CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: GREEN LANTERN (2011)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(The Scene: A beach at dusk. MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES approach the wreckage of a crashed alien spaceship.)
MA: Wow, we’ve found a real live alien spaceship!
LS: Maybe they’ll abduct you to some distant galaxy so I can be spared your bad taste in movies.
MA: No, I think it’s your mother ship come to take you back home. L.L. phone home!
LS: How dare you compare me to that twerp, E.T.! And, for your information, I was born right here on Earth!
(They hear a groan from the spaceship. They approach to find a dying green alien with a bright pink face. The GREEN ALIEN extends his hand and shows them a green ring.)
GREEN ALIEN: The ring has chosen you.
MA: Hey, bud, you’re not seeing double. There’s actually two of us here. Which one of us did the ring choose?
LS: It obviously chose me. (Reaches out to take ring.)
MA: Not so fast! We don’t know that. Let the alien answer first. Which one of us did the ring choose?
GREEN ALIEN (Points to MA, then to LS): You.
LS: Well, that’s it. This alien is obviously retarded.
MA: This isn’t getting us anywhere. Look, there’s two of us and only one ring, and we can’t share a ring.
LS: Share? There’s no sharing at Cinema Knife Fight! I’m taking it.
(LS grabs ring, as does MA, and as they wrestle over it, they inadvertently toss the ring into the ocean.)
LS: Now see what you’ve done!
GREEN ALIEN: The ring—the ring—. (Alien dies.)
MA (Shaking his head): Well, he’s having a bad day. Anyway, with the ring gone, there’s nothing left to distract us, so why don’t we start our review of GREEN LANTERN?
LS: I bet that ring sucked anyway. It sure was ugly. Since he came all the way from another galaxy, that alien could have at least brought us some cool bling.
Yeah, start the review.
MA: GREEN LANTERN (2011) is the latest superhero movie to hit the big screen, and this one comes from the DC universe. It’s about a character not as widely known as some of the other DC superheroes, such as Batman and Superman.
LS: I don’t know about that. In the comics world, Green Lantern is a pretty big deal. He was the central figure of the recent “Darkest Night” and “Brightest Day” storylines, probably the two biggest events in the DC Universe in the past few years. He just never had a movie before. Or a TV show. But comics fans know him very well.
MA: Well, for the rest of us in the real world, he’s not as well known.
GREEN LANTERN is about a carefree pilot named Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), who is chosen by a dying alien to join the ranks of the Green Lanterns, a huge collection of super warriors who protect the universe from evil threats. They do this by showing no fear and by using their will power. They have the power to turn whatever their thinking of into reality. So, they can be as powerful as the limits of their imaginations. It’s kind of a goofy premise when you think about it. I mean, if you have the power to conjure up a ray gun, for example, to shoot your enemy, why not just conjure up a dead enemy and save yourself the trouble? I’m sure the comics did a better job of explaining all this, but it’s not covered in any satisfactory depth in the movie.
LS: I think it’s a key point here that the limits of a Green Lantern’s power is the same as the limits of his or her imagination. If there’s a flaw with this movie—it’s clearly that Hal Jordan doesn’t have much of an imagination. Neither did the writers of this movie.
MA: That’s a really good point, because, as I watched this movie, I kept thinking, where the heck is this guy’s imagination? Why isn’t he using this new power he has to create all kinds of cool things?
Anyway, Hal becomes a GREEN LANTERN, which is a good thing, because the Earth is now threatened by a bad guy named Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a brilliant scientist infected by another alien, the evil Parallax, which turns him into a super intelligent baddie with a big head who looks like the Elephant Man wearing a lab coat.
