Last night, I decided to treat myself to a “bad movie” night while working on comics. I usually like to have some kind of noise playing in the background, sometimes it’s “Sons of Guns,” sometimes it’s yea olde tyme radio. For whatever reason, I decided it was time to watch the live action Green Lantern movie. I was terribly skeptical when I saw the suit in Entertainment Weekly and totally underwhelmed when I saw the trailer so I never bothered to check it out in the theater. So I figured, what the hell, let’s do this.
Thank god I didn’t pay full ticket price to see this mess.
The Man in the Iron Blockbuster
I think Warner Bros was attempting to do their own version of the Iron Man/Tony Stark/Robert Downey, Jr. franchise. Like Iron Man, Green Lantern is sort of a B-List hero. Before the Iron Man film, Shellhead was certainly a fan favorite, but hardly a character that was instantly recognized by non comic readers. After the Iron Man film, absolutely everyone knew who Tony Stark was. And now, Marvel has a hit franchise with a third movie on the way.
I really think Warner Bros took a look at that and said, well shit, we’ve got a B-List hero, too. Let’s grab us some of that action!
And this is where I think fandom played a major role in ruining the film. I don’t mean to imply that individual fans went out of their way to pan the movie to ensure that it barely made back its budget during the course of its run. I don’t think comic fans are that well organized or that cynical. I’m talking about the phenomenon of fandom. There’s a reason Hollywood parades their latest and greatest at San Diego ComicCon. Comic fans have money and are more than willing to spend it on things they like. They helped make that first Spider-Man film an absolute block buster and they damn sure helped propel Iron Man to the forefront of comic movie franchise stardom. Warner Bros decided that if they can capture the fandom, they can build a franchise around Green Lantern.
That’s why it ultimately failed.
Instead of concentrating on making a good movie, they went for the fanservice.
Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing
There’s a lot going on in this film. Hal is an asshole but he has a tragic past seeing his father blow up so we should care about him but we’ve got absolutely no reason to and he’s in love with Carol who works for this government contractor that’s in business with some senator whose son is a nerd who loves Carol but is lame so he’s our villain and we still don’t care and, oh look, Hal’s got a ring and he flies to Oa where he meets all the toys that will go into stores and there’s Sinestro talking and there’s Kilowog punching Hal for being a poozer and then Hal quits and goes home and the lame nerd who has a crush on Carol gets bit by the yellow thing and, oh, did I mention Paralax yet who’s coming to eat the Earth because that’s what you do so Hal goes back to Oa and asks permission to defend the Earth because why exactly and he goes back home and I FUCKING GIVE THE FUCK UP.
It’s a whole lot of nothing. We get a handful of scenes with the Green Lantern Corps that don’t do anything except bloat the effects budget. There’s one training scene where Hal gets passed between Tomar-Re, Kilowog, and Sinestro all in the same scene. Sinestro spends most of his time on screen speechafying about some shit or another. We don’t learn jack all about him other than he likes to make speeches so when he makes his big turn in the epilogue by putting on the yellow ring, we don’t care. There’s no weight to his turn because we don’t give a shit about him. We can’t relate to him as an audience because all we know is that he’s some kind of general. Now for us who have read the comic, we know that he’s a tortured soul, that the world he was charged to protect turned against him because of his pride, and that ultimately, he turned to Fear to bring order to what he saw as chaos. But you don’t know any of that shit from the movie. So who gives a fuck if he turns yellow?
Paralax is a giant fucking mess. It devours worlds and instantly vaporizes Green Lanterns. So why doesn’t it just vaporize Hal like it did those other Lanterns when it wasn’t as strong? Because PLOT! I think Paralax would have been far more frightening if it sewed the seeds of fear in a populace and turned them against the Lanterns than just being a yellow space squid with hunger issues.
Tomar-Re, Kilowog, Sinestro, the entire Green Lantern Corps, and Paralax all felt like they were shoehorned into this thing to show the fandom, “Hey look! We got things you like up in this piece! Now give us some money!” Besides physical features, I really can’t describe the other Lanterns to you from what I saw in the movie. Why bother including them if we’re not going to be given any sort of emotional hook to make us give two shits about them?
Back on Earth…
Hal Jordan is instantly unlikable. It kind of feels like the writers were going for the whole Tony Stark, lovable asshole thing. But it just doesn’t work with Hal. There’s nothing lovable about him and every bit of dialog that he spits made me grit my teeth. I guess Carol is a sucker for asshats because Hal doesn’t really grow as a person throughout the course of the movie. There’s a clunky bit of dialog between Carol and Hal where she’s trying to convince him to keep fighting because the ring chose him for a reason and I nearly fell out of my chair, dizzy from how much my eyes were rolling.
The chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively is terribly meh. I don’t know how, but every scene with the two of them sucks the life out of an already stagnant experience.
Hector sure screams a lot. That’s how you can tell he’s the villain. Creepy enough, but again, another character I couldn’t give two shits about. The idea of him being in love with Carol since childhood seems like a good foundation to build a villain upon. Add to that childhood rivalry with Hal. But we don’t spend nearly enough time with him to really care. I’m gonna destroy everything because girls. Great fucking motivation for a villain. Yawn. It might have been cool to see scenes with the three of them as friends with just a hint of jealously burning in Hector’s eyes. That could have made for a much more compelling, emotionally entangling plot point for a villain turn. Instead, we got the Cliff’s Notes version which fell flat.
Make Up Your Mind
In the end, it felt like two different movies hacked together into one mess. On the one hand, it wanted to be a big space opera. On the other hand, it wanted to be an emotional redemption story. Both movies smashed into each other with pieces all over the damn place. I think if they picked one movie, it could have been quite enjoyable.
I could very well see this as a proper trilogy. The first film would take place all on Earth with no GL Corp or Sinestro or Paralax. This would be your origin story, Hal gets the ring, tries to unlock its secrets, learns that the ring is weak against yellow, tries to patch things up with Carol, fights a big bad, ultimately learns the good ol’ “with great power comes great responsibility.”
Second film, you introduce the GL Corp. Hal gets called up to Oa where he has to unlearn all the shit that he’s been doing wrong with the ring. We get some real training scenes. All the while, a cosmic big bad is coming to destroy Oa. This is where you’d introduce Paralax and explain the weakness against yellow.
Third film, Sinestro turns. He decimates the Corp and it’s up to Hal to save Oa and the universe. You could even have the battle return to Earth with Sinestro looking to destroy Hal by decimating Earth.
Give the movies space to breath. You don’t have to introduce every GL trope in one damn film. Space them out and build up a proper franchise.
Green Lantern, No More
I’d be really surprised to see a sequel to this thing. Maybe in five years, they’ll do a remake like Sony did with Amazing Spider-Man. I’ve heard rumblings that Ryan Reynolds will reprise his role as Hal Jordan the upcoming Justice League movie. I don’t know that I could stomach more of him as Hal. His portrayal was completely unlikable from the moment he opened his mouth. I’ve liked Ryan Reynolds in movies, but for some reason, he just didn’t do it for me here. Sure, he looked pretty good in the CG suit. But I just couldn’t give two shits about his Hal.
So there. Green Lantern. Not nearly as good as the animated version. Any of the animated version.