Now Showing on Cable: “Green Lantern”

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Premiering this weekend on HBO was one of last year’s quartet of big budget superhero movies, Warner Brothers’ and DC’s “Green Lantern”. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong and Peter Sarsgaard, the movie underperformed at the box office and was derided by critics (it sits at 27% on Rotten Tomatoes).

It was also one of my very earliest reviews, and I enthusiastically sang its praises.

Now that nine months have passed, public consensus has been arrived at, and I’ve had a chance to re-watch it, have I downgraded my opinion?

“Green Lantern” tells the story of fighter jockey Hal Jordan. After recklessly performing in a flight exercise, Jordan is selected by a Green Lantern ring to replace a recently deceased Green Lantern. Shortly thereafter, Jordan finds himself flown to the Green Lantern home world of Oa. He’s quickly thrown into training, but fails. His will isn’t strong enough, and he has too much fear. And so… He quits. But when Earth is threatened by an ancient force that the Lantern Corps is powerless against, he rises to the occasion and comes to the Planet’s defense.

“Green Lantern” was Warner Brother’s first attempt to introduce a non-Superman, non-Batman DC comics character to the big screen. While the Marvel film universe has steadily been expanding for years, only Superman and Batman have graced the silver screen from DC. They certainly spared no expense, here. With a $200 million budget and an aggressive promotional campaign, Warner Brothers certainly can’t be accused of playing it cheap.

Which isn’t to say that mistakes – serious mistakes – weren’t made. For one, it’s become accepted thinking that WB overestimated Ryan Reynolds’ appeal as a bankable star. Aside from this, he’s also had quite a few other underperforming pictures, and his appeal to the public has come into question, fairly or not. The blame shouldn’t fall squarely on his shoulders, of course, there were plenty of other mistakes to go around.

The movie throws a lot at the audience. Hal Jordan’s character and backstory, the mythology of the Green Lantern Corps, the story of how he gets the ring and his subsequent training, two villains and their origins, plus a romantic subplot. When you have THAT many ingredients, something is going to wind up undercooked. Unfortunately, that happened here. A number of these elements come across as half-baked. Atop of which, it’s far too much for most audiences to digest… a council of little blue aliens sitting on high, a number of alien species represented in the Corps, a power ring, a formless, evil, energy being, and a large headed, jaundiced telekinetic… It’s just too much. Tim Robbins could have been excised completely, the Hector Hammond stuff needed some serious rework, and maybe opening with Parallax as a first villain might not have been the best choice.

I realize at this point it sounds as if I’ve done a complete 180 on this film, but I haven’t. I’m simply acknowledging the numerous flaws that exist in the movie, and justifying what will wind up being my mild downgrade. I can’t speak for any other reviewers, but I know that my grades, for the most part, aren’t static. My estimation of most films begins changing almost as soon as I first grade it. I get feedback and trade opinions with others, read other reviews, and then time helps the movie settle in in my mind.

In this case, in spite of its flaws, I still find the movie enormously entertaining. Now, that comes with a concession – I wouldn’t call myself a HUGE Green Lantern fan, per se, but I do have 100s of Green Lantern comics and a number of action figures. He’s well represented in my superhero/comics collection. So I’m a little biased here, I’ll admit. I was very excited – and still am – that these characters and this mythology made its way to the big screen. So, while others were likely scratching their heads at the appearance of Tomar Re, say, I was silently cheering “YES!!” I think the movie has a lot of what I want in a superhero film. Great battles and special effects, a respect for the source material (although they probably would have been better served not being so slavishly faithful here), and a fun story. It has a number of very successful humor beats, and feels “epic” in scope. I don’t think Reynolds is anywhere near as bad here as people make him out to be, in fact, by the end of the film he had won me over as Hal Jordan.

I eagerly await the sequel, and I’m glad they’re pushing ahead with it.

I’m still able to forgive it its flaws and focus on its strengths, but I do need to right size my grade now that I realize a little more what’s expected of me as a reviewer. As such, my new grade for it is a

B

31 thoughts on “Now Showing on Cable: “Green Lantern”

  1. I haven’t watched “Green Lantern”, so I can’t comment. But I will say Ryan Reynolds can’t open a film on his own. For whatever reason–and I honestly think it is a backlash against him for being too perfect–the audience does not want to follow him.

    Think about male bankable stars and they all have an imperfection: Tom Cruise has a big nose; George Clooney is weathered; Harrison Ford in his prime has the scar on his chin and a crooked nose.

    • I think with Reynolds – not that i dont like your “Noticeable flaws Theory” LOL – I think its that he’s very smug. Cocky. Almost a hold over impression from Van Wilder. I think it turns people off…

      I thought he did an acceptable job here, I mean, I’m not going to talk about him with Christopher Reeve or Hugh Jackman for comic heros come to life or anything, but… he was ok.
      :D I’ve also heard that Tom Cruise is really short, BTW.

