Movie Review: Green Lantern, or why is my green so blue?

I guess this is the week of dashed over hyped expectations.  It started Wednesday with my purchase of my first Apple computer, a brand new iMac.  Having listened to all my friends gush about how all Apple products are I was more or less inclined to believe that this iMac would not only handle my computer needs, but would cure cancer, end world hunger, and turn my tap water into wine.  The thing I did not expect was to spend almost four hours on the phone with tech support trying to get all my peripherals running.  The learning curve on the new UI is less a curve and more a vertical wall that needs to be scaled by hand while defenders at the top drop rocks and boiling oil on my head.  I am sure in the course of a month or two I will become brainwashed like all my friends, but at the moment I feel like Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

I am being unfair.  Already I have gotten more used to it, but my typical curse of causing things more technological than a microwave try to find all the weirdest problems possible (how is it I have the one HP printer out of the literally thousands that Apple supports that they don’t?  What are really the odds of that?) manifest themselves.  Also, I just had a guy at the Apple store inform me that the absolutely-different-from-the-control-key Command key is actually the mysterious free alt-tab Microsoft key.  I wish someone had told me that four days ago.  If you are wondering why I just don’t use the keyboard that came with the iMac it is because I have large hands and need adult sized keys, not Smurf (or just skinny hipster kid) sized covered with Chiclets.

So the next big over hyped disappointment was, of course, Green Lantern.  Was it bad?  Not really, but on many levels actually yes.  Was it worth all the hype and marketing?  No.  It is, like almost all DC comic book movies, painfully lacking in many regards while having a few cool elements.  I am sure you could really enjoy it, especially if you are dumb, stoned, or 12 years old.  However, I think I am going to have to start looking at how much marketing the studios throw at the advertizing as a sign of how much they feel they need to work in order to get people into the theater.  X-Men First Class had hardly any and ruled.  (Ferris Aircraft image from the new Green Lantern t-shirt category).

Anyway, the movie, without any spoilers that you wouldn’t pick up from the trailers.  I think it safe to assume most of you have read a couple GL comics too.  Hal Jordan is a test pilot working for Ferris Aircraft along with his super hot fellow test pilot (Blake Lively, who apparently was in the Gossip Girl). Hal is played by the remarkably inappropriate Ryan Reynolds, and he has an on screen romance with Ms. Lively that throughout the movie seemed forced, awkward, unnecessary, distracting, and lacking in all forms of chemistry.  Sorry Martin Campbell.  Just putting two hot people on screen together does not make for onscreen magic.  The chemistry wasn’t as bad at that in Water for Elephants, but it was on par.

Anyway, the alien Green Lantern gets mortally wounded in a criminally short action sequence (a pattern that would unfortunately repeat itself throughout the movie) and travels to Earth to have the ring pick out his replacement, which is of course Hal Jordan.  Hal gets the ring, another dorky guy who actually was in his own way cooler than the entire rest of the cast gets infected with yellow power and becomes a minor super villain, green action ensues, and the movie ends feeling about 20 minutes short.

I am going to do something a little different with this, in that I want to expound upon a few of my black holes in detail here and then list them later.  I have some serious issues with a lot of stuff and feel the need to get into it more specifically.  First of all, this entire movie felt like the third in a series, not the first.  You know, the episode where the studio has made a ton of money on the first couple and now is just grinding them out by the numbers in order to milk the fans for as much money as we can stand to part with?  The one where the director feels the need to shove as much CGI and as many villains in as possible in order to make up for the fact that he doesn’t really have a story?  The episode where he feels comfortable leaving all forms of character development or exposition out because all that back story nonsense was covered in the first one?  That episode?  This is that one.  I understand the studios see franchises as the real way to make money, but is the need so overpowering that you feel you can just jump into a franchise mid stream and still make your dough off the unwashed masses?

Secondly, the movie felt really 20-30 minutes short.  All the action scenes ended before you really got into them.  If you have read the real GL story you know he spent a long time in training, and developed a mutual respect and friendship with Sinestro before returning to the field.  Here he spends about two minutes getting his ass kicked while Sinestro is nothing more than a dick to him.  Also, a felonious amount of screen time is wasted on his so called romance with Blake Lively and a bunch of other crap I could care less about.

