As far as mindless summer diversions go, Green Lantern isn’t that bad.
Had to pause before writing anything else because “isn’t that bad” is about as enthusiastic there is to get about Green Lantern. It’s a satisfactorily entertaining adaptation and one of the few movies whose FX are actually worth the gouge in price for a 3D viewing. In a world where 3D-ocrity rules, the visuals are such that it almost makes up for the substandard, bordering on generic, origin story. The most acutely negative thing I can write about the Green Lantern experience is that X-Men: First Class and Thor were released before it, perhaps setting the bar too high so that “adequate” is merely…adequate. At least you won’t be wondering why you bothered to pay for those worthless 3D glasses.
Time for some SPOILER TALK! Below are SPOILERS for Green Lantern. Feel free to add your thoughts in the Comments section.
The movie opens with a mealy-mouthed prologue involving “the emerald energy of Willpower.” What the f…never mind, just go with it. Anyway, since no one will be tested later, beings called Green Lanterns use this Emerald Energy as peacekeepers of the Universe. Okay. At last count there’s 3,600 Green Lanterns. Oddly specific. They each defend a certain Sector.
-I couldn’t help but laugh as there are title cards that actually denote what sector the audience is in during the movie (e.g. Sector 3145 or Sector 3752). Like we’re going to look at a fucking map to remember that Fish Head Guy protects Sector…whatever.
You’d think we’re going to get our first shot of a former People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, but we’re not because there’s more prologue to be had. Goody.
There’s a really evil Entity called Parallax. It looks like the most dangerous inkblot in the Universe. A legendary Lantern named Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison, Jango Fett himself looking like Kelsey Grammer) defeated Parallax but did not destroy it.
We forward to the present, to a planet named Ryut, where Parallax looks like it’s been rendered inert. Or has it?
Some Lanterns go to check it out. Probably third-string Lanterns because they seem pit scared to have such a close Parallax view. It turns out that Parallax is still alive and destroys the superfluous Lanterns. It’s headed off the planet Oa for a little reunion with Abin Sur. In the ensuing skirmish, Abin Sur is mortally wounded. But he has just enough power and will to bequeath the ring to someone who deserves it, someone who will uphold the tradition of justice and courage and all that shit that the Lanterns represent, someone who gets their name in huge letters on the poster.
Only half and hour later, the movie opens on our unsuspecting hero, an everyday screw-up named Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds, not sure how he feels being tunnel buddies with Sean Penn). He’s an ace pilot, but he’s got personal issues that will have to be addressed by the end of the film. He’s not as great in life as he is in flying as he’s squandered so much of his potential…and any other clichés that apply before he becomes a superhero.
It’s a big day for Hal because he and his wingman Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) are trying to get a government contract for Carol’s dad Carl (Jay O. Sanders) by flying against the latest AI planes. Senator Hammond (Tim Robbins) is watching with keen interest. Carol confesses that the state of the art planes have pretty much destroyed her during all the tests. But Carol isn’t Hal. And you can tell that Carl Ferris wanted a boy.
Of course shallow Hal is late to the test because he’s such a screw-up. He’d better learn to take some responsibility for his actions before the movie ends.
During the test Hal proves his skills as a pilot using unorthodox methods that are not only dangerous, they’re also unorthodox. Unfortunately, while trying to evade the other planes, Hal has a Dead Father Flashback and his nerves lock up. He’s forced to bail and his plane is destroyed. Damn that Dead Father Flashback Syndrome.
Dead Father Syndrome- lampooned in Hot Shots so much so that you didn’t think you’d actually see it in a film again except as a parody. But yes, it’s taken “seriously” in Green Lantern, which makes it one of the unintentionally funniest moments of the Summer. You see, young Hal was forced to watch his pilot dad Martin (Jon Tenney) crash RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM. This is all in caps because this was very traumatizing for young Hal and may serve as a quick and convenient psychological reason why Hal is such a fuck-up. Too bad Daddy Jordan didn’t sign that million dollar life insurance policy. He was going to right after the flight. He also had a winning lottery ticket with him but was going to cash it…right after the flight.
Turns out Hal’s mouth is writing checks his ass can’t cash, and as a result Ferris does not get the contract. Hal is fired. But Hal quits instead. Carol intervenes and Hal is suspended.
