"Green Lantern" Movie Review
Hey everybody! Today, I have decided to delve into arguably the most infamous film of summer 2011, a movie that has been critically panned and described as "monumental cheese", "jumbled, confusing, dim, and threadbare", and "just stupid". Not to mention it was supposedly rumored to be a "genre-killer", a phrase that I haven't heard used to describe a motion picture since the cinematic travesty that is "Batman and Robin". Could this movie really be THAT bad? Good people, let us find out...
Hey everybody! So to kick off my new fansite, I thought I would post some of my old movie reviews that I wrote for my Facebook page. Starting off, we have my review of the infamous "Green Lantern" which I orginally wrote on Wednesday, October 19, 2011. Hope you enjoy it!
But first, a bit of backstory:
It's the summer of 2011, and Marvel has been annihilating DC at the box office, with their Marvel Cinematic Universe films, recently named the tenth-highest grossing franchise of all time, consisting of films such as "Thor" and "Captain America: The First Avenger", that both are profitable and positively reviewed. Sure, DC still had respect in the film industry for the legendary "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight", but with "The Avengers" on the rise for Marvel, which promises to be potentially the biggest superhero movie of all time, DC may also have "The Dark Knight Rises" on the way, but they needed a strategy to beat Marvel, and they needed one fast.
So they turned to some of their other superheroes to get them on the silver screen. Superman was getting rebooted, Wonder Woman's TV show had just been cancelled due to poor test audience reception, and the script for a Flash movie currently lay somewhere and development hell. What could be DC's next big hit?
But the answer was obvious. Green Lantern! Production of a Green Lantern film had been up in the air since 1997, and what better time to bring the character to the silver screen, what with DC's massive crossover comics event "Blackest Night" reaching it's conclusion? So, production restarted, Martin Campbell, most famous for directing 2006's "Casino Royale, was attached to direct, and Van Wilder himself, Ryan Reynolds, was set to portray the title character.
The ingredients for a great movie were all there, so what went wrong to get "Green Lantern" so universally hated? And, in this critic's opinion, is it really that bad?
Here's a plot summary courtesy of Wikipedia. If you plan on seeing this on DVD, don't read any further!
"Millions of years before the Earth was formed, a group of beings called the Guardians of the Universe used the green essence of willpower to create an intergalactic police force called the Green Lantern Corps. They split the universe into 3,600 sectors, with one Green Lantern per sector. One such Green Lantern, Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) of Sector 2814, defeated the fear-essence being Parallax (voiced by Clancy Brown) and imprisoned him in the Lost Sector on the ruined planet Ryut. However, in the present day, Parallax escapes from his prison. Six months later, after killing four Green Lanterns and destroying two planets, Parallax attacks Sector 2814 and mortally wounds Abin Sur, who escapes and crash-lands on Earth. The dying Abin Sur commands his ring to find a worthy successor on the planet.
Ferris Aircraft test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) is chosen by the ring and transported to the crash site, where Abin Sur appoints him a Green Lantern, by telling him to take the lantern and speak the oath. At home he says the oath of the Green Lanterns while under trance from the glow of the lantern. After he gets attacked while leaving a bar Jordan swings to punch one of his attackers, letting out a huge fist of green energy, afterwards Jordan is whisked away to the Green Lantern Corps home planet of Oa, where he meets and trains with Tomar-Re (voiced by Geoffrey Rush) and Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan). He encounters Corps leader Sinestro (Mark Strong), who is not pleased that a human—which is primitive compared to other species—has become a Green Lantern. With Sinestro seeing him as unfit and fearful, Jordan quits and returns to Earth, keeping the power ring and lantern.
