Dir: Martin Campbell. US. 2011. 114mins


Attempting to puncture the self-importance of other superhero movies, Green Lantern leads with its dopey, self-effacing charm. But despite a winning aw-shucks performance from Ryan Reynolds, such a stance can only take a film so far, and this Martin Campbell-directed adaptation of a DC Comics property can’t overcome its thinly drawn characters and generally hokey execution.

The cast, in keeping with the film’s jokey spirit, play their characters with one eyebrow arched, tipping the audience to the sheer silliness of the whole endeavour.

Opening June 17, this Warner Bros. offering will enter a marketplace already occupied by X-Men: First Class and Super 8. Reynolds’ supporting performances in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Proposal make him an appealing draw to both sexes, but this will be his first major star vehicle, which is based on a comic that’s not quite as culturally ubiquitous as Superman or Batman. What’s clear is that Green Lantern better make its impact felt quickly before being overwhelmed by the new Transformers film at the end of the month.

Hotshot, immature test pilot Hal Jordan (Reynolds) encounters a dying alien who has crash-landed on Earth. The alien hands Hal a green ring that transports him to the planet of Oa, where he discovers that he’s been chosen to be the latest member of the Green Lantern Corps, who protect the universe from evil. But back on Earth, an underachieving scientist named Hector (Peter Sarsgaard) has been exposed to a toxin on the alien that distorts his features but gives him telepathic powers.

Green Lantern is directed by Martin Campbell, who had great success resurrecting the James Bond franchise with the dark, steely Casino Royale. But with Green Lantern, he resorts to the approach he used on another venerable property, The Mask Of Zorro, which had a more playful, escapist tone. Anchored by Reynolds’ sincere, funny turn as the boyish, bemused Hal Jordan, the film has an agreeably light touch that can be disarmingly unpretentious as it self-consciously skewers superhero conventions. (One amusing bit involves the cliché that other characters are never able to recognize their friend even though he’s just wearing a small mask over his eyes.)

Unfortunately, the film (with a screenplay credited to four writers) doesn’t just want to be a fun romp. Whether it’s Hal’s dead-father issues or the progressively gloomier textures of a third act in which a powerful force threatens to destroy Earth (while sucking the souls out of several frightened humans trying to get out of its path), Green Lantern aspires to the same gravitas that has become de rigueur for most superhero movies. This creates only a muddled mix of cheerful cheesiness and unconvincing darkness that never quite congeals.

If the story elements feel half-baked, the movie’s special effects are decidedly more robust. The fantastical world of Oa can feel overly artificial, but the construction of Hal’s Green Lantern suit and the designs of the objects he can conjure thanks to his ring are impressively rendered. Especially potent is the powerful killing force, which resembles a scary cloud-like octopus, barrelling down on Earth. Overall, the film’s 3D elements are merely competent, though, offering some surface pleasures but not exactly delivering visual delights that a viewer would miss out on by seeing the movie in 2D.

The cast, in keeping with the film’s jokey spirit, play their characters with one eyebrow arched, tipping the audience to the sheer silliness of the whole endeavour without tripping over into self-parody. As Hal’s childhood sweetheart, Blake Lively has some spunk but isn’t particularly crucial to the plot beyond motivating Hal’s bid for maturity. Sarsgaard relishes his scene-chewing role as the wimpy scientist drunk on his newfound powers. As for Tim Robbins, he seems to have been chosen to play a hawkish senator because he’s got the right silvery head of hair for the part.

Production company: De Line Pictures

Domestic distribution: Warner Bros. Pictures, www.warnerbros.com

Producers: Donald De Line, Greg Berlanti

Executive producers: Herbert W. Gains, Andrew Haas

Screenplay: Greg Berlanti & Michael Green & Marc Guggenheim and Michael Goldenberg, screen story by Greg Berlanti & Michael Green & Marc Guggenheim, based upon characters appearing in comic books published by DC Comics

Cinematography: Dion Beebe

Production designer: Grant Major

Editor: Stuart Baird

Music: James Newton Howard

Website: www.greenlanternmovie.warnerbros.com/

Main cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins