MOVIE: Green Lantern
QUICKIE DESCRIPTION: I want a refund
LESSON OF THE DAY: You can’t fix the script in post, stupid!
I decided after two glowing reviews I should try something I knew was bad. And sweet baby Jesus in the manger is this movie bad. I spent a good forty minutes after the movie ended just trying to figure out what overall lesson I could pull from Green Lantern. Since it so closely matches why I didn’t like the movie, I don’t think I’m going to separate the two today. Let’s just dive into it.
When I say “you can’t fix the script in post” what I mean is that this movie should have never been made. The script is full of holes so big you can fly a giant space rasta monster through them. I almost feel like I should do a Red Letter Media-style video review, because that’s how I felt through the entire movie – you ask questions that don’t get answered because somehow somebody decided this cavalcade of nonsense was a good final draft.
The first problem I’m going to talk about is the huge missteps Green Lantern makes in how it handles its characters. Hal Jordan’s character arc is the laziest Zero-to-Hero story I’ve yet to see. The writers put the smallest amount of effort possible into the journey Hal is supposed to be taking. He just sort of stumbles into the end where this cocky irresponsible fighter pilot is suddenly a real boy. What propelled him there? Well, Mandatory Love Interest saw courage in him. That’s all it took to conquer his supposedly crippling fear. A god damned pep talk.
The issue is that Hal is secretly afraid. Which is why his entire family thinks he has a death wish. (uh….) What never gets explained to us is what it is that Hal is afraid of. Fear is distilled into a canon sin of the Green Lantern Church. Which is why when the best Lantern suggests weaponizing fear for their own purposes, the immortal Guardians instantly agree. (uh…) The only real instances we have where Hal is supposed to be afraid is when the Medusa-picture of his dad in his cockpit makes him freeze up and crash his plane (which leads to the question of how did he not notice this BSOD-inducer before? How did his love interest wingman who’s known him since childhood not stop to go “by the way Hal, take that picture of your dad out of your god damned cockpit so you don’t look at it at the wrong moment and crash like a god damned idiot”?) and when Sinestro kicks his ass in training (though apparently getting teamed up on by five guys behind a bar didn’t give him pause? Does Hal have a phobia of the color of sunburn? Or swords? Then why did he pick swords to fight with in the first place?)
Every character who isn’t Hal doesn’t even get the dignity of an honest fracking introduction. The fairly important fact that Blake Lively is an old flame of Hal’s doesn’t come up until about halfway through the movie, where, after yelling at him for being late for the flight demonstration, getting screwed over by him in the middle of the flight demonstration, then ripping into him for completely botching the flight demonstration and potentially having completely ruined her father’s company, she shows up for drinks so they can flirt. (Uh….) In case you were wondering, no, she doesn’t have anything properly resembling a character arc. Hal’s best friend, who might not have even been named, is basically the audience stand-in who gets to cheer at inappropriate times. There’s a senator who does everything and Blake’s dad/Hal’s boss, who I honestly mixed up more than once because there’s nothing that stands out about either of them. And the villain…. oh, let’s talk about the villain.
About three or four appearances in we finally discover that people we are supposed to give a single solitary shit about actually know the guy who did the autopsy on the dead Green Lantern and got infected with fear, and over the course of the film turns into a swollen-headed rage monster (Uh…) and even then it’s the barest lip service. He’s supposed to have some kind of history with Blake and Hal. I don’t know if this is intentional but Blake seems to do the whole staring-at-your-face-for-an-awkward-30-seconds-before-even-remembering-your-name bit, and Hal basically just says hi to him because it would be impolite not to. What kind of villain could this guy possibly be? In case you haven’t guessed yet, he’s the Buffy-famous Monster of the Week. Did I mention one of the writers was responsible for a good third of the first season of Smallville? It’s okay for tv characters to barely interact with the bad guy of 1/24th of a tv season, but there should be some sort of quantum of depth to a big budget superhero movie villain.
The Green Lantern Corps is another joke. None of them do anything except Sinestro, who basically suggests they forget everything they stand for (and that he personally preached to Hal while kicking the snot out of him) to fight their enemy. But Hal makes a stand for the green power of will or whatever, kills the space rasta Difference in Apparent Position (a name that truly does strike fear into the hearts of first-year astronomy students) and in doing so… decides to take his place in the Corps that sat around and did nothing? Also in a middle-of-the-credits scene Sinestro throws the yellow ring of fear on, for shits and giggles I guess. At the end of the movie, Sinestro was all humbled by Hal’s being right about will being stronger than fear, so it’s this totally nonsensical “Sinestro is a villain so we have to show that for the sequel” hook that just further drives home that whoever is holding the reigns for this monster doesn’t know what they’re doing at all. You can’t just copy what Marvel is doing at face value, guys. Come on.
I think the main problem with the script is that is just isn’t clear what the point is. Movies need themes, and this movie doesn’t really have one. Things happen because they are supposed to happen, not because they are building up to some sort of climax. My friend Evan calls it a “paint-by-numbers” movie and I have to agree with him – on the whole this movie is uninspired. It’s a recreation of superhero movies, a back-engineering. But it’s a damn lazy one that forgets everything these guys really ought to know about filmmaking. That the man who directed Casino Royale thought this script was good enough to start shooting is frankly baffling and makes me wonder if this is one of those “screwed by the executives” kind of film. So to whoever makes the reboot: Ask yourself why the audience should care about what they’re seeing at any given time, and how this scene is taking you to the next step of not only the plot, but whatever personal thematic journey the protagonist is taking.
And for the love of the Flying Spaghetti Rasta, that jumping between scenes bullshit needs to never happen again.