SUMMER MOVIES: Green Lantern

It’s not easy being green.  In fact, if you’re Green Lantern, it fucking sucks to be green.

So, why does Green Lantern suck so hard?  I mean, that’s what we all want to know, right?  Sandwiched between all the pithy reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and the simplistic reviews of those who mutter, “It sucked,” we are all looking for the true meaning as to why this movie failed on so many levels (except box office, which we’ll get to later).

I have written screenplays.  None of them have been produced by Hollywood.  I get the irony of me tearing down a movie.  Put your money where your mouth is right?  Dude, for real, give me the $150 million bucks they tossed into Green Lantern and I guarantee a better show.  At LEAST a better script.  That being said, it’s definitely more fun to write negative reviews than positive ones.  If nothing else, Green Lantern has given me a chance to really sink my teeth into a terrible movie and rip it’s flesh out.

I only recently started reading Green Lantern (and have stopped in the last few months due to boredom) and started with his origin, so it’s very fresh in my mind.  He’s an engaging character, but the truth is he’s not really all that great.  He has his merits and moments and a fairly rich history with some ups, downs, and, yup, you guessed it, deaths and rebirths.  But, I’m not going to dive into all of that, because none of it matters in the sense that this is an origin film that does not encapsulate the history of Green lantern from the 1940’s until now.  This is a simple (way too simple) origin story and nothing more, which is just fine for starting off a film franchise.  Right?

It would seem not.  From the casting rumors up until the first footage shown I have felt underwhelmed about Green Lantern.  Ryan Reynolds seemed like such an obvious choice, if for no other reason than that he comes prepackaged with the superhero physique.  Reynolds has shown that he’s just slightly more than a one-note comedian (a la Dane Cook) with some strong performances in “Buried” and “Definitely, Maybe” but has yet to transcend into A-list territory.  Green Lantern was never meant to do that, but it didn’t necessarily do him any favors.

The first trailer for Green Lantern highlighted the fact that they CGI’d the costume and made it all green (apparently, multi-colored superheroes aren’t allowed in Hollywood, unless the comic company forms its own studio to implement it, ahem, Marvel).  DC and Warners took note of the outcry from fans and tossed $2 million more into the pot to clean up effects and salvage, salvage, salvage, all the way up to a late in the game marketing push.  A better trailer was cut, but still didn’t sell it all the way for me.

I gave it the benefit of the doubt, however, and knew I would have to judge for myself.  Rotten Tomatoes warned me not to do it, spewing out a sad 22% rotten rating (It now sits at 26%…sad), but I had to see the dead body for myself.  And rest assured, Green Lantern is D.O.A.

So, enough summation and backstory and bullshit, right?  Here are 17 reasons why Green Lantern sucked:

1)  Martin Campbell collapsed under the special effects. Campbell, a fairly prolific director (Goldeneye, Casino Royale, Mask of Zorro) had all the tools to deliver a good, action-packed show, but his experience has been with practical effects, not computer generated ones, and I think his lack of experience in the digital realm crushed any chance of a truly visionary film.  Hiring Campbell was Warner/D.C.’s first big mistake.  Good initiative, bad judgment.  Why not try to lure someone like Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City)?  There are a bevy of talented young filmmakers that could bring vision to a property that sorely needed it.  As it is, you couldn’t get more cookie-cutter if you tried.

2)  DC had too many chiefs and not enough Indians in the production.  Letting Geoff Johns (the current writer of the GL comics and overall DC architect) serve as a consultant is a welcome addition, but instead of standing by and correcting little things here and there, why didn’t John’s just write a script?  Who knows the character better at this point?  Nope, for whatever reason, DC/Warner’s decided to hire a bunch of hacks who worked on crappy TV shows like Everwood and Eli Stone to put together their story.  And boy, does it ever feel like a pilot episode for a TV show.