LS: Hector is not the villain of the movie. He’s a pawn. A sad, dejected man who has great intelligence but still feels he is a failure. He becomes infected, by the way, because he is called in to do an autopsy on the alien who gave Hal his ring. But the alien has a bad wound that still has traces of the creature that killed him in it – Parallax. When he touches the wound in depth, the traces infect him, turning him into the Elephant Man thingie. He suddenly can read people’s minds and has telekinetic powers. He also has very big daddy issues concerning his senator father (Tim Robbins). He grew up with Hal and has always envied him. And he’s in love with Carol Ferris, who loves Hal. Once he gets his “powers,” it’s clear that all Hector wants to do with them is get back at the people who slighted him – his father and Hal – and finally “get the girl.”
MA: Yeah, there’s also a love interest for Hal with the beautiful Carol (Blake Lively) but, like the rest of this movie, this story doesn’t go anywhere.
LS: I thought Lively was a big weak link here. Sure, she’s attractive. But every scene she was in, I thought her acting was atrocious. It was like watching a very pretty robot. I kept thinking—aside from being hot —what does anyone see in this woman? Why do the main characters all want her affection? She just didn’t have any depth at all as a character, and I can’t tell if it’s her fault or the writers. Probably both.
MA: There’s not much else I want to say about the plot since this movie didn’t really do much for me, and I don’t think its story warrants too much retelling. But feel free if you want to fill in the blanks.
LS: No, you just about covered it. The details actually make the story less interesting. We then have to get into the whole significance of colors. Green represents the power of will, which is the source of the Green Lanterns’ great energy. But there’s also, yellow, the color of fear, which was also harnessed by the ancient inhabitants of the planet Oa, who are blue gnome-like creatures who started all this crap. They created the green lanterns and sit on monolithic perches like a group of Yoda wannabes. One of their group turned to “the dark side” and tapped into the power of fear and it corrupted him, so he turned into the super baddie Parallax—the nebulous monster who is going around devouring whole planets (He’s an awful lot like the Marvel villain, Galactus, another bad guy who eats planets, who I like a lot better. Although he’s kind of goofy, too).
Otherwise, that’s it. The Green Lanterns try to stop Parallax as he drifts throughout the universe, devouring worlds. When he comes into the vicinity of Earth, then it’s up to Hal to save the planet. Can he do it? If you really care, go see the movie.
MA: I couldn’t get into GREEN LANTERN from the get-go. I found its opening sequences which explain the whole back story of the Green Lantern world dull, boring, and slow. It reminded me of the scenes on Thor’s planet in THOR (2011), and the scenes of the Jedi Council in the STAR WARS movies. In fact, GREEN LANTERN plays much more like a science fiction/fantasy film than a superhero movie.
LS: Well, it’s supposed to be like a science fiction film. Green Lantern is one of the most science-fiction based superheroes of all time, at least as much as the “alien come to earth” origin of Superman.
But I agree about the opening sequence. It’s meant to bring us up to speed right away, but it’s boring. And the whole thing about green being willpower and yellow being fear seems incredibly dopey to me. Why can’t the green power of the Lanterns just be pure cosmic energy? Why does it have to be willpower? Seems silly. “I will not eat that piece of cake, thus I have wild, green power!”
Also, the whole thing about the actual LANTERN—it’s a device that’s really just a giant battery. It recharges the ring when it runs out of power. I always hated the lantern in the comics, and here it’s no better. Why does the ring need the lantern to recharge it? Doesn’t willpower come from within? And don’t even get me started on the dumb-ass oath the Green Lantern has to spout to get the recharging process to work….
(A green Energizer Bunny holding a lantern marches by them.)
MA (pointing to Bunny): Who knew?
LS: And, now that I think about, why doesn’t the Green Lantern lose his powers and need to recharge himself EVER in the course of a battle in this movie? If you’re going to introduce something as lame as the lantern, then give it some dramatic relevance. As it turns out, he doesn’t even need the damn thing for the rest of the movie, and this was one chance when they could have made an improvement over the comics and just gotten rid of the damn thing entirely.
(GOLLUM from the LORD OF THE RINGS movies appears on the beach, rubbing his hands together)
GOLLUM: Did someone here mention my precious?
