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REVIEW: Green Lantern ***


Another summer, another superhero, and Green Lantern is just the first of a crop that will include Captain America and Conan the Barbarian.

Al Based on a 1940s DC Comics character, Martin Campbell's $150m (¤105m) bells-and-whistles blockbuster stars Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, a cocky and irresponsible test pilot who's chosen by an elite band of extra-terrestrial super-guardians to help defeat a malevolent villain who wants to destroy everything.

l superheroes have daddy issues: Hal Jordan's dad was a test pilot too, who died when his plane blew up. The son's recklessness stems from a desire to match his parent's achievements, but when a daredevil stunt results in the loss of an expensive fighter jet, he's sacked from his job.

He's kicking his heels down by the ocean when he comes across what looks like a crashed spaceship.

It is a crashed spaceship, and before its occupant -- a bright green extra-terrestrial warrior called Abin Sur -- can die, he hands Hal a magic ring and tells him he is now part of the Green Lantern corps. Hal is just getting his head around this when he's spirited away to a distant planet to begin his superhero training.

The ring, which runs on the power of will, will bestow great gifts, but Hal will have to master them fast because a giant, squid-like creature is bound for the planet Earth and looking for trouble.

These superhero films are only bearable if the inevitable Cgi pyrotechnics are counterbalanced by sufficient humanity and wit, and in this regard Green Lantern just about gets away with it. Some of the special effects are actually pretty impressive, though only marginally enhanced by the 3D experience, but the film stands or falls on its lead actor's performance, and Reynolds is charming and likeable enough to carry the jokey superhero routine off.

Blake Lively is very engaging as his on/off love interest, and Mark Strong lends a touch of colour to the extra-terrestrials as Hal's hard-nosed mentor, Sinestro.

Tim Robbins phones in a portrayal of a corrupt senator, and Geoffrey Rush provides the voice of Hal's alien mentor, Tomar-Re.

But the film's secret weapon is Peter Sarsgaard, a wonderful character actor who brings nuance and believability to the badly underwritten part of a villainous scientist.

Dr Hector Hammond becomes infected while examining the corpse of fallen alien Abin Sur: his head balloons to twice its size, but amidst the horror Sarsgaard keeps the fun going by giving his character an unctuous, but child-like, politeness.

Like Iron Man, Green Lantern is competent but not exceptional, witty but rarely hilarious.

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