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Green Lantern

(2011) ** Pg-13
114 min. Warner Brothers. Director: Martin Campbell. Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, Angela Bassett, Jon Tenney, Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jay O. Sanders, Clancy Brown.

/content/films/4063/1.jpg In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power... Green Lantern's light!

Whoops. With a reported total cost of over $300 million, Warner's debut film for DC Comics hero Green Lantern represents a pricey investment in a planned franchise. Warner put the pseudo-bankable Ryan Reynolds in the lead role and hired as director Martin Campbell, the man who successfully rebooted Zorro in The Mask of Zorro and James Bond in Casino Royale (this after getting cold feet on letting producer/co-screenwriter Greg Berlanti direct). Warner has had its buzz police working overtime to counter negative reactions to the first trailer, with a splashier, effects-laden second trailer seeming to turn the tide. But the proof is in the pea soup, and Green Lantern is a hot mess.

Reynolds plays Hal Jordan, a cocky test pilot chosen by an alien force to be the first human Green Lantern. The Green Lantern Corps is a group of "intergalactic peacekeepers" made up of other chosen ones granted power rings that harness "the emerald energy of willpower." Using focus and creativity, one can use such a ring to create "constructs," any imaginable shape that a crisis may demand. Haunted by the memory of his father (Jon Tenney) dying in a plane mishap, a fearful Hal freezes up, earning the concern of strident fellow pilot Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). They have a kind of "just get a room already!" relationship, but Carol feels a greater responsibility to their employer, Ferris Aircraft, which is run by her father (Jay O. Sanders).

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has collected the corpse and wreckage of fallen Green Lantern Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison). Overseeing the project is U.S. Senator Robert Hammond (Tim Robbins), who uses his influence to install his son, teacher and xenobiologist Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) as the principal researcher. But Abin Sur's wound has been infected by the "entity of fear" known as Parallax, which overcomes Hector and swells his brain with psionic strength. Entity of fear...what a coinkidink! Why, wasn't Hal just saying, "The one thing a Green Lantern is supposed to be is fearless. That isn't me"? Yep, Green Lantern has all the dramatic depth of an elementary school play.

Okay, maybe I'm being a little hard on this comic-book movie. Or I would be if it weren't badly paced and tonally inconsistent as well as thematically thin. The story pays lip service to personal character, but the film feels wholly impersonal. The desparation is most apparent in the work of composer James Newton Howard, who has obviously been instructed to score as many of the film's 114 minutes as possible, the better to spackle Green Lantern's utter inability to move an audience or create an illusion of reality (the results are obnoxiously distracting). It's ironic that Howard nakedly rips off John Williams' Superman: The Movie fanfare every time Hal appears as Green Lantern, since Superman: The Movie's tagline was "You will believe a man can fly." No such luck here: in Campbell's hands, seventy years of Green Lantern mythology amounts to grade-Z hooey.

In all likelihood, Campbell is the victim of too many cooks in the kitchen (and he doesn't seem like the type to invest himself in this material, anyway). The ultimate shooting script by Greg Berlanti, comic book writers Michael Green & Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg has a distinct committee flavor to it. With this material, it's no surprise the acting is uneven: Reynolds falls back on his shticky mode, opening his eyes real big whenever matters get serious, and Lively is a vacuum in a part no one seems to have figured out what to do with. Tim Robbins seems embarrassed, and Angela Bassett (as a government scientist) appears to have clocked out early to cash her paycheck. Mark Strong brings some gravity as the Green Lantern called Sinestro (destined for future villainy, he's a kind of generalissimo in this story), while Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan fleetingly lend their voices to fan fave Lanterns Tomar-Re and Kilowog, respectively. Best in show goes to Sarsgaard, who brings the weird, bless 'im.

/content/films/4063/2.jpgThe best that can be said about the 3-D enhanced Green Lantern is that not all of the gaudy CGI is overproduced and ugly: occasionally the failed sensation turns around for a minute or two of nifty action. The Lanterns all look pretty great, but Parallax and the Guardians of Oa are the worst CGI "characters" I've seen in a long time, suggesting we're not yet at a place where a high-flying science-fiction blockbuster of this scale can be produced well on a managable budget. As a result, Green Lantern is just another miscalculated blockbuster blunder, which should do some damage to the superhero trend.

