The term "ridiculous" is thrown around so much these days that I don't think we take the time to truly appreciate its meaning. It's in times like this that it's almost good that films like Green Lantern exist because it allows us time to meditate on the true meaning of the word for almost two full hours.
Green Lantern seemed to collapse under itself within minutes.There was too much going on, and none of it was all that interesting, and its logic couldn't stand up to much scrutiny. GL relies heavily on inspiration from Geoff Johns' Secret Origin (Johns is also listed as a producer on the film), but it only seems to be a tangential relation. There was little reason not to have this movie be a strict adaptation (though certain scenes would need to be broadened, and the references to Blackest Night would probably need to be removed) because the basics of what makes Hal Jordan's story a great one is all there. Instead, GL takes too many pieces from the mythology, adds in ideas of its own, tosses it all into a blender and hits purée. The mash that we get is this movie, and it's not good.
While Ryan Reynolds is likeable enough in the role of Hal Jordan, he never actually seems to play Hal Jordan. That is his fault as much as the writers. Reynolds can do comedy and he captures the arrogant, free-wheeling side of Hal Jordan pretty well, but it's the relationship issues and regrets of the character--that requires an eye for drama that grounds the character and makes him real and identifiable--that Reynolds lacks so he fails the audience as much as the script failed him. His many scenes with Carol Ferris (the story about Jordan having issues with Carl Ferris is strangely missing and pretty incongruous; would he really still be working with Carl after his father was killed on the man's airfield?) is strangely developed: it has signs of maturity and reality--she immediately recognizes him as Green Lantern--but they seem to keep having the same conversation over and over again. Moreover, we never really buy their affection for one another; she's dull and icy, he's a man-child and a malcontent. Their scenes together are shot in extreme closeup--even when there's a whole room of other people involved in their conversation--to manufacture intimacy, but these two don't have chemistry and the script lacks any kind of romance or substance.
Jordan's family issues are given the smallest of lip services. His family shows genuine concern for his health and mental safety (as he has the maturity of a six year old with ADHD), while Jordan just stands there and looks vacuous. The theme of Jordan being irresponsible is brought up but never exactly explored, even though there are more than enough characters to explore this fully. In the end, his friends and family are right to worry and Jordan's less likeable because he never really seems to understand where they're coming from, unwilling to listen and incapable of change.
|"Dude, I'm telling you, Coast City is covered in shit!"|
Hal Jordan is an alpha male type character. He could lead a team into hell without any effort and everyone would be certain they'd all be fine because Jordan said so. He could be serious yet funny (but not the fratboy funny of Ryan Reynolds). An actor who could be comedic and dramatic is needed, and it's a wonder then why David Boreanaz (a noted Hal Jordan fanatic), Nathan Fillion, or Ryan Gosling were not chosen, as they all would have been much, much better.
The threat in the movie is Parallax, the manifestation of fear. His origin from the comics is as a being as old as sentience. He is fear and he feeds on it. He was eventually captured within the massive Lantern battery on Oa, which is the only place with enough power to contain him, but at a price: since he's yellow and yellow is the color of fear and Parallax is now within the containment battery, the Lanterns are weak against yellow. The Guardians, afraid that the Lanterns might rise against them like their predecessors, the Manhunters, build their citadel in yellow to protect them. So fear is a major arc within the Green Lantern mythology.
This is anchored even more by Jordan and Sinestro (who refuses to feel fear; who is willing to manipulate it, respectively). However, this Hal Jordan does feel fear. I understand why this was added--to make Jordan less perfect, make him more human and identifiable like a John Everyman type, and the question becomes: If our protagonist needed to have fear and overcome it throughout the movie, and needed to be quirky and silly and a bit young, why not use Kyle Rayner, as the character beats feel more like they come from a Rayner story than a Hal Jordan story? The fact that this version of Jordan is so full of fear we need to be reminded of it constantly and eventually decides to quit the Lantern Corps. is more reminiscent to Rayner's origin story. And speaking of Jordan quitting--why would he be allowed to keep the lantern and the ring? Would the Guardians actually allow the most powerful weapon in the universe to be kept with a quitter and an emotionally stunted derelict? Not to mention the fact that he probably killed that guy in the bar fight when he sent him through a brick wall. Hal Jordan is a menace!
The problem is that in this film, rather than be this scary entity, Parallax seems to be a floating cloud of flatulence, reminiscent of Galactus' appearance in Fantastic Four 2: Rise of Ennui, who in turn looked like the bad guy from Ferngully. He is not scary as he is ridiculous looking, and as great an actor as Clancy Brown is, the dialogue he's given is trite, clichéd and too easily expected. Since Parallax is simply a floating cloud of liquid shit, the fight with Jordan is brief and silly to watch and the overall look of the character is laughable so any kind of intended drama is simply taken as comedy.
