Thursday, June 16, 2011


The opening credits to Green Lantern list four writers responsible for the film. I believe that because there are four films going on here and none of them have anything to do with the other. There’s a Lifetime movie-of-the-week romance where the complete lack of chemistry between the two leads is okay because we’ll just believe what they say because they said it.

The second is a clunky and badly paced action film. The third film is a spectacle of a visual effects film with zero substance and the fourth a pieces and parts movie about uninteresting characters doing nothing of interest. So, what happened with Green Lantern that’s made it a three hundred million dollar mess?

Before getting into that, let me explain the film for those unaware. Ryan Reynolds plays sarcastic and flippant Air Force pilot Hal Jordan. Jordan receives a ring from a dying alien named Abin Sur and becomes part of the Green Lantern Corps, an ancient cosmic police force. Abin Sur had been mortally wounded fleeing Parallax, the power of fear possessed by one of the Guardians, an ancient race that oversees the Green Lantern Corps.

After giving the ring to Jordan the dead Sur is taken to a military base and examined by Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) a mild-mannered scientist with serious daddy issues. Hammond gets infected by the bits of Parallax left in Abin Sur’s wound and becomes possessed, creating a psychic link with Parallax who is out to destroy the world. Ok, so again I ask. Why is this movie such a mess?

Let’s start with the bad romance. The main culprit here is Blake Lively as Carol Ferris. I think we need to add how this Gossip Girl “actress” got the part to the Riddle Of The Sphinx, the success of Glee, Vanna White becoming famous and all the other great mysteries out there. Lively has exactly zero screen presence or acting ability. Her eyes are absolutely dead and she’s clearly there to look good in tight dresses.

When lively is angry you can tell because her voice goes a little higher, when she’s sad you can tell because her voice gets weepy and her eyes open wider, etc, etc. There was truer emoting from Number 5 in Short Circuit than Ms. Lively. Ryan Reynolds (as Hal Jordan) is not a very good actor but he can handle romantic scenes (rom-coms are his staple) so the complete lack of chemistry is all on the female side.

The clunky and badly paced action film is the fault of director Martin Campbell. It’s surprising because, while far from perfect, Campbell is usually a more competent director than this. Action works when there’s a build up to the action scenes. If you want a perfect idea of an action scene watch Superman rescue Lois Lane from the helicopter wreck in Richard Donner’s original film. Green Lantern has no build up, ever. The action scenes just happen, they kind of vomit out there and end up looking great but having no real excitement. Once the spectacle of the action is over there’s just another scene, it’s a lack of build up and then an anticlimactic let down. It doesn’t bode well for an action superhero movie to be boring.

Besides the lack of build up, the action also manages to discredit the continuity of the film itself. After receiving the ring Hal flies to OA, the planet of the Green Lanterns, to receive his training. There is a fifteen minute training scene where Hal is told by Green Lantern super solider Sinestro that’s he’s unworthy of the ring and he’s beaten to hell by Killawog, the training instructor for the Lanterns. This sets up that Jordan is going to have to strengthen his focus and overcome his fear to really be effective as a Green Lantern. This theme remains throughout the film yet whenever the action scenes come, Jordan is a master of the ring, wielding the power as if he’s had it for years. It completely derails the emotional core of the movie.

The special effects movie with no substance lands squarely at the feet of the writers and Ryan Reynolds. The character of Hal Jordan is sarcastic and childish but he also has depth and stoic sense of pride and honor. Reynolds can do the sarcastic but that’s about it. The boyish charm that makes Reynolds a cash cow in the world of romantic comedies isn’t enough to carry him through here. His Hal Jordan never rises above the sarcastic insincerity so we never believe Jordan has learned anything.

In one particularly gruesome scene, Jordan goes before the Guardians to plead for his planet. It’s supposed to be a pivotal scene in the film, the one where we see Hal Jordan finally accept the burden and responsibility of being a Green Lantern. Instead it feels like a kid begging the dean of students not to revoke the frat charter because of the kegger the night before.

On the script side, the writers never figure out exactly what to do with the other Green Lanterns. It reads as if the writers got overly excited at the possibility for amazing special effects so they just wrote in scenes they wanted to see. The other Green Lanterns come and go, mostly as plot devices to get the exposition across. In actuality they serve no other purpose besides to explain things. Instead of a solid script where discovery is made throughout the film, Green Lantern just brings in various characters to explain what’s going on and hides that cheap exposition behind big effects.

The fourth film is the mess of what the other characters are doing. There’s Hal’s best friend, who serves no purpose other than badly written comic relief. We have the wasted Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond. Sarsgaard does the best with what he has and proves how good an actor he is by rising above bad dialog that’s so cliché and silly I kept expecting Hammond to twist a fake mustache and laugh maniacally.

Let me be clear here, Sarsgaard is very good but he has zero to work with. At no point does the script make him a real threat or a credible villain. The final waste is Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett who are given parts and dialog better left to dinner theater. Everybody here just moves around, lost in a bad script and mediocre direction. The only other person who is effective here is Mark Strong as Sinestro. He nails the character across the board, even with the awful lines he’s expected to deliver.

Green Lantern also has no 2nd half. The first half sets up all of these roads that never go anywhere. We’re given this long pre-amble about how Jordan must focus and train but then suddenly Parallax shows up and Jordan has no problem kicking his ass. The end of the movie comes so quickly there’s not even a real battle, just some lofty special effects and an ending. What’s particularly troubling is the lack of basic structure. Mid-way through the film Hal Jordan isn’t very good at being a Lantern and the best Lantern warriors are picked off by Parallax like so much dandruff. When Parallax finally reaches earth, suddenly Jordan is the greatest Green Lantern ever. Really? Way to ignore basic plot progression structure guys.

These are the problems simply from a film perspective; I’ve ignored the massive liberties the film took with actual Green Lantern lore. Having been an avid reader of Green Lantern for over twenty years I was shocked by the complete lack of respect for the source material. The rumor on the farm is that this movie is a make or break for continued DC films, if it fails, then there might not be anymore after the next Batman. If this is the quality we can expect from DC and Warner Brothers, then that might be a good thing.

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