This is not good for Hal. He crashed a billion dollar plane, could be out of a job. If only he weren’t squandering his potential being a screw-up. If only…
…a big green ball of light would crash near him, maybe changing his life forever.
Hal runs over to the crash site and sees a purple alien. It’s Abin Sur, the same alien from the 45-minute prologue. It looks like he’s dying. But he has just enough life in him to hand Hal a Green Ring and a Lantern…that is also Green. Abin Sur spews some stuff about how the Ring chose Frodo, er Hal, and how it’s a great honor and with great power comes great responsibly and that you can’t go left without going right and how you have to say the oath to the Lantern with the Ring on. Then he dies.
Hal calls up his Geek Friend and tells him what happened. Then he and Geek Friend take off right before the authorities arrive to survey the crash.
Abin Sur’s body is secretly taken in for dissection and study. The doctor doing the study is one Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard). Hector’s daddy is Senator Hammond, even though Peter Sarsgaard and Tim Robbins couldn’t look any less like father and son. Daddy Hammond has pulled some strings in order for Hector to get the job…a mistake that could cost them everything. You’ll notice that Hector’s forehead is wider than your local IMAX screen. As you’ve seen from the trailer, it’s about to get bigger.
Meanwhile, back at his apartment Hal somehow recites The Oath (a jizzworthy moment for fans of the comic book) and is able to harness the power of the ring, the ability to make manifest what his mind wills. It also makes him part of a very exclusive club, The Green Lantern Corp. 3,600 members…now plus Hal…minus all those other unimportant ones that were killed…makes it a lot less than 3,600…so new job openings. The Ring brings him to the Corp planet Oa, where he meets the de facto leader of the Corp, Sinestro (Mark Strong, looking like a matchstick). Sinestro is disgusted that the Ring chose a human, especially one that screws up as much as Hal. Hal apologizes for being in the crappy The Amityville Horror remake. He needed the work, anybody would have done it.
After the standard training montage, it’s clear that Hal isn’t ready to save the world. But the toothpaste is already out of the tube, and whether the Universe is ready or not, Hal is a Lantern, and he’d better get his shit together hero-style or else the Earth is doomed, and the Lanterns will have to do another Lantern census.
What works with Green Lantern –
1) As mentioned before, the FX are very well rendered, and the 3D is, for once, justified, especially in a sequence involving a helicopter crashing, even though it does veer into Tron territory.
2) If only Ryan Reynolds had the ability to use the Ring to will him a better script, then it would have allowed him not to do so much of the heavy lifting during GL’s running time, as Reynolds is what makes what could have been a Wolverine-like experience bearable. Yes, Reynolds is doing the 15th version of Van Wilder that he does in every other movie, but we like Hal because of it. Or, we like Reynolds. Yes, he gets paid for the comedies, but movies like Chaos Theory, Adventureland, and The Nines show that he can act when they let him. If Green Lantern gets a sequel greenlit, let’s hope the script gives Reynolds some help.
What doesn’t work-
1) Dead Father Flashback Syndrome- this part of the story is so absurd it bears mentioning again. The Green Lantern script is credited to four writers (Greg Berlati, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg). This made me wonder which one of these guys thought up using DFFS to actually put in a movie made after 1991. Was it right after watching a worn out VHS copy of Top Gun? If so, that would make the casting of Tim Robbins a little more justified.
2) Angela Bassett shows up for no reason to do a part that doesn’t need someone of Bassett’s caliber. Either one of her kids is a huge Green Lantern fan or she really, really needed a job.
3) An FX heavy Climax that is as hollow as it is superficially dazzling. Usually capable of action, director Martin Campbell (The Mask of Zorro, Casino Royale) seems to have forgotten that we have to care about what’s going on in order for the special effects to have any effect on the audience. It’s not quite Michael Bay in Transformers, but it gets dangerously close.
Overall. The more I think about Green Lantern, the more ‘meh’ I feel. It’s not good, nor is it horrible. See it and have yourself a completely average time. That’s not much of an endorsement, but Green Lantern isn’t much of a movie. If, however, you’re forced to choose between Green Lantern and the other movie opening this weekend, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, then by all means, go see Green Lantern. So Sad. Has Jim Carrey’s career sunken so that he has to act against CGI animals and children? Because that strategy has worked SO well for Eddie Murphy…