When I was a lad my mother used to take me to the now world-famous Farmers’ Market at Third and Fairfax in Los Angeles. Lots of mothers took their children to the Farmers’ Market while they shopped. Because there were so many children, the proprietors of a magazine store put a table in the middle of the aisle outside their store with comic books for the children to read while their mothers shopped. The comic books were attached to the table by a wire so that they could not be purloined. I spent many hours sitting at that table reading comic books. My favorites were Donald Duck, Superman and the Captain Marvel series. Little did I know that I was reading “literature” that would one day inspire billion-dollar movies. Even so, what I was reading was aimed at the pre-teen intellect.
Now here we are in the 21st century, and we are inundated with “comic book movies.” Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent making these films, but one thing has remained unchanged from the ten cent comic books I used to read so many years ago at the Farmers’ Market: They are still written for pre-teen intellects.
Green Lantern is no exception. In this film Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is the first human recruited to join the Green Lantern Corps, intergalactic warriors sworn to keep order in the universe. As one would imagine, this is replete with special effects. In fact the story is so derivative and the acting so mundane — except for Peter Sarsgaard — that the only thing it has going for it in terms of adult entertainment is that it’s directed by Martin Campbell.
Campbell, you may recall, has a lot of fine work in his resume. He brought new life to the tired James Bond franchise with Casino Royale — even making sexually ambiguous Daniel Craig into a relatively believable Bond. On top of that he directed both Zorro films with Antonio Banderas (1998 and 2005) and got his start with Reilly: Ace of Spies, a wonderful British miniseries from the 1980s that I still remember as one of the best ever.
Campbell works his magic on this and makes it a tolerable adventure. Even though the story is sheer fantasy, Jordan is paired against Hector Hammond (Sarsgaard), who becomes a living incantation of the evil Parallax, a grotesque, octopus-like monster who threatens to destroy the balance of power in the universe, which has been maintained by Green Lantern. The confrontation takes place on earth after Hector has transformed so that his head resembles Parallax (which is the best special effect in the movie), even though the home base of Green Lantern is billions of light-years away, a distance that Jordan can traverse in the blink of an eye.
This is another major movie that’s in 3-D. Like the others, the 3-D in this one isn’t worth having to wear the uncomfortable glasses. Like other 3-D movies I’ve seen recently, the color is much better without the glasses. I don’t think seeing it in 3-D is worth the trade-off of having more muted colors.
I have been a fan of Reynolds since I first saw him in Chaos Theory, a 2008 comedy seen by me and maybe four other brave souls. Green Lantern might’ve been a big payday for him, but he’s got too much talent to waste in something like this. Frankly, I’d rather sit at the stall in the Farmers’ Market and read Donald Duck.