Meanwhile, after being summoned by his father Senator Robert Hammond (Tim Robbins) to a secret government facility, scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) performs an autopsy on Abin Sur's body. A piece of Parallax inside the corpse inserts itself inside Hammond, mutating the scientist and giving him telepathy and telekinetic powers, at the cost of his sanity. After discovering that he was only chosen due to his father's influence, Hammond resentfully attempts to kill his father by telekinetically sabotaging his helicopter at a party. However, Jordan uses his ring to save the senator and the party guests—including his childhood sweetheart, Ferris manager and fellow test pilot Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), who later recognizes Jordan under the suit and mask. Shortly afterward, Jordan encounters Hammond, who succeeds in his second attempt to kill his father by burning him alive. Both Jordan and Hammond realize Parallax is on his way to Earth.
Back on Oa, the Guardians tell Sinestro that Parallax was once one of their own, until he desired to control the yellow essence of fear, only to become the embodiment of fear itself. Believing the only means to fight fear is by fear itself, Sinestro requests for the Guardians to forge a ring of the same yellow power, preparing to concede Earth's destruction to Parallax in order to protect Oa. However, Jordan appears and tells Sinestro not to use the yellow ring and for the Corps to help him protect his planet from Parallax's imminent invasion. They deny his request, but allow Jordan to return and protect his home planet.
Upon returning to Earth, Jordan saves Ferris from being injected with Parallax's essence by Hammond. Parallax then arrives, consuming Hector's life force for failing to kill Jordan, and then wreaking havoc on Coast City. Jordan lures Parallax away from Earth and toward the Sun, using the Sun's gravity to pull and disintegrate the entity. He loses consciousness after the battle, but is saved by Sinestro, Kilowog, and Tomar-Re. Later the entire Green Lantern Corps congratulates him for his bravery. Sinestro tells Jordan he now bears the responsibility of protecting his sector as a Green Lantern. Sometime later when he is alone, Sinestro, still in possession of the yellow ring, places it on his finger, causing his green suit to change to yellow along with his eyes."
Well there you have it. My thoughts on this plot? As with "Spider-Man 3" before it, the movie tries to fit in too much in too little time. Too little time is spent on Oa with the other Green Lanterns, and much more time is spent on Earth with Hal and Carol. And even though seems seemed to take a backseat to many long, drawn-out scenes with the film's antagonist Hector Hammond, who seems to just kind of appear and take over the movie. Unlike "Thor" before it, which was able to flow seamlessly between scenes transitioning from Earth to Asgard, transitions from Earth to Oa here just feel few, far between, and when they happen, are extremely heavy-handed and awkward. The plot gives us very little time to learn about the other Green Lanterns (we only really meet a small handful), we barely see Oa, and we don't get to learn much at all about the universe that Hal has been presented with. It's really quite a shame, because scenes that are actually on Oa are very interesting and fun, some of the film's best. Hopefully in a sequel, the plot can leave Earth behind and explore Oa and the rest of the universe more, because here things just seem constrained and jumbled, which can be said for many other aspects of the movie, such as the terrible script and bland musical score, which are so disappointing they aren't even worth discussing.
Next, let's discuss the cast, which is such a strange mixed bag here, it's quite baffling. There's a fine line between of great performances and wretched performances, and the only one standing on that line seems to be Reynolds himself, but more on that later.
First, let's begin with Blake Lively, who played love interest Carol Ferris. Now, being one of the MANY teenage males that previously suckered in by Michael Bay to the soul-crushing "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen", on account of him using countless scenes of Megan Fox in white running through the desert, I can safely say that, yes, Blake Lively is hot. VERY hot. But as hot is she is, she is bad in this movie. VERY bad. Seriously, her line reading is so uninspired, it's like she was only in this movie because she previously starred in a pre-teen romance show and the filmmakers wanted to cash-in to the female demographic or something. Oh wait, that's EXACTLY why she's in this movie. It's truly a sadness that Hollywood feels a need nowadays to trade up looks for actual acting ability with female leads. This is definitely a role that needs to be recast if there are any sequels.