3)  Stop making franchises and start making movies.  This is an example for all films being made today; Green Lantern is just the latest example of this money-grubbing failure.  Instead of focusing on just making a kick ass movie, the filmmakers focused on making something that can be continued in numerous sequels, instead of making a movie that raises the stakes so high that you question whether the character could even carry on.  It’s a foregone conclusion.  Of course Green Lantern will continue to have many green-glowing adventures!  He hardly suffered at all!  Which leads to:

4)  Where’s the fucking conflict? Oh, boo hoo, I’m scaaaarrreeeed! Green Lantern is embodied as a “Maverick” who finds it difficult to perform under pressure (I wonder if the ring can improve erectile dysfunction…) and finally realizes that, well, he ain’t afraid of the dark no more so now he can be green and fight bad guys.  He’s afraid to commit, afraid to be a hero, and blah, blah, blah we’ve seen it all before.  It’s so formulaic it invalidates the formula.  There is not a shred of originality here, even if there’s never been a Green Lantern movie before.  It all feels like something that anyone could dream up, rather than a great idea from some talented comic creators.

5)  Why do we always have to have enormous villains with tentacles? Is it too much to ask for a villain that can get choke slammed into the ground?  I mean, did DC learn nothing from Superman Returns (let’s fucking hope so with the Zack Snyder “Man of Steel” next year)?  We watched a two-and-a-half hour handjob to Richard Donner that ended with Superman lifting a giant rock and throwing it into space.  No happy ending there.  So, what’s the problem?  Are there no good mano y mano villains in DCU?  Nope, there’s plenty.  So, anyone care to take this one, because I’m stumped.  While Parallax is a major villain in the Green Lantern comics, he has been embodied in much cooler and villainous forms than a giant puff of smoke with stupid ass tentacles and a big head.  So, fuck him.  He doesn’t frighten me and you can’t help but squint your eyes and wonder if someone lost a bet when designing him for the film.

6)  Blake Lively is hot.  Oh, and also, she breathes no life into this turd. Lively was great as the cracked out whore in “The Town,” so it’s kind of surprising that she is so absolutely joyless and uninspired in this film.  She looks smashing in a pencil skirt, but she may as well be a mannequin with a pre-recorded voice box in this.  There is no chemistry or emotional connect with her and Reynolds and it’s felt in every scene.  She is such an integral character in the comics and even plays a larger role as a ring-bearer in the future and she just feels like sideshow window dressing for the film.

7) Did everyone know that Tim Robbins was having a pool put in? Yeah, apparently he needed the money for a down payment so he dyed his hair gray and collected a paycheck as a Senator in Green Lantern.  A role, which is so unwittingly unnecessary and boring, I don’t give a shit how “essential” it is to Green Lantern canon.  This is Andy Fucking DuFresne from Shawshank Redemption (and also a liberal idiot, but still)!  Seriously, if ever there was an example needed of someone who just needed a paycheck this is it.

8)  Oh, almost forgot Angela Bassett is in this.  So, let’s chalk that up to reason number 7 as well.

9)  Oh, fuck, I forgot about Peter Sarsgaard.  He can be a part of number 7 as well, but I’ve got more to say about him.  Everyone keeps comparing his character of the reclusive scientist Hector Hammond as some kind of David Lynch character, which is an insult to David Lynch.  I don’t really blame Sarsgaard, who I think is a fine actor.  He has nothing to do in this film but wear “big head” make up and roll around like he has irritable bowel syndrome.  Then, he dies.  No, seriously, that’s about it.

10)  How the fuck did James Newton Howard completely drop the ball on the score? Okay, so many of you don’t give a shit about music in movies.  Well, I’m here to tell you that it makes a much bigger difference than you may think.  What is Superman without his bombastic theme by John Williams?  Or Jaws or Star Wars or Indiana Jones?  Okay, so they’re all John Williams scores.  However, there are modern day composers KILLING IT with awesome thematic scores out there today (Steve Jablonsky on Transformers comes to mind).  Truthfully, James Newton Howard is an excellent choice…but the whole score feels like a work in progress, not a polished piece of music.  It feels slapped together and generic. Of course, it doesn’t help when that’s what most of the movie feels like as well.