MA: No, not that ring! We’re talking about the Green Lantern’s ring.
GOLLUM: Oh, that makes me sad. I will continue to search for my precious….
LS: Get lost, you idiot (Kicks GOLLUM in the butt, hurrying him along the beach and out of sight)
MA: The story didn’t grab me, the pacing wasn’t there, the characters were not likeable, and the special effects were passable, but that’s it. I also had the choice of seeing this one in 2D or 3D, and I chose 2D because, to be honest, I’m sick and tired of 3D movies coming out every other week , and then not being worth the extra cost of the ticket. I hope movie audiences start to feel the same way and stop paying the extra money to see these movies. Maybe they’ll go away.
LS: I saw it in 2D as well, and gladly so. Not only did I save money, but I knew the 3D aspects wouldn’t add anything to the storyline, just like most 3D movies we see. It was nice to avoid the extra tariff we’ve been getting screwed with to see bad 3D movies.
MA: While I like the Green Lantern’s power—he has the ability to turn into reality whatever he’s thinking about—and think it’s really cool, I did have some problems with it. One, it’s not used enough in the movie. I mean, we hardly see the Green Lantern use this ability. And two, when you think about it, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
LS: Yeah, like I said, for a movie about a character whose main power is his imagination, GREEN LANTERN is incredibly mundane. The character and the writers totally drop the ball on this one. The ring should have gone to someone who really would have excelled in using its power – like a fantasy writer perhaps?
MA: I came away from this movie thinking the Green Lantern’s story was rather goofy.
LS: In the comics, the Green Lantern is up there in popularity with DC heroes like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Personally, I think he deserved a bigger budget and a better movie. This one seems second-rate compared to the majority of superhero movies we’ve seen lately.
MA: I also didn’t like the characters in this movie. I didn’t hate them, but none of them were that likeable.
Hal Jordan is supposed to be this likeable screw-up. He’s an amazing pilot, but in everything else, he’s a failure, although he means well. However, he doesn’t come off this way in the movie. How do I know he’s supposed to be this way? Because they tell us in the film. This is a classic example of where a story messes up by telling us things rather than showing us. We hardly get to know Hal at all. We see him briefly with his son, briefly with his girlfriend, briefly with his buddy, briefly training as a Green Lantern, basically, briefly doing everything. Hal comes off like a supporting character in a Tom Cruise TOP GUN (1986) movie. Hey, it’s Hal Jordan. He’s the guy with no fear in the cockpit with the son and the girl—yeah, but what do we really know about him? Nothing. And as a result we don’t like him.
LS: I agree. Ryan Reynolds is completely miscast here. Hal Jordan is supposed to be smart and kinda cool. As Reynolds plays him, he’s a smirking idiot who takes stupid chances and comes off as a real jerk. I have to admit, he grew on me as the movie progressed, but a better star would have made this movie a lot better. Reynolds seems like a kid trying to play a leading man. Early on, I actually hated the character. By the end, I just thought he was so-so. And you’re right about the TOP GUN comparison. Early on, I thought I was watching a sequel to TOP GUN, until the injured alien fell from the sky. Hal could have been so much better!
For some reason Hollywood loves Reynolds and thinks he is perfect for superhero movies. He also played Deadpool in the movie X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009). That worked a little better, because Deadpool is supposed to be a cocky clown. But supposedly his supporting role in the WOLVERINE movie went over so well, that a DEADPOOL movie is now in the works. Reynolds can do no wrong in the world of superheroes, I guess. But for me, he was a completely awful choice for Hal Jordan.
Oh, and by the way, as far as I can tell, that kid was not his son. It was his nephew. Although early on the kid is so worried about his uncle, it seems like a father/son bond. Of course, after that scene, we never see the kid again! So I guess that bond wasn’t very important!
