Movie Review: Green Lantern
I’m torn about how to review this movie.
On one hand, I consider myself possessed of a wide and varied taste in movies, able to judge films on a myriad of levels and appreciate them for what they set out to do and not hold them to some kind of baseline criteria.
On the other hand, I have been reading Green Lantern since I was in fourth grade.
In this current environment of remakes and adaptations, contemporary fans are constantly at war with themselves. Does one temper one’s expectations? Must fans divorce all background knowledge and experience with a property/mythology to enjoy themselves and not drive their friends crazy?
I have no idea.
But here are my (random and scattered) thoughts on the Green Lantern film.
Ryan Reynolds was very entertaining as Hal Jordan. He was cocky and brash, exactly what we’ve been raised to think a fighter pilot is supposed to be like. I always thought he’d be a great Guy Gardner, the even brasher and cockier Green Lantern of Earth, who basically functions as the “our asshole” of the Green Lantern Corps. As Hal, he seems to lack the ability to learn humility.
Let’s face it, being Ryan Reynolds is probably fucking awesome. He’s handsome, gets away with also being funny, and he’s seen Scarlett Johansson naked.
Goddamnit, what a motherfucker. Fuck Ryan Reynolds. Which bring me back to the part about the humility; even when the character’s supposed to be feeling self-doubt, or a lack of conviction; it feels like he’s just biding his time to going back to being super awesome. Hal never feels vulnerable, he just acts like it because he’s supposed to be. Which makes him sound like a sociopath now that I reread this, but he doesn’t come off like one. If anything, he’s like Thor at the beginning of his movie: being awesome is all he knows, but Hal realizes if he acts like he’s super awesome all the time, then no one will like him.
On the other hand, he does carry the movie. It’s a shame the film’s not doing super great at the box office or critically, because Reynolds is quickly becoming a leading man. He’s confident, self-assured, and he has the charisma to carry the wooden dialogue and clunky parts of the movie on his back.
Which works out really well, here, as his first act as fearless fighter pilot Hal Jordan is to cost hundreds, if not thousands, of people their jobs because he must be the most awesome thing in the air.
How hard would it be to have the company he works for, Ferris, have a new experimental jet, flown by pilots, going up against a rival company, (maybe headed by that guy that hates Hal in the movie ) that has a robot plane. The Air Force decides to have a dog fight between the two, Hal wins, but breaks his plane in the process, setting Ferris back a little.
There. Hal’s still a bad motherfucker without having to shit on all the ugly people working the not-fun jobs. Took me like ten seconds to come up with that, and you can have the evil company that hates Hal be yet another place to make villains for future movies.
The last superhero movie I saw with the same kind of romantic dynamic as seen here in Green Lantern was Thor and there is a world of difference between Blake Lively and Natalie Portman. Now, a lot of this is not Lively’s fault. She isn’t given a lot to do and has to deliver the line that supposedly puts Hal back on the heroic track, but it’s so goddamn awkward. I don’t know if it’s the context, or maybe she wasn’t meant to deliver it. It’s the line where the gist is:
Hal: I’m not fearless. A Lantern is supposed to be fearless.
Carol: Maybe you were chosen because you can overcome fear.
Granted, I delivered it even clunkier, but that’s a line that should have come from another Lantern, maybe one of his three trainers he spends all of five minutes with, when he starts to doubt himself after not doing everything perfect on his first mission, but hey, what the fuck do I know?
Peter Saarsgard is having quite a bit of fun with his role as Hector Hammond, the telepathic and telekinetic mad scientist. He just runs with it, and seems to be the only other person in this movie besides Ryan Reynolds that seems to be having any fun. I wish the movie could have spent some more time with him, because his portion feels like a Cronenberg short that wandered into the editing bay.
In terms of the plot, like Daredevil, the movie crams three storylines that could have carried a movie on their own into one film. The entire movie could have easily been Hector Hammond acquiring strange new powers, and slowly taking over the DEO government agency to use for his own ends. Or it could have been Hal’s training on Oa and give us time to get to know all the Lanterns and watch Hal grow. Or it could have been Hal facing down the extreme and exact opposite of the Corps, the Parallax, but not all of them at once. The fight with Parallax, arguably the reason the Corps was founded in the comics to combat, takes maybe four minutes. Everything in this movie needed more time to breath. No growth in terms of character or power happens organically.