11)  Action?  What action? I’m struggling to think of one single iconic moment of action in Green Lantern.  Yeah, there’s plenty of goofy Green Lantern ring effects, but none that stick out.  Oh, wait, I just remembered the big fist punch at the end, which was gay.  The choreography was off in every sequence.  Nothing flowed or got your juices flowing (unless you are a chick looking at Ryan Reynolds half naked…then, juices away).  Everything was stiff and uninspired.  It seemed like the actors were hanging off wires, which completely robs the audience of ever buying that “this could be real.”  Again, it felt like a TV show pilot with a modest budget.  Which sucks.

12)  Who the fuck edited this shit? Oh, Stuart Baird…veteran editor of many films that are much better than this.  Next question: Was he on drugs while editing this movie?  There are scenes of matching action that make NO FUCKING SENSE in this film.  As Hal Jordan flies to the planet Oa for the first time, a seemingly awe-inspired moment, we are intercut with Peter Sarsgaard growing a big head (literally) and rolling around in bed like he just had some really bad sushi.  I think I shot my hands up in the “what the fuck?” gesture while sitting in the theater.  I thought maybe Tyler Durden was the projectionist and was cutting in some jacked up shit as a practical joke.  Nope, just Stuart Baird, making a mockery of his success and fools of everyone for watching it.

13)  Digital costumes, huh?  And why was that again? The lack of a costume is felt every time a character is onscreen.  The digital effects are weak as it is, but they could not feel more non-organic.  In fact, everything feels like it was shot on a soundstage, right down to the city scenes at the end while the big-tentacled villain envelopes the skyscrapers.  Nothing ever feels real enough for me to buy into it or feel that the stakes are high.  With the overuse of digital effects the whole movie feels so insincere that I just didn’t give a fuck.

If they ever do a sequel (please, no) then my advice would be to create some in-camera, practical effects and get some bloody costumes made.  I GUARANTEE it will make a difference.

14)  Ryan Reynolds.  Miscast superhero. A lot of people have come to his defense, even saying he’s the best thing about the movie.  All I can say is that it’s not his fault the movie sucks.  He certainly doesn’t make up for an otherwise crappy movie, though.  He just happens to be hip deep in the shit.  Reynolds, for all his charm and charisma, has little to do but paint the role by numbers, which falls largely on the screenwriter’s shoulders.  Where’s the beef, people?  The character arc is weak, the theme is weak, and it makes Green Lantern/Hal Jordan a complete snooze.  Lump it in with reason 4, which is a lack of conflict, I suppose.  I just never felt for Hal Jordan, never cheered him on or wanted to see him succeed (or fail).  I just didn’t care.  Whether the fault lies with the filmmakers or Reynolds himself, it doesn’t matter.  Giving a shit just never comes into play.

15)  Uh, yeah, I get that it’s a comic book movie, but are you trying to say that comic books have no sense of logic whatsoever? Okay, most of you reading this probably don’t read comics.  You should.  Trust me, the entertainment value far exceeds this shitty movie and there are some extremely talented writers and artists putting together some awesome pieces of work.  And yes, even as a comic, they apply logic.  When watching it in a movie, you kind of expect things to make sense.  Green Lantern makes no attempt to convince you that anything happening has reason or purpose or motivation.  It’s just all so fucking retarded.  I could name example after example, but let’s look at one: Hector Hammonds (Sarsgaard) is brought in to examine the body of a deceased alien.  While examining said body, Hammonds is infected by another alien lifeform (Parallax) and it causes his head to grow all big and makes him reel in pain as if he had to watch a Jonas Brothers concert.  After his obvious physical and mental transformation, the people overseeing the body of the alien pick Hammonds up from his house and BRING HIM BACK to the lab, barely lifting an eyebrow to his altered state.  The whole time, I’m sitting there thinking, “No one notices his head is five sizes too big, his eyes are glowing yellow, and he talks like a child molester?”  Apparently, not.  I was truly baffled.  Was I really expected to just “go along” with this?  Nobody questions this for a second.  And maybe that seems nitpicky, but maybe your favorite movies star Adam Sandler.  The lack of logic leads to the lack of conflict, which leads to the absence of suspense altogether.

