In all fairness, it can’t be easy to make a superhero movie. Aside from having to satisfy a vehement fan base, the filmmakers have to make a ‘geek’ film appeal to the general public and also one-up (or at least equal) the effects of the one that just hit theaters a few weeks before yours– all while telling a good story with interesting characters and, oh yeah, never forgetting who your target audience is.

This year we’ve had The Green Hornet, Thor, X-Men: First Class, and now Green Lantern (with Captain America set to debut next month).

You win some, you lose some.

I said X-Men was “the right way to do a superhero movie”, and that Thor was “a pretty good way to welcome the warmer months”, and The Green Hornet was an idiotic mess. Green Lantern falls somewhere in between– a silly, only mildly fun flick that feels like it was made for kids, but for the PG-13 rating.

Ryan Reynolds is Hal Jordan, a reckless, immature test pilot (think Top Gun‘s Maverick). When one of the 3,600 Green Lanterns (the guardians of the universe) is mortally wounded in a battle with the evil Parallax, he crashes on Earth. Protocol requires that his trusty green-glowing ring automatically pick his replacement, and it turns out ol’ Hal’s the man. (Why it took almost twenty minutes of backstory and introduction to explain what I just managed to do in a couple dozen words, I’m not sure.)

So Hal is whisked away to the Green Lanterns’ home planet where he learns how to protect the universe by harnessing his new powers (he only needs to think of something and it will materialize). As luck would have it, Parallax is the mightiest foe that Green Lantern nation has ever faced, and Hal is arriving just in time. In an amusing scene, he gets a quick how-to from two other GLs voiced by Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan. Fellow GL Sinestro (Mark Strong), though, is leery that the ring may have made a mistake in picking inexperienced Hal.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, researcher Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgarrd) is performing an autopsy on the crash-landed GL when he gets infected by Parallax’s DNA (assuming giant ash-headed smoke monsters from outer space have DNA) and becomes a bulbous-headed bad guy himself.

Just to complicate things more, there’s Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), Hal’s co-worker and ex-girlfriend.

Sure, staying at least somewhat true to the original comic book series is important, but fitting all of it into just an hour and 45 minutes leads to more of a crash-and-burn than a rousing success.

Reynolds and Lively both do adequate jobs in the same roles that they each seem to play over and over again, and Sarsgaard is pretty creepy as Parallax’s freaky lackey, but no one really stands out here. Even cameos from Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett don’t really help. The movie is completely overwhelmed by its special effects and by a script that reads more like a soap opera than anything else.

Director Martin Campbell knows how to make great, highly-entertaining movies (Goldeneye, Mask of Zorro, and Casino Royale among them) but he’s only comfortable, it seems, when he limits himself to planet Earth. Here he got a little lost in the stars and apparently hoped that whiz-bang visuals (which Green Lantern‘s actually aren’t, for the most part) would carry the day.

Had some of the more tense sci-fi action scenes been toned down a little, along with most of the sexual innuendo, Green Lantern may have been a beacon of light among kids flicks this summer. As it is, though, it’s more like one of those crazy, spinning flashlights you get at Disney World– a lot of silliness for a few seconds, and within a week it’s forgotten at the bottom of the toy box.

2/5 stars