We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 6 Sep 6:25PM
Fearless - and reckless - test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) joins the the intergalactic peacekeeping Green Lantern Corps, whose most feared enemy is a threat to Jordan's home planet.
After a generally excellent run of films based on Marvel Comics characters - from Iron Man right through to Thor and X-Men: First Class - it's easy to see why fans of rival publishers DC might be feeling somewhat left out. With new Superman and Batman films still a good year or more away, it therefore falls to the never-before-filmed Green Lantern to carry the Warner Bros./DC flag in the face of Marvel's relentless march towards Avengers-based domination.
Perhaps the superhero comic most heavily rooted in 1950s sci-fi, Green Lantern has a terrific concept at its heart - the Green Lantern Corps, essentially an intergalactic police force made up of thousands of unique magic-ring-bearing aliens, of which brash test pilot Hal Jordan becomes the first human member. And for its opening five minutes or so, the film enjoys taking full advantage of the scale offered by this setup - introducing us to the history of the Corps, some lovely outer-space vistas, and an imaginative array of alien ring-wielders.
It's only a shame, then, that as soon as the action shifts to Earth, what follows is an uninspired superhero origin story that trots out all the predictable story beats of the genre without ever adding anything new or inspired. All the good promise of both the concept and some excellent effects sequences is lost in a script that is determined to plod its hero from A (reckless responsibility-phobe) to B (world-saving hero) without ever developing or exploring his personality along the way. Occasional attempts at humour largely fall flat, while supporting characters simply drift in and out to serve only as a foil for exposition (watch out for Hal's nerdy best friend suddenly disappearing, never to be seen again, in time for the third act).
And with a script so poor, it's no surprise that the cast struggle to give it their all. The usually likeable Reynolds just comes off as disinterested for the most part, never investing enough in the character of Jordan that the audience feel motivated to do the same; while Blake Lively, admittedly stuck in a role that demands little more than to alternately swoon at and chastise the hero, nevertheless turns in a performance carved from finest mahogany.
Only Peter Sarsgaard and Mark Strong really emerge with any credit, but neither are especially well-served by their roles. Sarsgaard's alien-entity-possessed scientist Hector Hammond is not the dramatic or exciting antagonist a film like this demands - and things don't improve much on that score when the possessor, a big smoke cloud thing called Parallax, enters the fray either. Strong, meanwhile, gets by far the film's most interesting character in the shape of snarky Corps leader Sinestro - but as evidenced by the obligatory post-credits sequence, his inevitable turn to the dark side is being held somewhat optimistically for a sequel.
None of this is to say that the film is entirely devoid of merit - when it wants to, it manages to pull some pretty flashy effects-driven action sequences out of the bag, even when shackled down on Earth. Jordan's first "public appearance" rescue is a disappointingly obvious homage to the far superior Superman, but in general there's some nice imagination shown with the sort of "constructs" conjured up by the Lanten ring. But on the whole, Green Lantern is content to set itself at the sort of level of a Fantastic Four - it's pre-teens rather than grown-ups that are its clear target audience, and it takes no cues or lessons from the recent trend for smart, witty superhero flicks with something to say.
Too much of its running time is simply soporific, but Green Lantern does offer the occasional brightly-coloured thrill for those only interested in the most simple and straightforward of superhero tales. It's a shame, though, that it can't aspire to anything greater.
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