Hal essentially fails every test he’s given on Oa, and then quits, his will broken. Hal all but admits to being afraid he’ll fail, and they let him leave under-trained with one of the greatest weapons in existence on his finger so he can return to Earth and dick around.
Then, at the end of the second act, with the great threat making itself known, endangering the Earth, he goes BACK to Oa to deliver his speech about how humanity is worth saving. Okay, well and good, but then he begs them to let him go back and fight for Earth.
When did they stop him? When did they say he couldn’t go back and fight for his people? He went to them. They didn’t grab him and force him to report back. Imagine if he was training on Oa for most of the second act, finds out about Earth being threatened, and wants to go back, but he’s struggling in his training and he’d just be going to his death, but Sinestro, Kilowog, and Tomar-Re sense something in him, speak on his behalf, and the Guardians let him go, while his friends, whose respect he’s actually earned, follow him to Earth. They fight and win.
It’s all just kind of schizophrenic. The movie doesn’t know where it wants to go, because it doesn’t know if it’s going to be a huge hit or a huge flop, so it tries to do everything at once in case there wasn’t another movie. I don’t know if it’s because they wanted to do every story they could, or to try and appeal to everyone at once, but the movie feels overstuffed with plots it doesn’t have time to explore.
Oa, in terms of design, was exactly what it should have been. The whole planet was alien. Kind of a gimmie, but generally, anytime we see an alien city in a movie, it’s just buildings that are different colors with round roofs. Oa, on the other hand is strange and with so many interesting details. I wish we’d get more time with it.
Mark Strong, who has one of the best voices in the history of speech, was perfect for Sinestro. I just wish we’d actually gotten to know the character. He manages to come off as aristocratic, like an officer in the British Army two hundred years ago, but carries himself with an air of gravitas. He projects a superiority found in most leaders, but with the ability to actually get things done. He’s arguably the best part of the movie, and we barely see him.
His respect is what Hal should be chasing to feel at home in the Corps, but he dismisses Hal and then at the end, loves the guy. There’s no arc at all. There’s no relationship. Given the stinger after the credits involving Sinestro, it feels less like a sucker punch and more like checking something off a list.
I do have a theory for that.
I think it’s more like a teaser, and not where the next movie picks up from. The movie won’t open with Sinestro doing what he just did, but that’ll happen towards the end of the movie. Maybe with an actual character arc. And interaction with our hero. He should have had that line I was talking about earlier, not Blake Lively, and perhaps Sinestro’s private doubts about his own inability to overcome fear and not simply always be fearless coupled with the unprecedented rise of Hal in terms of ability push him towards using the yellow ring thus setting up the sequel in a way that makes sense.
Folks, this isn’t hard. I am not a bright man, which means this movie was assembled by a committee and not the product of a disciplined writer or director with a vision. Maybe with the next one the studio will back off, or they can get a Guillermo Del Toro in here with a unique take and style.
I don’t know how much of Sinestro was CG, but he looked incredible. I’m leaning towards Sinestro being entirely CG because the uniform looked a million times better on him than Reynolds. I get that the suit is energy, so it doesn’t have to look like physical material, but where suit met skin, especially around the neck and jawline, it looked miles more natural on Sinestro than it did Reynolds, but again, maybe that’s the point.
At the end of the day, I enjoyed this movie, I don’t regret seeing it, and will get it when it comes out on DVD. Reynolds charm, Saarsgard’s gusto, and Strong’s presence forgive many sins, as does the above average CGI. Parallax’s final demise looked especially good.
Given that I spent nearly 1900 words bashing the movie, and very few praising it, I fear I might be a victim of fan service. Seeing Stel, Isamot (even though he died instantly), R’Amey, and Rot Lop Fan, on Oa was really neat, and frankly any acknowledgement like that is going to placate any nerd rage almost immediately.
What’s also enabling me to overlook a lot of the flaws in this movie, is my life-long love of the character. I’m able to fill in a lot of the blanks in my head, but that works for me, personally. It will, however, only hurt this movie with wider, less erudite audiences
That’s a shame, because they have all the right pieces to build a really great franchise that will not only make a lot of money, but be incredibly entertaining. They could make a really great car, but they’re either putting it together wrong, or using it the wrong way, like taking a Ferrari to carpool, or putting a VW Bus on the Brickyard.