Finally, Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern.  The guy is a romantic comedy actor.  Sure he pulled off looking good in the suit (although I think he is a little too weedy for it) but if I recall Hal was a responsible, dedicated military officer, not a smirking, irresponsible reprobate.  Also, is it written into every movie contract Ryan Reynolds has that his character has to be seen as the guy who sleeps with every hot woman character withing a 50 mile radius?  Hooking up with local sluts made sense in Van Wilder, but does he have to play the same character in every single movie?  I lay blame for this firmly in the director’s lap.  Had Campbell taken two minutes to explain to Ryan that he really shouldn’t smirk at the camera in every scene we might have gotten a much more tolerable performance.

By the way, I will give a star or two for really good special effects and CGI, but the days of those things carrying a movie are gone.  CGI is so easy and accessible that we really need to get into a good story and acting.  I honestly don’t find it interesting.  In fact, good special effects now is the norm and is only really noticeable it it’s absence.

Anyway, the stars.  Comic book movie.  One star.  Generally good special effects.  Two stars.  Blake Lively looking hot.  One star.  Sinestro was cool and well acted.  One star.  Hector Hammond was cool.  One star.  Tim Robbins as Senator Hammond.  One star. Ummm.  That’s pretty much it.  Seven stars (and I forced one.  The special effect weren’t really worth two stars).

Now the black holes.  Really, really bad direction.  Two black holes.  The movie felt short.  One black hole.  Too much completely pointless Hal Jordan as a social misfit (including but not limited to his romance and a dumb ass birthday party for his 11 year old nephew that included an even dumber reckless driving sequence to show what a wild man Hal was, not to mention a “heartwarming” scene between Hal and his nephew.  In fact, I was going to give this point one black hole but now that I have written in up I am again incensed and will ramp it up to two.  ).  Two black holes.  Not enough of the other alien Lanterns, or of the planet Oa.  They are cool looking aliens.  Why can’t we see them?  One black hole.  Ryan Reynolds.  One black hole.  Every action sequence was painfully short, and the final epic fight felt less like a conclusion and more like the movie makers were running out of film and wanted to wrap it up.  One black hole.  The whole I-was-a-normal-human-but-now-have-super-powers-let-me-show-you scene is cool as exposition once (unless, of course, we had just seen a whole training sequence detailing all the powers) but there is no reason to shove it down our throat twice, especially when one of the two people is a minor character who’s only function was to pick up Hal at the beach and give him a ride home.  One black hole.  For every cool alien Green Lantern I wanted to meet or see more of they managed to find a minor human character to introduce and have vanish like excrement flushed down a toilet.  Is it absolutely necessary that we be introduced to Hal’s two brothers, his sister -in-law, and his nephew for four painful minutes before they disappear, never to be seen again?  How about some more of Kiliwog, or Sinestro, or Bzzd, or Galius Zed?  One black hole.  The Guardians literally looked like Pez dispensers.  One black hole.  While the special effects were generally good, there were a couple scenes where I was looking for wires.  I think they forced some of the perspectives in order to make it look good for 3D and since I saw it in 2D (or, in many other ways, 1D) they looked really stupid.  One black hole.  A complete lack of arc for Hal Jordan.  One minute he is Van Wilder and can’t make a green powered back scratcher, and the next he is captain responsible and creating miniguns.  Overall the pacing was horrible.  One black hole.  Some other major holes in the plot.  One black hole.  The writers took the actual Green Lantern story, murdered it, and then spent 105 minutes desecrating it’s corpse.  One black hole.  They forcefully crowbared in the lead in for the sequel.  One black hole.  And finally, one black hole for making a sequel movie to a franchise that hasn’t even started yet.  Total: 17 black holes.

In the irksome-but-not-black-hole-worthy category I only have one, and that is it is established early on that the universe literally has millions of sentient species.  How is it every alien is not only 100% aware of humans, but knows enough about them to be surprised that the ring would pick a race so young?  Minor but kind of irritating.

So a miserable final score of 10 black holes.  I didn’t start writing this planning to dump all over it, but I stand by my scoring.  Ultimately completely forgettable in all aspects, at least as soon as the next movie that relies on special effects over writing and direction comes along.  If you are the type that is easily distracted by string or shiny objects by all means go see it.  It is fun and entertaining, and when you get bored you can play with your laser pointer.  If you find being pandered and catered to on lowest levels offensive and actually want a movie that will evoke an emotional or intellectual response, go see X-Men First Class for a second time.

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