Green Lantern has been hammered by critics plus most fans, including me, have been dreading its potential stinker status since we saw the first limp trailer. There’s no real consensus among critics as to what went wrong. Some say Ryan Reynolds is awful and others say he’s the film’s saving grace. Some think the special effects are too cartoonish. The list goes on and on. The only agreement is the film is a turkey.
Well, I saw it today with very low expectations. The film’s issues all come down to one fact: it’s dull. I can’t name one exciting set piece from the entire film. Despite starring a hero with a power of unlimited potential, the movie is so un-imaginative I can’t believe it took four writers to come up with the script.
So what was it that led a sometimes-excellent director and lots of solid talent to deliver a dud? I think the key was they assumed the concept of the Green Lantern Corps and its mythology would be instantly compelling and didn’t work to make it so.
Let’s look at Sinestro as an example. Sinestro is the once-great Green Lantern who eventually goes rogue and becomes Hal’s greatest enemy. I was going to put SPOILER ALERT in front of that sentence but come on, the guy’s name is Sinestro and he looks like the devil. Not since Grimer Wormtongue has a name been so obvious a clue to a character’s nature.
Anyway, in the movie we see Sinestro report to the Guardians, make a speech, be mean to Hal, make another report to the Guardians, save Hal, and then say something nice at the end. He doesn’t interact with the main character in any significant way so why exactly is the audience supposed to care about what happens to him next? The script hasn’t done anything to earn any emotional payoff. My son thought he was cool but he already knows who Sinestro is and was just excited to see him as a “real person.” It’s a shame because Mark Strong plays him well and gets as much as he can out of it. There’s only so much you can do, though, when the character is dead on the page.
That’s how it handles the entire Lantern Corps. The movie is too busy telling you it’s all awesome instead of making it so. And for god’s sake, don’t lay everything out at the beginning of the movie. Let the audience discover things with the lead character. Avatar had just as plain of a script but it was still entertaining because it was always revealing new things. This movie comes with a prologue giving you everything up front. The movie should’ve started with the discovery of Parallax and Abin Sur being mortally wounded by it with no further explanation. That way there’s a layer of mystery to keep us interested.
Also, aren’t movies like this supposed to build to slam bang endings? First with Thor and now Green Lantern, we’ve had two superhero films this summer with anticlimactic finishes. At least Thor had more fun getting there. Plus, you actually cared about the people involved.
So what makes the movie dull and not just terrible? I hate to say it, because I’ve never liked him, but Ryan Reynolds was a solid Hal Jordan. They nailed his personality and he gave things a little more life than they would’ve had otherwise. I also liked Peter Saarsgard as Hector Hammond. This is all weird because I’ve always liked Hal Jordan and Peter Saarsgard but disliked Ryan Reynolds and Hector Hammond. It all balanced out.
This movie may be the ultimate example of screwing up by trying to launch a film series instead of concentrating on making the one movie great. You have to earn the franchise. You can’t assume you’ll get one.
If you do want to see a good Green Lantern movie, check out the animated film Green Lantern: First Flight where they do everything right this one did wrong. Also, Justice League: The New Frontier has one of the all-time great takes on Hal.
By the way, I mentioned in my last post hoping to see GL’s many creators’ names in the credits. As expected, all it said was “Based on characters and concepts published by DC Comics.”