The fact is, Parallax should not have been used in the first movie anyway. They could have used Hector Hammond (better written, obviously), Krona (the real one, not the crap one we saw here), William Hand, Atrocitus, Nero (not from the equally feculent Star Trek 11) or Amon Sur. Parallax is too big a villain with too complicated a backstory to use in the first movie. Amon Sur, son of Abin Sur, whose ring went to Hal Jordan, who Amon blames for the death of his father and resents him for having his father's ring and for being a better Lantern, probably would have been the best choice. They could alter the story so that Amon and Jordan are training at the same time on Oa, we could see the rivalry start and eventually have it boil over on Earth where Amon wants to take revenge on Jordan by wiping out the people close to him, so he loses exactly what Amon did. Amon Sur would also be a great mirror for Jordan. They are two sons who lost their fathers and took this loss two different ways. Jordan could look at Amon Sur as the road not taken, the line he has to be careful not to cross. In the meantime, they could set up the Manhunter threat for the second movie, which would lead to Sinestro's disillusionment with the Guardians and decides to start his own Corps.
Character interactions serve only the story, which is overly complex and leaves too many threads hanging like meat in a cold locker. Considering how heavy the backstory on Green Lantern is and how mythology reliant it is, I'm surprised no one thought to keep using the narration to either help establish setting or give character depth while moving the plot along.
Anyway, for some reason Hector Hammond was a childhood friend of Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris and is jealous of Jordan (better agent, I guess), Amanda Waller (who should be played only by CCH Pounder) has a useless role and Tim Robbins shows up to play a senator for five minutes. I really can't help but feel bad for each of them. They're fine actors and they deserve more screen time in a better film. Of course, I'm very confused by Hector Hammond's (Peter Sarsgaard) role in the picture. Due to nepotism, he got a job working with Amanda Waller's project to steal the set from Stargate SG-1 and is generally considered a failure as a teacher, a scientist and human being. If no one takes him seriously, how is the audience supposed to take him as a serious threat? It doesn't help that Sarsgaard plays him as if he was a pedophile and his makeup makes him look like Rocky Dennis.
And come to think of it, why wasn't Hammond actually allowed to use Jordan's ring? "You have to be chosen," Jordan says. Even though in the comics, others have picked up rings before and used them--like Batman (great scene) and Green Arrow (meh). How about that time that Jordan used multiple rings from a variety of Corps.? Maybe I shouldn't bother bringing logic into this.
The other Lanterns don't fare much better than the earthbound characters. While Kilowog (Michael Clark Duncan) is the only beacon of hope in the entire movie (he's the only character that actually looks and acts like his comic book counterpart), characters like Bzzd and Boodikka are seen (barely), and Tomar-Re and Sinestro seem to have roles just for the sake of having them. One of the major problems is that Sinestro is given the proper screen time to develop his character, or better define the complex relationship between him and Jordan. Mark Strong does his best with what he's given, but it's hard to work with so little.
Sinestro was not even given the minor establishing character traits needed to make him stand out from the rest of the cast. In the comics, he was considered to be the greatest Lantern of all, his sector in space was the most orderly, he had a smug sense of accomplishment, and he had issues with the Guardians. In short, he was the best and he knew it. Now, he's just an exposition and speech giver. His taking of the yellow fear ring at the end of the film only confuses matters--doesn't the acceptance of fear now negate its power? And come to think of it: Why would they fight fear with fear? How would that work? And doesn't that strategy disservice the Green Lanterns and make them look weak? Since there's so much left open here, it's possible that we could learn that Sinestro purposely set all of this into motion so a yellow ring could be forged; admittedly, there's enough dangling that if a sequel is produced we could see a Wrath of Khan effect, wherein the a shitty first movie makes way for a near-perfect classic of a sequel.
For a film that boasts itself as a space-faring sci-fi epic, we only see Oa briefly, and it looks like a junkyard. The CGI in this film is laughably bad. The effects on Chuck looks better. Multiple companies were hired to do the CGI on Green Lantern, so the incongruities can be largely attributed to that. But if you see in dailies and early concept art that the CGI isn't working, you'd think maybe someone would say that they should stick with one company and take a few extra weeks in post-production? It's even funnier when you consider that Asgard in Thor looked so much better than Oa (and anything else in the movie) and that film had a smaller budget.
|"It's a FAAAAAAKE!!"|
Speaking of Oa, it's only in the movie for about ten minutes. Jordan's Lantern training takes up those ten minutes. It's just like Luke Skywalker's training with Obi-Wan and Yoda in the first two Star Wars movies. When Kilowog and Sinestro are going over how to create ring constructs, my friend turned to me and in his best Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "It can't form complex machines. Guns and explosives have chemicals, moving parts, but it can form solid metal shapes. Likes knives and stabbing weapons." It was the funniest thing to come out of that movie. At the same time, we see Jordan create two different kinds of Gatling guns and a race car. In order to create a Lantern construct, you would need to know how it works. I understand him making planes--that makes sense--but guns and race cars? Please.
In short: don't bother. God knows everyone working on this film used it as their model anyway.
Walter White's reaction to Green Lantern.
Green Lantern: 1 out of 5.
Next: (Early) Film Review: 30 Minutes or Less.