  2. I think you know by now I’m with you on a lot of your views on this movie, both good and bad. Like you, I liked the film, I enjoyed it (and like you, I went into it really wanting to enjoy it). Like you, I can see the film has definite flaws. To me, there are three things that would have really tightened up this film:

    1. Ditch the “I’m not that guy [fearless]” angle. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great angle for a superhero movie, and one we haven’t really seen otherwise (except a touch in Spider-Man). But it’s not Hal Jordan (I more than half suspect they were deliberately trying to blend Hal and Kyle Rayner). And that’s important not just for the comic-book fanboys like you and me, but for this film in particular. It’s hard to buy into the theory that the reckless fighter plane test pilot is insecure about his bravery. And Ryan Reynolds — who does come across as smug like you say — fits a cocky, reckless Hal Jordan than he does a reserved uncertain Hal Jordan. I don’t know that he’d be great regardless, but the mismatch there made it a harder sell.

    2. Ditch Parallax. It’s a great concept… for the comic books. It’s a much harder sell on the big screen. It’s a very abstract concept, and not at all one that works as “the big bad” for the first film.

    3. Earth or Oa. They tried to have it both ways with a large focus on each, and the film just felt a bit unfocused as a result. It might have worked better if they had either kept Hal mostly to Earth for this one, fighting Hammond; or if they had focused on his training at Oa, fighting some other outer-space threat, and saved the “threat to Earth” for the sequel. Probably the former, I’m thinking.

    • Ok.

      #2 is wholehearted agreement. I don’t even think they executed it that well in terms of creature design, etc. I think it was cool it was a planetary threat (too few superhero movies actually involve those) but it wasn’t executed well.

      Gone.

      #3 is a mixed bag. You’re right, feels like they’re trying to have feet on both sides of the fence and it doesn’t work that well.

      That said, the space stuff was the best part. And they can’t set it entirely in space. So I just think this is something they’re stuck with due to the concept.

      #1 is a really tough call. As a fanboy, I was upset they took Hal Jordan’s ONE AND ONLY qualification away from him. Lol. But it does give his character more complexity, more believability, and makes him more relatable in the movie. It also gives him a bit of an arc.

      At the end of the day, I wound up on board with it.

      (suddenly glad this is a movie blog and not a comics forum, lol)

  3. This was one of the few movies I saw in the theater last summer. I haven’t had the chance to revisit it, but I really enjoyed it at the time and was surprised at the negative outpouring it received. I’m not saying it’s perfect, but I had fun and so did my kids.

    Perhaps people didn’t respond well to it because Green Lantern is purely fantasy. When Richard Donner made “Superman” his mantra was “verisimilitude” – realism. Likewise, Nolan’s Batman series is gritty and realistic. Realism is out the window with Green Lantern, but you couldn’t make it any other way. It’s more sci-fi than superhero.

    • Exactly. There’s a part of me that’s really glad they didn’t try to tone it down for the average movie goer… They kept the mythology intact, and if anything, those are the scenes that work best in the movie.

      I definitely have to say though that I can see everyone’s gripes. There are some serious flaws here, and the movie asks a lot – a LOT – out of the audience on terms of accepting a fantasy.

      So, I really enjoyed it too, I was surprised by the negative outpouring too… But as soon as I took my fanboy hat off and took a closer look, it’s pretty easy to see the cracks.

      Know what I mean? Anyways, thanks for supporting me on this one Squonk.

  4. Saw this one again on TV this past weekend. I thought your review was acurate. Not much more to add other than I thought Ryan Reynolds did a better job than I thought he was going to do. I’m not a big fan. With that said I would have givin it a little bit higher grade. Say B+. But defiantly not an A.

      • Yeah we saw it togher. Can’t remember the exact crowd reaction. I liked then and yesterday when I saw it.

      • Ok, cool. Yeah, I remember we were both pretty positive on it, and then I’m pretty sure the crowd had some smatterings of applause afterwards, which is kind of rare.

        Could be messed up though, I see so many movies now… LOL

    • LOL.

      Not inclined to cut it slack as a fan of comics, then, huh?

      I gotcha.

      Hey, I thought the voicework of the Corps was awesome. Geoffrey Rush, Michael Clarke Duncan, Mark Strong (though he was acting, not voicing)… They were talking!

      • Really not inclined to give it any slack. Your comparison of this to JC is very apt in one way. Your reaction to the dialog in JC was similar to my reaction to the dialog, plot, and acting in this… only magnified. While you found the dialog “Meh” (I believe thats a direct quote lol) I found the dialog and acting in GL so abysmal as to be actually repulsive… as in hard to actually watch. But the space battles and the Green Lantern action was absolutely brilliant. I may make a cut down version some day. Take out all the dialog and just leave the action. That’d work.

