Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. So, Green Lantern pissed me off. I went in a fairly blank slate. I was a Marvel kid, but I’m not totally ignorant of the DC Universe. I know the basic concept behind the Green Lantern Corps even if I can’t quote you the rogues gallery like I can X-Men or Spider-Man.
I love the concept of a sci-fi action superhero movie, so don’t think I went into this movie wanting to pick it apart. All I wanted was a good movie within this very rich universe. I got the rich universe part, but not the good movie part.
Ryan Reynolds tries, God bless him. He really does everything he can to elevate this movie, but there’s only so much he can do with some of the horrible dialogue he’s forced to churn out and he can only sell so much fantasy before the mediocre CGI overwhelms the picture.
But he does try and often succeeds at making Hal Jordan likable even if the script wants you to hate his guts. The arc is a very familiar one… a swaggering asshole learns humility and compassion in 105 minutes. Unfortunately other than Reynolds’ inherent likeability we see Jordan go from smarmy douche (who parks like a dickhead, apparently) to heroic world-saver in a blink of an eye.
In other words, they don’t earn their arc. There’s a lot of unearned stuff in the movie. The Joseph Campbell hero’s journey is solidly in place, but it’s like the filmmakers looked at Iron Man and tried to do that without understanding why that particular movie worked so well. Green Lantern is a paint by numbers superhero film, all the beats you expect are there (down to the post-credits stinger), but in this film they feel arbitrary and not ingrained into the overall story at all.
The big problem with this film isn’t that it’s just flat out awful. If it was, I could more easily write it off as a failure and move on. But what’s so goddamned frustrating here is that there are moments that really work. Oa, for instance, is well designed. The Kilowog training scene is great. The visualization of the power of the Corps is great, as are the sheer numbers of crazy beings that fill the ranks of the Corps. The main villain, a massive fear cloud with a big alien head on it called Parallax, is pretty solid, too. The effects are dodgy at times, but the concept of it is pretty harsh and reminds me a bit of The Nothing from The Neverending Story.
Mark Strong as Sinestro is much better than I thought he’d be and his initial dislike of Hal Jordan makes for one of the only truly interesting character relationships in the movie. And let’s not forget Reynolds himself, who spends every second of screentime trying to sell the universe and the character.
But the little bits that work only make how awful the rest of the movie is stand out. That’s what pisses me off about this movie. The elements were there, the ingredients are all there, but director Martin Campbell and the screenwriters (all four of them) don’t assemble them into a working film.
Jordan’s weakness, his insecurity due to the accidental death of his father, feels shoe-horned into the plot, his relationship with Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) is muddy and the giant-headed Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is only a surface level villain. Hammond kind of knows Jordan, wants to bone Ferris and I guess that’s why he goes a little crazy when the evil Yellow hate energy takes him over. If this triangle had been played up a little more it might have meant something to me, but as it stands it feels like the writers just needed a basic excuse to inject drama into this sub-villain plotline.
While we’re talking about Carol Ferris, let’s discuss just how horrible Blake Lively is in this movie. This is my first real exposure to her work (I saw The Town, but have no memory of her in the movie) and for a few minutes I thought she might be deaf. Turns out that’s just how she delivers dialogue. Blank-eyed and monotone isn’t exactly the best way to sell a romantic relationship.
The more I think on it, I think one of the broad reasons this movie doesn’t work is that introduces the idea of this amazing team, the Green Lantern Corps, with an amazing power and endless interesting characters, and then just abandons it for Hal Jordan’s romance and hobbled hero’s journey arc. The interesting movie is in the Corps as they face a villain that challenges them in ways they’ve never been challenged before.
That should have been the story. Once Jordan goes to Oa he doesn’t return to earth until he has to in order to save it. If we had more time with the Corps, had more teamwork on display, and less lone hero stuff the movie would have worked a lot better.
Oh, and it’ll also help if you have a coherent script. That, too. Things just happen to happen in this film, with the barest connective tissues. Especially the “post credits” bit that makes absolutely zero sense except that what happens there happens in the books. The action doesn’t match, there’s no reason for this particular character to do what he does other than they need him to for a sequel.
The scene itself is fine, but A has to lead to B, not to J. There’s no motive, it just happens. And that’s the movie. Things just happen, like someone went down a checklist of what geeks want in their superhero movies with no thought to actually making them make sense within the context of the story.
So, I walked out pissed off. I’m still pissed off. This could have been great. Hell, at this point I’d settle for good. What I got instead was a turd sandwich that is cobbled together with what looks like delicious ingredients. If only they didn’t take a huge dump on it I could have had a great meal.