The march of the comic book movie genre continues unabated this summer, though it stumbles a bit with Warner Bros.’ sporadically entertaining adaptation of the slightly obscure Green Lantern. It’s not the fiasco early reports would have you believe, nor is it as engaging as the recent Thor or X-Men: First Class.

Generally affable Ryan Reynolds stars as Hal Jordan, a hotshot test pilot who wrecks fighter jets and personal relationships alike, and who dodges responsibility faster than a speeding bullet. After receiving a powerful ring from a dying alien, Jordan is whisked across space to the planet Oa, to learn he has been chosen, like it or not, to become a member of an intergalactic peacekeeping force overseen by a parliament of blue yodas known as the Guardians of the Universe. The rings the wear are powered by the “emerald energy of willpower”, and render whatever the can imagine in the form of physical constructs.

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, nebbish loser-scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Saarsgard doing that mega-creep thing he does so well) begins to run mildly amok after he is infected by a vestige of power from the being that killed Jordan’s predecessor, an alien force called Parallax (voiced by Clancy Brown) who feeds on fear, devours entire planets, and has its sights set on both Earth and Oa (in that order).

Though visually enthralling at times, it’s ultimately a forgettable experience, due largely to the movie’s anemic, exposition-laden script that is offers more set-up than it does pay-off. For a movie whose central conceit revolves around the emotional spectrum, it’s strangely lacking in an emotional core. Aside from a compelling exchange during a Jordan family get-together, we’re given little more than cheap daddy issues, limp romance, and vague motivations.

The lack of a compelling villain results in little contrast for the hero, who’s thinly defined as a character to begin with, and the cast is left hanging in the wind with the exception of Geoffrey Rush in a brief, thankless role and a scene-stealing Mark Strong as the Green Lantern Corps’ enigmatic field commander, Sinestro. Reynolds has proven he can be a leading man and he’s well-cast as the brash, cocky Hal, but he’s not given enough to do as an actor here.

Director Martin Campbell has a knack for pacing, but this isn’t his usual fare and it shows. His sensibilities are better suited to the James Bond films (his credits include Goldeneye and Casino Royale) and gritty such dramas as Edge of Darkness (both the original miniseries and the feature film remake) and Beyond Borders. Superhero-escapism is not for him, and it doesn’t seem as if his heart was in this one.

The screenwriters (there are four credited, rarely a good sign) seem more interested in setting the stage for the story they want to tell in the inevitable sequel. The movie never builds the kind of freewheeling energy needed to sweep viewers along the way Christopher Nolan’s Batman films or the first couple of Spider-Man, Iron Man, and X-Men movies did; in fact, Green Lantern never seems to get out of second gear.

Green Lantern is playing near our neighborhood at UA Galaxy (not East Dallas, but we recently told Lake Highlands readers about $5 Tuesdays—maybe worth the drive), NorthPark and Studio Movie Grill. Here’s more info on showtimes.

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