On brightest screen, in threest-D,
It's the latest franchisee.
This superhero's super-slight;
Beware two hours... Green Lantern bites!

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Aspect ratios: 2.40:1

Number of discs: 2

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 10/14/2011

Distributor: Warner Home Video

You won't be getting a mea culpa from me: Green Lantern remains a disappointment. But the Green Lantern: Extended Cut premiering on home video this week does represent a minor improvement, and the movie does play a bit better taken out of the heat of expectations and the inconveniences of a trip to the movie theater. The Extended Cut runs about nine minutes longer than the Theatrical Cut, both of which are included in the Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack and Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack from Warner. The Extended Cut mostly adds to the flashback sequence of Hal and Carol in childhood (also there: young Hector Hammond) and expands upon the adult Hector's story.

The other "big news" here is that UltraViolet drops this week: that's the rebranding of digital copies as yet more flexible, promising viewers they can watch a given film "anytime, anywhere on computers, tablets or smartphones" by instantly streaming from a digital cloud or downloading the film to a PC or Mac.

The 2D A/V specs are good, recreating the theatrical image well. For some, that won't necessarily be such a good thing, as, even on the big screen, the film has a distinctly digital flavor and a cover of darkness that unfortunately limits detail at times. If texture and detail get a bit muddy, it all seems to be part and parcel of postproduction processing of the film, more so than the Blu-ray: after all, with hi-def effectively the standard and digital projection becoming the norm, there's now little difference between what one sees in a cinema and on an HDTV.

The 3D version starts at the 2D baseline, then delivers postconversion 3D that should look very familiar to anyone who saw the digital 3D projection in theaters. Green Lantern definitely qualifies as one of the lackluster 3D offerings, with little that snaps, dazzles, and pops off the screen. Those with disposable income may find this hard to resist to expand their 3D collections, but with the Extended Cut available in slightly brighter 2D HD, there's even less reason to spring for the slightly murkier 3D version. The good news is that Green Lantern doesn't conspicuously suffer from any pitfalls like 3D "crosstalk," but it also doesn't deliver on the promise of consistent 3D depth, with plenty of flat action scenes that will have viewers checking to make sure their glasses are turned on. To be fair, the image does pop from time to time, but more often in dialogue scenes with scenic elements or staging that lend themselves to depth; one would've thought the power-ring scenes would've lend themselves to depth, but not so much.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround mix here is pure ear candy, delivering sound effects, music and dialogue with masterful discete separation, balanced into a superb 5.1 channel delivery for maximum immersion.

Warner loads up some cool bonus features, starting with the PIP-plus "Maximum Movie Mode: Green Lantern's Light" (1:54:00, HD), hosted by DCE Chief Creative Officer and Green Lantern comicbook writer Geoff Johns. The behind-the-scenes look at the film discusses adaptation, casting, production, design approaches, and so on, while throwing in cast and crew interviews, pop-up trivia, character bios and the like. Though incorporated into the MMM, the "Focus Points" (46:55 with "Play All" option, HD) come with their own menu access, always a nice idea. The focus points comprise "The Art of Green Lantern," "Weapons Hot: The U.C.A.V. Dog Fight," "Reinventing the Superhero Costume," "Ring Slinging 101," "We Are the Corps," "Acting Under 10 Pounds of Silicone," "Guardians Revealed" and "When Parallax Attacks."

"The Universe According to Green Lantern" (20:12, HD) gathers DC Comics artists, writers and executives and others to explain the appeal of the hero and his franchise—er, universe.

"Ryan Reynolds Becomes the Green Lantern" (8:48, HD) focuses on Reynolds discussing why he joined up and what it took to play the hero, though we also get others' comments on Reynolds (namely Johns, director Martin Campbell, and Blake Lively).

Also here are five "Deleted Scenes" (7:16, HD); the "Justice League #1 Digital Comic" (9:13, HD), an enjoyable outing that sees a team-up between Green Lantern and Batman—let it play or panel through at your own pace; a "Preview of Green Lantern: The Animated Series" (6:32, HD); and, for gamers, the PS3 Arkham City Character Skin Code that allows players to be Sinestro Corps Batman in Arkham City.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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