      • Hahhahhaaa.

        Ok. That’s fair.

        Although, to be straight, my problem in John Carter is confined to the plot and dialogue, not the acting. I think Kitsch and Collins do fine considering the cards they’ve been dealt.

        There’s a lof of issues here Gelf, I cant deny it. So, it’s really not a movie I can defend very strongly… in fact, I’ve lowered my grade, kind of a concession to the reality of the situation.

        I still have to keep my opinion factored in though, and I get a bunhc of enjoyment watching GL on the big screen. Seeing someone sling a power ring is really something cool to me.

  5. I saw the film in theaters, so I’m saying this without a look at the ‘Extended Cut’ edition out with the DVD/BD, as yet. I didn’t hate nor love it. I do feel it wasted one of the better DC comic book heroes, though. I’m not sure if it was due to studio meddling (the common crime of media conglomerates these days) or that an otherwise very good director, Martin Campbell, didn’t quite know how to handle what he was given.

    Origin stories are tricky when introduced to those who may not be familiar with a comic series, especially one that has a long history like this character. I thought DC’s animated movies released to DVD/BD have done a good job overall with their characters in the last few years. And GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT (2009), voiced by a wonderful cast that included Chris Meloni as Jordan, Michael Madsen as Kilowog, and Victor Garber as Sinestro, was a great example. I’d hoped the live action version would come close. Alas, it wasn’t quite up to the job.

    I do hope another Green Lantern movie comes along, though. I’d hate to see a fine superhero go to waste. Especially one as rich as this from the DC stable. Thanks

    • Oh yeah, the DC Animated stuff has been great. Some seriously good stuff out there on thier straight to DVD movies.

      There’s no denying it. This underperformed, and underwhelmed audiences. So, yeah, in that regard you’re right Le0pard, they did kind of squander this opportunity.

      I havent really heard of much studio meddling, I’m not sure… might just all be on Campbell. But I can agree totally with your comment on the origin stories and the long history, for sure. I’m sure that all of these characters and events were introduced over the course of years, if not decades in the comics. Onscreen it all happens within a 2 hr runtime!!

    • What. A. Nightmare.

      God!

      I mean, funny, but…. GOD! Bucky Larson and Guy Gardner in one fell swoop. Why not just suggest casting Nick Swardson as Guy Gardner and hit the trifecta of terror? Eeesh. LOL

  6. Oh Lord I remember your Green Lantern review, that was how I discovered this site!

    I think Mark Strong is the best thing about this film, everything else – meh!

    SHOW US YOUR COMIC COLLECTION!!!

    • Ha! Maybe someday… I know you love putting up pics of your toys and stuff :)

      Truth is, my toys are in a bit of a disarray right now. I want to upgrade the shelving to like nice display cases, but havent gotten around to it. And then one of the shelves got knocked into and the figs are all knocked over. I havent had the heart to redo all that work if its just going to be temporary. It’s so much work! And then I’ve got piles of comics awaiting boarding bagging and filing, so…

      One day. I’ll do a whole photo essay or something.

      • Ahh yes… organising a toy display is tiring and tedious and sometimes you just wanna tear your hair out. That’s why I haven’t shown my ENTIRE collection because I’m always switching things around and new stuff are coming in and the whole thing is always changing… Maybe someday I’ll do a huge post of my ENTIRE collection hmm

      • Hit the nail right on the head man. Plus my shelving is just like cheap garage quality adjustable shelving. I want to invest in some really nice display cases. Then I’ll be happy to show it off. In the meantime, there’s just piles of figs on cheap metal shelves. Dont want to share pics of the stuff!

  7. Not much to say except that Gelf pretty much echoes my thoughts.

    Green Lantern is a franchise with just so much potential, and so many good stories to pull from. Not only did they have a sub-par script, but non of the actors with possible exceptions of Peter Sarsgaard and the underutilized Mark Strong made a strong impression.

    I also lament this movie because, just as the abyssal performance of Catwoman probably means no Wonder Woman movie ever, the failure of Green Lantern probably means no other non-Batman or Superman makes it to the big screen any time soon.

    • Mmmmmmmmmmm…..

      Mayyyyybe,

      I think GL II is going to be a big shot at redemption. Hell, the new Superman has a lot riding on it too. Well see. It is a tricky climate as to whether superhero movies have reached the saturation point altogether.

      It’ll be interesting to watch. You might be right. I hope not, but thats definitely in play.

  8. Thanks for the heads up that this is playing on HBO, going to try and check it out. They made a 2nd ghostrider so maybe they will make a sequel.

    • They actually are Adam, from my understanding they’re pushing ahead with it even though the earnings from one were disappointing.

      Hoping it winds up higher quality after they learn some lessons from #1, but I imagine if anything, they’d cut the production budget, so… that wont bode well I suppose.

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