The following post contains major spoilers for Green Lantern as well as middlin’ spoilers for Dark City (we also have minor spoilers for The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy (the extended version comes out on Blu-Ray on the 28th!) and The Dark Crystal). In a nutshell, I’d say that Green Lantern was a fun movie while in the theater but, as I walked out to the car, it slowly became a “wait, why didn’t they…?” movie and, by the time I got home, a “what the heck was *THAT*?” movie. I have been told that my tendencies while walking out to my car and driving home indicate a fundamental flaw on my part. If you share this flaw, be warned that this movie will trigger it. Otherwise, I found it to be okay… for a superhero movie.
(I admit: the first draft had me talking about weaknesses to wood evolving to weaknesses to yellow evolving to weaknesses to fear and the sheer number of retcons necessary to pull such a thing off. It was too cranky by half, though. I’m sure you can come up with your own cranky jokes involving Goldface.)
The movie does a good job of explaining the way the Green Lantern Universe works and in such a way that you won’t be confused about whatever happened to the yellow vulnerability or anything like that. They do a good job of sprinkling in little things from the comics (you’ll recognize a handful of characters from the corps beyond Tomar-Re, Kilowog, and Sinestro) and update the origin story admirably. The scene where Abin Sur and Hal interact feels ripped right out of Showcase #22. It sort of felt like watching the first Harry Potter movie insofar as I kept saying “oh, so *THAT* is what that would look like in real life…”
Sadly, the throwaway visuals were the best part of the movie. (Honestly, I tried to talk about the stuff that I liked for longer but I keep remembering things…)
The villian Hector Hammond was never really a top-tier bad guy in the first place and while Peter Sarsgaard does a spectacular job of bringing him to life… he’s stuck trying to make a grand villian out of a resentful psychic guy with Proteus syndrome… which is just as well, the hero he’s fighting against is, well, do you remember the movie Hot Shots!? The scene in the movie where the psychiatrist stamps Charlie Sheen’s psych eval report with the “Father Syndrome” rubber stamp? Yeah, well, Hal Jordan has the same thing going on in this movie.
Hector’s just a distraction compared to Parallax, however. Parallax is going to eat Earth on the way to going to eat OA (the homebase for the Green Lanterns). Sinestro takes several of his finest warriors to beat up Parallax and Parallax wins handily (fair enough, I suppose). What does not make sense is that Hal beats up Parallax using a trick used by Kilowog during the (far, far, far too short) training sequence (a training sequence, the movie points out, being watched by Sinestro). Sinestro’s handpicked greatest warriors were quickly dispatched to the point where I’m wondering if, in the sequel, Sinestro will talk about sabatoging the mission to get rid of those who were most likely to stand in his way in the future. (Which would, granted, lampshade the problem nicely.)
This brings me to my main criticism of the movie: A Green Lantern ring is capable of creating whatever is in the imagination of the wielder, right? Then why are we stuck seeing little more than flying giant fists, swords, or machine guns? I’m not putting such down for the comic book, mind… I’m sure they’re easy to draw and striking to look at. It’s just that when you have a bunch of experienced Green Lanterns explaining how the ring turns Will into Reality, Reality ends up being dull by comparison.
I suspect that the main culprit, at the end of the day, is CGI itself. If you think about what was going on in any given scene as it was being shot, you’ve got a bunch of guys standing around pointing their arms at each other. Hector Hammond works because Mr. Sarsgaard had the makeup to make him look like the Elephant Man and he was acting like he was resentful and in pain and delighted to manifest psychic powers. Ryan Reynolds is stuck being asked to pose while being told that “we’ll add in the other stuff in post-production”. Remember Dark City? At the end when Rufus Sewell’s character is manifesting his own psychic powers for the first time, he leans forward and waves spew from his forehead. I remember, on the drive home, telling Maribou “if they didn’t have special effects, it would have just been him leaning forward and looking constipated”.
Anymore, thinking about CGI makes me think about The Dark Crystal. (We were discussing this movie just yesterday and talking about how and why it holds up.) We compared it to, among other things, Lord of the Rings (specifically Gollum). Gollum’s scenes in Lord of the Rings, no matter how groundbreaking they were at the time, are uncanny and “CGI-ey” (on top of that, they haven’t aged particularly well). The Dark Crystal has illusions that are very grounded in reality and the illusions interact with each other in a way that carries the viewer along with it. Gollum is CGI. Dark City’s psychic powers are CGI. Green Lantern’s manifest will is CGI… and you’re stuck watching actors pretend rather than watching them act.
There are a handful of scenes that are very striking from the movie, don’t get me wrong. Sinestro’s speech to Hal. *ANY* scene with Peter Sarsgaard. It’s just that these scenes are few and far between scenes with CGI that don’t have enough script heft to drag you to the next really good scene.
You’ve got all of the computing power in the world. A veritable Green Lantern ring in itself! Unfortunately, all the imaginations of the writers could come up with were fists. Swords. Guns.
But Tomar-Re was really cool and I liked Sinestro’s character (all five minutes of it) and Abin Sur was amazing.
It’s just that such things weren’t enough to hold up the movie for me by the time I made it to the car.