Corps., a brotherhood charged with protecting the universe from evil. Or something like that.
Back on earth, evil arises in two forms: A nerdy professor (Peter Sarsgaard) who performed the autopsy on the alien body and has been infected by its dark side. And, deeper in space, Parallax, a billowing cloud of pure fear that is making its way through space and consuming entire civilizations.
Did I mention there's also the childhood sweetheart who got away (Blake Lively), still in love with Hal but not able to fathom his fecklessness?
In the end, of course, things are put right. When wearing the ring, Hal is able to don a stylish costume and make any object he can imagine appear say a suspended race track to catch the remains of a falling helicopter. Zen meets steroids.
There's an evil doctor to be bested and a galaxy to be saved. A super hero's work is never done.
The problem with Green Lantern isn't lack of ambition, but lack of novelty. Reynolds' brings his trademark roguish charm to the title role (albeit greatly toned down from Van Wilder), and director Martin Campbell doesn't skimp on the visual effects. They're impressive from materializing sledge hammers to mildly freakish alien worlds but hardly improved by 3-D technology.
No, the real flaw with Green Lantern is that it's nothing we haven't seen before. Tormented hero. Conflicted girlfriend. Planet in peril. Been there, done that. There's not a dramatic turn in this movie we don't see coming from, well, at least Saturn.
As for the protagonists, one is left wondering why two? Isn't an evil cloud bad enough; what is gained by peddling a psychotic doctor made up to look like Rocky Dennis?
One wants to like Green Lantern; truly one does. But this is a case of promise outpacing presentation. In the pantheon of super hero movies, Green Lantern earns a B- at best.
What do you bet it still makes $100 million its first week and begets a raft of sequels?