An evil power fueled by fear lurks in the universe and it has a name: Parallax. An elite brigade called the Green Lantern Corps, protector of peace, aims to stop it. Between these two forces is Hal Jordan played by Ryan Reynolds, the miscast star of “Green Lantern,” DC Comic’s incoherent and tone deaf parry to Marvel’s masterful thrusts. Hal Jordan is a flyer, just like his dad was. When we meet him, he is flying against a pair of state-of-the-art military drones designed by Ferris Aircraft.

Green Lantern + poster

Ryan Reynolds aka Hal Jordan - photo courtesy by Warner Bros.

Fellow flyer and company scion, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) is his lover and confidant. One day she will inherit control of the company with Jordan by her side. Visiting Ferris Aircraft is Senator Hammond (Tim Robbins) a sleazy lawmaker who drafts the help of his son Hector, a biology professor, to aid in nefarious dealings. When a dying alien crash lands on Earth, his Green Lantern Corps ring will choose a new master. In typical origin-story fashion, Hal Jordan must acquaint himself with his new-found power to conjure whatever his brain can imagine. On Planet Oa, headquarters to the Green Lantern Corps, he is introduced to his intergalactic comrades by his mentor, Sinestro, and battled tested by his sparring partner, Kilowog.

Green Lantern + movie poster

Photo courtesy by Warner Bros.

Meanwhile, back on Earth the power of Parallax has found a minion in the form of Hector Hammond, herald to the coming doom. “Green Lantern” is the cornerstone of the Justice League universe Warner Brothers hopes to roll out over the next few years. Piece by piece they aim to build a superhero universe to rival Marvel. As such, “Green Lantern” is a weak start. Plot and pacing are key to the superhero genre, but this movie is happy to take its time introducing its main characters before getting to the conflict. That’s fine if the characters are something more than one-dimensional cutouts. Sadly, this is not the case. The four writers behind “Green Lantern” present exposition in voice over, the most director method for filling the audience in, and still take too long doing it. Well over a half hour into the story a plot only begins to take shape. Witty and affable, Ryan Reynolds has proven himself best suited to comedy. Playing earnest, as he does here, he seems generic and lost amid the spectacle surrounding him. He has yet to prove himself an actor with any range and until now it hasn’t mattered. Not that there’s a wide range of emotions embodied in Hal Jordan, only that Reynolds is obviously out of his wheelhouse, putting the whole movie off balance. Blake Lively has delivered memorable performances recently including last year’s “The Town” and “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.” Radiant in those movies, Lively held the camera like a star.

Blake Lively as a Young Pippa in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee - photo Courtesy by Icon Productions

In “Green Lantern” she is merely adequate. A generic female lead on the page, Lively struggles to flesh out her character, leaving her looking as lost as Reynolds. Not helping matters is the fact that there is so little chemistry between the two stars. In fact, under Martin Campbell’s usually assured hand, most of the performances are surprisingly flat with the exception of Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond.

Green Lantern + Peter Sarsgaard

Peter Sarsgaard aka Hector Hammond - photo courtesy by Warner Bros.

His transformation from nebbish to nightmare is “Green Lantern”’s most entertaining aspect. Sarsgaard has fun with the role wearing elephant man-like makeup and chewing up the scenery. He is one of the new movie’s few saving graces. Another is the effects and digital work on Planet Oa where great stone arches and exotic alien landscapes offset a green and violet sky. As is often the case with tent-pole movies, the technical wizardry outpaces the meat and potatoes of acting, writing and directing.

Green Lantern + Planet Oa

Planet Oa - photo courtesy by Warner Bros.

Uber-villain, Parallax is a gaseous cloud, indefinable in form but for a massive head with a monstrous visage. Folded into its black billows are the dead come to life and an assortment of other terrors. Parallax is as horrifying as Oa is breathtaking, in a cartoon way. Warner Brothers reportedly spent about $300 million on “Green Lantern” and no doubt every development exec had their say in piecing it together. It appears to have so many handprints on it that it feels birthed by a faceless bureaucrat. It offers generic thrills and eye-popping effects but little emotion, humor or humanity.

** (out of four)

Here is some of the next release dates: Australia, Israel, Netherlands August 4th, France August 10th, Argentina August 11th, Mexico August 12th, Brazil August 19th, Italy August 31st,  Japan September 10th.