16)  Green Lantern Corps?  Planet Oa?  Cool, right?  Yeah, for the fifteen minutes they get onscreen. The bottom line is that there is way too much shared time between Earth and Oa.  There should have been predominance in one or the other.  “Thor” was able to balance its two locations with great success in my opinion.  Green Lantern, not so much.  The Earth story is so fucking boring that I began counting the popcorn kernels I dropped on the floor.  Oa is way more interesting, both in location and characters.  Epic Fail points to the filmmakers for selling Mark Strong’s Sinestro down the river and robbing him of the awesome performance he deserved to have as the iconic character.  Even more Fail points awarded for the nonsensical “transition” of Sinestro at the end, which made no sense whatsoever.

17)  What could have saved this movie from utter failure? If all involved had made “The Flash” instead.  Trust me.  They were all better suited for that property, rather than someone as complex as Green Lantern.

And there we have it.  I can’t make any excuses.  I will probably watch Green Lantern again on video just to confirm its craptasticness once again, but my premonition is that it will fit nicely in the fail category along the likes of the Fantastic Four and Punisher films.  I truly hope that DC/Warners learn from this mistake.  They shouldn’t be breaking their arms patting themselves on the back for getting the number one spot at the box office this past week.  I will be SHOCKED if it’s able to maintain any kind of momentum, especially with Cars 2, Transformers, Harry Potter, and Captain America yet to bow.

Best to save your money for those.

SUMMER MOVIE SCORE: 2/10

4 Responses to SUMMER MOVIES: Green Lantern

  1. Zaki June 23, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    So many great points, but #10 and #12 especially are bang-on. Probably the most lackluster Newton Howard score since…well, AIRBENDER last summer, I guess! And when I saw Baird’s name in the credits I nearly jumped out of my chair. As a director he’s “meh,” but he’s ALWAYS been a solid editor. What the heck happened?

  2. Patrick June 24, 2011 at 12:25 am #

    I don’t disagree with your points, but I don’t think they all hold as much a degree of importance to how I viewed the film. Overall I felt the film was pretty weak, but I liked a lot of what I saw. I think it’s a fun film with a few too many moments of boredom that’s bogged down by, well, where DC has put Green Lantern in recent years (this I blame Geoff Johns for). You present your review like the film is an epic fail — I don’t think so, I think it gets a passing grade, but barely. It will get a sequel and the sequel will make or break the franchise, the studio will also limit the budget on the sequel so it will be an uphill battle.

    • Paul Shirey June 24, 2011 at 12:43 am #

      I think Johns is to blame for writing some of the best Green Lantern stories to date and the sales of GL (especially Blackest Night) can prove it. However, even the comics have started to bore me and I’ve since stopped reading GL when Brightest Day started. The movie is, for all intents and purposes, and epic fail. Name one iconic moment. A helicopter “saved” by a race car on a race track? Come on. GL hardly used the power ring throughout the whole film. They never once explored the full capacity of his power as a green lantern. Weak sauce, through and through. Everyone is hoping a sequel will somehow improve upon the original. It won’t. The original will still suck. They’d be better off “trying again.” And the whole thought of the film as a franchise is what blows it and that’s part of the reason it’s such an epic fail. Instead of focusing on making the best movie they could, they simply settled for a “passing grade” instead of going for broke.

  3. Whiteside June 24, 2011 at 4:39 am #

    Right on. Excellent points.

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