MA: Yeah, I found Ryan Reynold’s performance as Hal irritating as well. I couldn’t bring myself to like him, which is not a good thing for a lead character in a movie.
Blake Lively as Carol Ferris, Hal’s love interest, is beautiful, and she’s a good actress, but in this movie the Carol Ferris character doesn’t do much, nor is she interesting. Lively was in THE TOWN (2010) and she was very good in that movie, so she can really act when given a challenging role. Carol Ferris is not that role.
LS: You can say that again. If Lively is a good actress, I certainly didn’t see any evidence of that in GREEN LANTERN. A CGI cartoon would have had more depth. And, while you mention one of her movie roles, you’re missing the fact that Blake Lively is best known for the TV series GOSSIP GIRL, which is about shallow kids screwing each other over. Not exactly Oscar-worthy material.
MA: I did like Peter Sarsgaard as the villain Hector Hammond, and his was probably my favorite performance in the movie. I like Sarsgaard a lot, and we’ve seen him in ORPHAN (2009) and THE SKELETON KEY (2005). However, as much as I like Sarsgaard, the character of Hector Hammond is not much of a villain.
LS: You mentioned two of Sarsgaard’s more mainstream/genre flicks, but he’s also been a hero of the independent film scene for a long time now. He’s been in some really good stuff like the Oscar-winning film BOYS DON’T CRY (1999), Wayne Wang’s provocative THE CENTER OF THE WORLD (2001), and had an excellent turn in the biopic of KINSEY (2004). Clearly, this guy can actually act, and he’s in the wrong movie here. It was kind of a letdown to see someone this good in a movie this mediocre. And you’re right, because of his talent, he made Hector the most interesting character in the whole movie. I wanted the movie to be more about him. But, in the end, he’s not even the central villain here. He’s just a lackey of the main villain.
And there was an issue that really bugged me. Every time Hector Hammond was about to do something evil, and someone’s life was in danger, the Green Lantern would suddenly appear and fight him. This made sense in a scene where Hammond sabotages a helicopter, because both of them are at the lavish party where it happens. But later on, there is no reason why Hal Jordon would know to be at a certain place at the exact moment he is needed. Hammond is the one who can read minds, not Jordon! This just seemed like bad writing to me.
MA: Mark Strong, who was extremely nasty as the villain in KICK-ASS (2010), is completely wasted here as the Green Lantern leader, Sinestro. I found Sinestro boring and annoying.
LS: I liked Sinestro. I thought Mark Strong played him perfectly, as an arrogant, pompous ass. He goes on to become Hal’s number one nemesis in the comics. How would you know this if you don’t read the comics? Easy. The guy’s name is SINESTRO, as in “sinister.” They might as well have named him BADGUY-IO. And this movie is sort of an origin story of him as well—how he becomes a bad guy. In fact, there’s a very important scene during the end credits that follows up on this. So stick around a little after the credits start to roll, so you don’t miss it. This was clearly DC trying to imitate the whole “extra scene” thing that Marvel does in their movies (but which was missing from the recent X-MEN: FIRST CLASS, for some odd reason).
I’m hungry. Let’s grab a snack.
(LS & MA approach a snack shack on the beach. A huge order of onion rings flies off the counter and lands in LS’s hands.)
MA: The onion rings have chosen you.
LS: I willed it to happen. For I am the Green Onion!
MA: While the acting in GREEN LANTERN is adequate, the characters the actors are playing are not, and so I blame the writing here. The screenplay was written by four writers, Greg Berlanti, Michael Green, Marc Guggenheim, and Michael Goldenberg. Four writers, and they come up with this?
LS: Yeah, that’s sad. With all those rewrites, they still only attain a level that is a disappointment for a big superhero movie like this.
