Thoughts on Green Lantern

I hated the mask. For a year now, I have loathed the design of Green Lantern’s, and kept hoping the CGI artists would go back to the source material and make it a functional mask. They never did but poured millions more into improving the CGI after the initial trailer proved to underwhelm the core audience Warner Bros so desperately needed to turn their first new super-hero film in years into a monster hit.

Now that we know they failed to achieve that, it’s time to assess the film itself, which I saw yesterday as a Father’s Day treat for myself.  Deb and I were entertained. We sat there with a huge tub of popcorn and lost ourselves among the stars. As I tweeted immediately afterward, it was far from perfect but quite a good action/adventure tale.

The problem is that for something that was epic in concept, the film felt ordinary. It truly felt that the producers looked at Iron Man and decided that was their template. It had the look and feel from the comics, trying to ground it in reality with a likeable hero and monumental threat requiring the good guy to overcome his personal demons to save the day. But…Hal Jordan was recruited to join an intergalactic law enforcement corps, acknowledging the existence of extra-terrestrial life for the first time and rather than explore what all that meant, they kept dragging the audience back to Earth.

As a result, we got one scene of Hal being trained by Kilowog, but later hear the big poozer take credit for successfully preparing him for duty. Uh, no. We see Sinestro as the first among equals without being given any clue how the Corps worked as an operating unit or anyone really explaining things to Hal, like how often he needs to charge his ring (and recite the oath each time). We take no time to share with Hal the sense of wonder of meeting 3599 other lifeforms nor does anyone sit him down and say, “Hey, in your sector keep an eye out for the…”

That could have set this film apart from the Marvel Universe series and allowed Green Lantern to stand tall as a unique feature. Also missing was a memorable score (seemingly a dying artform), a theme for the GL Corps that could have stood alongside the theme to Superman or the Imperial March. James Newton Howard missed a terrific opportunity for immortality here.

We do get, though, nods to the comic and have Amanda Waller shoehorned into the story but the writers forgot to give her a personality (they did use her background from the comics and as her godfather, I take pride in that). She is The Wall, an implacable government agent who you do not mess with and watching her match wits with Hector Hammond should have been something special. If she is to be the glue to link the DCU movies together, then they need to work on Angela Bassett’s performance.

Sadly, GL’s parents – Martin Nodell, Bill Finger, John Broome, and Gil Kane – don’t even get a special thanks which is an unforgivable error on DC’s part (along with John Ostrander getting a nod for Waller). It’s as if GL didn’t exist before Geoff Johns resurrected Hal several years ago. What people need to remember is that when Hal was first introduced, being a test pilot was a dangerous but glamorous job. You had to have The Right Stuff to do that job and that’s one reason the ring chose Jordan. Instead, Hal here is too close in personality to Tom Cruise’s Top Gun pilot and far less interesting. At least they kept his brothers, giving him a strong link to the world than your typical heroic orphan or single child. More could have been done here, for example.

The movie kept missing chances to shine on its own so when it doesn’t feel like a Marvel movie, it steals from Superman. The hero saving the damsel from the helicopter is a nod to Superman’s but also takes the audience out of the current film by making them recall that gem. Instead, they should have left any such wink to the final moments of Hal flying high over his homeworld.   One of the film’s most charming sequences was when Hal tries to visit Carol as GL and she sees right through the cheesy mask.

When the movie worked to be its own production, it succeeded more often than not. Oa and the Corps looked alien, ancient, and wonderful. Hal standing up to the authority figures was terrific as was the complex relationship developed between Abin Sur’s replacement and Sinestro.

It made no sense though for the Guardians to agree to let Hal try and save earth from Parallax without sending backup. Obviously sending eight wasn’t enough, so what if they sent, oh, 1000 Lanterns as support? And if the trio of Lanterns were nearby enough to rescue Hal from the sun’s gravity, why didn’t they actively participate in the final battle? Actually, there should have been a scene where Hal specifically asked the Corps not to reveal their presence to humanity, which was going to be freaked out enough by the menace to suddenly learn there is other life out among the stars.

But these are largely quibbles and nits that should have been corrected had anyone actually story edited the script, but long ago I learned that story logic tends to get trampled by stars, special effects houses and ill-trained producers and directors. I have tried to adjust my expectations and have to sum up Green Lantern as a largely faithful adaptation of the current incarnation of the comics and applaud the effort, hoping to see things improve in the next installment – one I very much want to see.

3 comments

  • Sammi and I had planned to see “GL” as a Father’s Day treat, but, after reading the reviews, opted for “Super 8” instead.

  • Bob

    I wondered why it wasn’t played up more as a Father’s Day film, given the subplots involving Hal’s, Carol’s, and Hector’s relationships with their dads.

    But Bob G. is right. It wasn’t a perfect story, but it was a lot of fun. I wasn’t disappointed at all… not even with the mask (though those little electrical sparks on the mask and uniform did get distracting once or twice). I saw it in 2-D (at the insistence of the friends who went with me), but I’m planning to go back and catch the 3-D version soon; along with my wife, whose contact lens slipped about an hour or so into the movie.

    By the way, as I recall, the Guardians told Sinestro they had a strategy for dealing with Parallax that involved sacrificing Earth. It seemed to me that this is why the other Green Lanterns didn’t interfere after Hal charged in on his own.

  • I’ll likely still give this one a look at the theatre, although the heads-up is definitely appreciated.

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