The other very disappointing performance comes from Peter Sarsgaard, who portrays the film's villain, Dr. Hector Hammond. Now, I'm no big Green Lantern fan myself, I've always been pretty knowledgeable about the basics of the character, and over the summer I read "Green Lantern: Secret Origin" by Geoff Johns, a graphic novel that was meant to be a reintroduction to the character and a prelude to the comics event "Blackest Night", mentioned above. The Hector Hammond introduced in this movie and the Hector Hammond in that story are two very different characters, with, while the former had the potential to be more interesting, failed in execution, leaving the latter ending up more interesting. The Hector Hammond in the comics begins as a smug, self-righteous corporate jerk, with more than a few insecurities and a bit of a god complex, turned into in an exceedingly creepy telepathic mutated abomination. Hammond in the movies is a creepy nerd turned into an even creepier nerd with a big head and super powers. And most of that, seems to be the fault of actor Peter Sarsgaard who, while I hear is a talented actor (I haven't seem him in anything else), just plays up Hammond with so much ham and cheese that it's criminal. Imagine Hector Hammond as a more tragic Doc Ock in "Spider-Man 2"-esque character, a victim of circumstances, unloved by his father, and losing the girl of his dreams, Carol, to Hal, a former friend turned rival who gets unimaginable powers while Hammond just becomes a disfigured monster! Wouldn't that have been a much more interesting villain? And the basis for that was all there, it was just bogged down by a bad performance. And the other villain, the god-like fear entity known as Parallax, isn't even worth mentioning. While voiced particularly creepy by Clancy Brown, a very talented live action and voice actor who's always a pleasure to see turn up in movies, the villain itself is just humorously stupid. It's a roaring yellow cloud with a face on it. Come on. Has Hollywood learned nothing from "Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer"?!
Now to the good performances. While Ryan Reynolds doesn't particularly amazing as Hal Jordan, he certainly isn't nearly as bad as I had initially given him credit for, at least, not as bad as Lively, and brings in that trademark smug, sarcastic Reynolds charm, that helped him to win over another well-hated comic book movie for me, "Blade: Trinity".
Seasoned actors Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan also give good, yet disappointingly underused performances, lending each of their unique voices to fellow Green Lanterns Tomar-Re and Kilowog, and Temuera Morrison also gives a solid performance as the wise Green Lantern Abin-Sur, but the best portrayal of the film by far comes from Mark Strong as a character that would grow to become one of the greatest comic book villains of all time: Sinestro. He doesn't start the film that way though: for pretty much its entirety, he's just another Green Lantern, the apprentice of Abin Sur. But Strong, one of my favorite actors by the way, plays the character PERFECTLY: all the emotion, frustration, and conflict, with the other characters of the movie. He's really the film's most sympathetic, yet also horribly underused character: he just wants to instill justice throughout the universe in anyway he can. But in the end, this just proves to be his downfall, and if you stay after the credits, you'll witness this fall from grace firsthand, in a scene that is sure to make fans of the comics squeal with glee.
So in the end, is "Green Lantern" a bad movie? Well, I think that the more accurate question would be, HOW bad is "Green Lantern"? Because, make no mistake, this is not a good movie. It's a poorly written, cold, dull, dismal, unintelligent mess. Which is really the biggest slap in the face of all because "Green Lantern" really deserved a GREAT movie. In the comics, Green Lantern is a fascinating and exciting space epic, and a movie really had great potential and could have hypothetically been this generation's "Star Wars". Instead, its just sort of a poor "Iron Man" rip-off.
But, let's look at some other truly horrendous superhero movies. "Batman and Robin". "Howard the Duck". "Steel". "Elektra". "Hulk." The list goes on and on and on. Bad movie after bad movie after bad movie. When faced with all of that, would I watch "Green Lantern" again? Heck yes! There's some very good ideas here, Mark Strong's Sinestro among them, but none of them are brought to fruition and turn an average movie into a good movie.
So I'm going to, however unenthusiastically, recommend a rent for "Green Lantern". It's the best of the worst superhero movies ever made, and, preferably the less you know of the comic, the better off you'll be. I can just only hope that DC's next superhero they decide to bring to the big screen ends up being more successful, because at this rate, I'm looking at any of Warner Bros.'s plans for a "Justice League" movie with more and more dread.
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