And, for the most part, the acting seemed below-average to me. I liked Peter Sarsgaard a lot. I liked Mark Strong. I even thought Ryan Reynolds, despite being miscast, had his moments. But the rest of the cast was just ugh. Blake Lively seemed like she just wandered on the set and wasn’t sure what she was doing. Tim Robbins—who can be good, when given a decent role—was boring here as yet another evil politician. BORING! And Taika Waititi as Hal’s best friend, Thomas Kalmaku, was just plain grating. The less we see of him, the better.
And there’s so much wasted talent in smaller roles. The great Angela Bassett is reduced to a one-dimensional government drone. And actors like Geoffrey Rush (Tomar-Re) and Michael Clarke Duncan (Kilowog) seem to be having the most fun here, but that’s because they’re only using their voices to bring CGI characters to life. They don’t have to actually appear in the movie, so that frees them up a bit.
A character with the stature of Green Lantern (in comics) deserved better. This movie is going to be a lot of people’s first exposure to the character, and it’s a weak one.
MA: The humor also misfired. There were so many lines of dialogue that were supposed to be funny, but I wasn’t laughing. I think this was because I didn’t really know the characters all that well. And it was hard to laugh with Hal because it was difficult to know if he was a good guy or not. If he’s truly a screw-up, a guy who’s sort of a jerk, then his jokes aren’t that funny, but the film never really delivers in terms of creating a well-rounded fleshed-out Hal Jordan, and as a result, I think a lot of the humor suffers for it.
LS: There were scenes with obvious, cliché jokes where people in the audience laughed and I was thinking “What the hell are they laughing at?” It was like they laughed because they felt they were supposed to. But I think laughs have to be earned. Not just because “Hey, this is supposed to be funny, so laugh.” Real laughter is an involuntary response. I didn’t laugh once during GREEN LANTERN. In fact, the need for such dumb humor in a movie that deserved a more serious tone made me groan a few times instead.
MA: GREEN LANTERN was directed by Martin Campbell, the same man who directed the James Bond films CASINO ROYALE (2006) and GOLDENEYE (1995), two movies that had much more energy and style than this one. GREEN LANTERN looks fine, but its action sequences—and I was surprised by this—were just average. None of the action scenes in this movie blew me away.
In short, the word that best describes GREEN LANTERN is average, and these days, with all the other superhero movie competition out there, films that are genuinely excellent, average just isn’t good enough. I liked the previous two superhero movies we’ve seen this year, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and THOR, much better than GREEN LANTERN.
LS: I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I have to agree with you on every point. The thing is, I had heard some advance reaction to this movie, and it was almost all completely negative. So I went in to GREEN LANTERN expecting to see something that was the bottom of the bucket. The thing is, with such low expectations, I was surprised to find the movie wasn’t that bad. It’s certainly not the worst movie to come out in 2011. But it is a disappointment—because it could have been so much better.
MA: I give GREEN LANTERN two knives, and I give it two because it’s not awful. It’s just average.
LS: Average just about pegs it. And in a genre where you expect larger-than-life, flashy characters and lots of high-powered action, average is clearly a failure. I give it two knives as well. It was better than I expected. But nothing great.
(Stirring comes from the ocean waters. MA & LS turn to see ABE SAPIAN from the HELLBOY movies emerging from the ocean.)
ABE SAPIAN: Look at this ugly ring I just found. I think I’ll give it to Hellboy for his birthday.
MA: I don’t know if that’s such a good idea. With Hellboy’s imagination, who knows what he’ll conjure up with a Green Lantern ring!
LS: Which is exactly why Abe should give it to him. Someone like Hellboy—with that kind of power. Now that’s a story I’d like to see!
MA: I suppose I can’t argue with that.
LS: You could. But you’d be wrong as usual.
MA: The only thing I’m wrong about on a consistent basis is my ongoing decision to team up with you each weekend! What am I thinking???
Anyway, we’re done here.
LS: Yep, folks, we’re done. We’ll see you next weekend with a review of another new movie.
© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives GREEN LANTERN – 2 knives!
LL Soares also gives GREEN LANTERN - 2 knives!