Green(ish) Lantern

Low expectations are a powerful filmodisiac.

As I made my way back from Scotland through Holland, all facetweeties indicated that Green Lantern was a pale shade of jade indeed.

That twenty-two hour trek, and same sources, jetlagged me into missing the midnight sneak peeks, so I was able to take in the 2D fresh at the first official show, and, perhaps more importantly, with hobbled hopes.

Therefore I thought it was ok, and was able to take what pleasures I could find, rather than slack it with the force of my disappointment.

Those pleasures?
A brisk hour and forty-five minute running time.
Blake Lively’s face.
Peter Sarsgaard’s inventive performance.
Blake Lively’s legs.
Martin Campbell’s (Casino Royale) snappy direction.
Blake Lively’s hind quarters.
Seamless special effects.
Blake Lively’s chest.
A fine supporting cast, including Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, Jay O. Sanders (the new boss on Law & Order: CI), Mark Strong, and the unmistakable voice of Michael Clarke Duncan (as well as the mistakable voice of Geoffrey Rush). Oh, and, all right, Ryan Reynolds’ legs, face, hind quarters, and chest as well.

Those disappointments? The film, obviously patched together from the usual phalanx of scripters, seems intended for the younger set, as opposed to the entire family, so, naturally, the studio required its writers to talk slowly, loudly, and with exaggerated diction (which is how people who don’t know, have, or even like, children speak to them).

There’s a wholly unnecessary opening narration that seemingly establishes the film’s ground rules, but also serves to make the subsequent, film-long, illustration of those rules less effective. And, once the hero’s daddy complex and the villain’s power source are set up, they are never really paid off, which would have given the film real involvement, even delight.

A character like Green Lantern, who can make real an emerald version of anything, lives and dies on the imagination of his creators, and here that imagination is unfortunately limited. Had Hal Jordan, the superhero’s secret identity, countered his enemy’s hunger for fear with wit and inventiveness, there would be much joy in theaters today … rather than the seemingly universal shrugs the film has elicited (the best my crowd could muster was a monotone “s’alright”).

Warner Brothers Studio labored lightly to weave echoes of the original Christopher Reeve Superman into this (it even shares its editor, the great Stuart Baird), but it should have put more assurance, and smarts, into its screenplay (and asked composer James Newton Howard to come up with an unforgettable theme song instead of the generic action film score this effort is stuck with).

But lower your low expectations. Who knows? That might work.