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MOVIE REVIEW: Ryan Reynolds can't illuminate 'Green Lantern'

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Green Lantern (PG-13)

1 1/2 out of 4 stars

Remember when big, summer blockbusters were fun -- when they were a light and entertaining escape?

That notion apparently eluded the makers of "Green Lantern," a joyless amalgamation of expository dialogue and special effects that aren't especially special.

Even Ryan Reynolds with his sparkling charisma and chiseled body can't make this thing interesting. Then again, he doesn't have much to work with. He's essentially called upon to make some flippant comments to reflect how shallow his character is, then once he gets his superhero makeover, he flies around in a skintight green suit and zaps stuff with his ring.

The script, credited to four screenwriters and inspired by the DC Comics series, does little to flesh him out beyond some cliched daddy issues and a fear of death that prompts him to run from commitment. Reynolds' Hal Jordan is a brash, cocky test pilot; and "Green Lantern" plays like "Top Gun" with magical jewelry.

But "magical" would be the last word you'd use to describe the look of the film, which is available in 2-D and (naturally) 3-D. As usual, the third dimension is needless and merely makes the trippy, sci-fi environs look murky; you never get the sensation that you could reach out and touch Reynolds' abs, which are on display early and often. All the CGI at director Martin Campbell's disposal can't give this movie life, which just goes to show how crucial strong writing is.

Reynolds has his own brand of alluring screen presence, which he puts to best use -- ironically -- during the brief time before he becomes a superhero. When a spaceship crash lands one day, the alien inside bequeaths his ring -- and membership in an intergalactic peacekeeping force known as the Green Lantern Corps -- to the reluctant Hal. Hal doesn't even take his day job all that seriously, where the gorgeous Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), his ex-fling, is now his boss. (Lively, by the way, is asked to do little more than look pretty in peril in a series of naughty-secretary get-ups.

Also touched by this alien presence, albeit in a negative way, is Hal's longtime nemesis: the nerdy and bitter Hector (Peter Sarsgaard), whose senator father (Tim Robbins) views him as a disappointment. Sarsgaard always makes unexpected choices in his performances, and the weird, dark places he takes the character provide "Green Lantern" with its few intriguing moments.

Still, Hal must undergo the obligatory training montage to learn how to harness his new-found power. The ring allows him to create whatever he can envision in his mind, which would theoretically provide a great opportunity to inject some imagination into this otherwise dull film. But the stuff Hal constructs is pretty lame, which only highlights how idiotic the mythology of "Green Lantern" truly is.

He better get his act together, though. Even though Hal's the only human the corps has ever had, he's also the only one who can stop a dastardly force in the universe known as the Parallax, to the dismay of the corps' suspicious leader, Sinestro (Mark Strong). He's right, this doesn't make any sense -- but then again, the Parallax looks like a giant, evil piece of calamari, and that doesn't make much sense, either. (Warner Bros.)