Give Green Lantern this: It doesn’t try to water down its comic-book nerdiness.
This adaptation of the DC superhero saga dunks our head in dorky mythology right from the start. A cosmic tour explains that the universe is monitored by a corps of interstellar police who derive their power from the “emerald energy of will power.” This power is harnessed by rings, which can translate intergalactic languages, transmit instant information and allow the wearer to “actualize” anything they can think of into physical existence, from race cars to machine guns. Basically, the rings are iPhone 74s.
This extensive prologue introduces us to Sinestro, Abin Sur and various other goofily named ring-wearers, until we’re finally dumped on earth, where we meet hotshot fighter pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds). It turns out Hal has been chosen as the first Earthling to be given a ring, though it’s a responsibility for which he’s not quite ready.
There’s something admirable in the way Green Lantern doesn’t try too hard to be accessible to non-comic book audiences (even though Iron Man and Thor have both managed to do that successfully while staying true to their roots). Full of funky aliens, distant planets and dorm-room debates over will power versus fear, this is a movie that lets its nerd flag fly. I can’t speak to how true it may be to its comic-book inspiration, but in terms of sensibility, it’s as comic-booky as you can get.
If there is a reason for non-comic fans to see Green Lantern, it’s Peter Sarsgaard as the villain, Hector Hammond. A mousy, insecure scientist, Hector gets infected with alien goo that gives him telekinetic powers. Skulking around and inappropriately sniffing the neck of Blake Lively (as Hal’s love interest), Sarsgaard fully indulges his inner weirdo. By the time the goo has caused Hector’s temple to grotesquely bulge, it’s as if he’s accidentally wandered in from an early David Cronenberg film.
Sarsgaard easily steals the movie from Reynolds, even though he’s on the screen for only a quarter of the time. I think part of the reason is that he’s working underneath tactile prosthetics, while Reynolds spends much of the film swathed in CGI. That glowing green suit ups the beefcake factor, but it also dampens the considerable charisma Reynolds usually displays. It shines so brightly, his personality appears dim in comparison.
As a matter of fact, Reynolds seems like the production’s biggest concession to a mainstream audience, and it’s a concession that doesn’t pay off. Sarsgaard is much more in tune with the movie’s geeky, sci-fi vibe – swollen forehead and all.