Movie Blog: I Can’t Tell Superhero Movies Apart

I’m officially no longer holding out for a hero. Because they’re all strong, they’re all fast, and they’re all fresh from the fight.

In other words, if nothing else, this summer movie slate has made me realize I really can’t tell the difference between a well-done superhero movie (X-Men: First Class, allegedly) and a poor one (Thor, reportedly).

It’s not only limited to this summer’s offerings. I remember the phenomenal reviews for The Dark Knight and the first two Spiderman installments and thinking, despite their obvious directorial prowess, they still shared a lot of the same DNA as such clear misfires as Catwoman and Daredevil.

Compared to that lineup, this year’s crop is far more middle-of-the-road. Truly nothing has proven an instant classic or an instant punchline. Thor may have been, as I’ve read one critic point out, the superhero equivalent of Encino Man, but its art direction still had some of the luridness of a testosterone-laced Xanadu.

Which is all by way of saying I’m just not sure whether The Green Lantern is good or not. In the video review above, I ask Natalie Kane “what more could you want?” (Apparently it’s my catchphrase, though, since I applied it to Mr. Popper’s Penguins too, without realizing it.)

Sure, it’s as visually supple as any of the other comic book offerings so far this season, thanks to some nice work by Oscar-winning cinematographer Dion Beebe. Star Ryan Reynolds’ cocksure performance as the titular hero is served up tongue-in-cheek, like a satirical spin on Tom Cruise’s Maverick in Top Gun. And there’s a geeky sort of coolness to the notion of a hero whose greatest weapon is the physical manifestation of his imagination.

But … What more could you want? Well, for starters, I could have asked both Hal Jordan, Green Lantern-to-be, and nemesis Dr. Hector Hammond be given fully shaded character backgrounds, instead of falling back on the laziest signposts of all — namely, that good-looking characters are also good in every other respect, and smart but plain-looking people are jealous and vindictive.

While Reynolds is appealing (no more so than when he flexes his formidable physique expecting his super powers to just happen, only to be left in the lurch) and Peter Sarsgaard’s lip-licking villainy are both good shows, the rest of the cast seems either wasted (Angela Bassett’s walk-on as a lab coat) or a waste of screen time (Blake Lively, who cashes in all good will left over from her surprisingly good turn in The Town).

And, much like Thor, does the final battle scene not seem just a tad hasty and undernourished?

I admit The Green Lantern resides in one of my big blind spots, but if this has to turn into a franchise, let’s hope the suits have a few more aces up their sleeves.

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