You and your friends are hanging around in a circle, putting bad movies “on blast,” (I’m yoooounnnng dammmittt noooo) ripping flicks new excretion holes for their crappy acting and terrible plots. Measuring subtlety in MBUs (Michael Bay Units), comparing scripts to commode poop-cleaning papers, etc. You’ve been there, you’ve done that. We all see ourselves as the stewards of quality, guarding society against Uwe Boll movies and anything written by two of the eighteen writers of Scary Movie. And why shouldn’t we? We’ve all received a hearty education in both shit and Shinola, cinematically speaking, and we’ve seen it all. We fell off of the turnip truck many years ago, is what I’m saying.
But like a Justice Lord Superman without a Flash to stabilize him, or a Darkwarrior Duck without a Gosling, we can occasionally succumb to our darker impulses and come down on pretty decent flicks with an iron gauntlet. Perspective gets lost, the inner-child gets smothered, and something fun and decent gets unfairly mauled.
Sit back and put on your fightin’ pants, because it’s time to disagree.
Green Lantern. Ahhh, Green Lantern. The only thing that gets a harsher reaction than sheepishly admitting you like the Ryan Reynolds “Green Lantern” flick is saying that you’re a D&D fan in an Evangelical revival tent in the ’80s.
If you haven’t seen it, Green Lantern tells the story of a sexy fighter pilot who becomes a sexy intergalactic space cop. An adaptation of the 2nd tier DC superhero of the same name, Green Lantern gets his amazing ability to conjure objects and energy from a green power ring he got from a dead purple guy. In the movie, he battles his own insecurities, a psychic asshole with a beachball head, and the inter-dimensional embodiment of fear: a yellow shadowy space octopus named Parallax.
So, it’s a relatively low-concept film.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 26% Fresh.
Equal or Greater Score: Alvin and the Chipmunks
That is CLEARLY not fair. There is no version of our planet where “Alvin and the Chipmunks” is equal to the Green Lantern movie.
According to critics and my fellow geeks, Green Lantern is a bad movie. Why? There are two large camps on the subject. The first is the belief that Ryan Reynolds is a bad actor / over-played actor / way too handsome actor. A lot of people cannot stand Ryan Reynolds. The very sight of his well-chiseled abular muscles sends them into wild paroxysms of rage.
The second camp believe that Green Lantern is a poorly scripted movie, and to be fair, that argument is a tad stronger. The Earth scenes are extremely weak when compared to the space scenes – it’s clear all of the creative juice ran toward the Lantern Corps and not Hal Jordan’s relatively weak romance with Blake Lively. The villain also gets a lot of hits – Hector Hammond, the nominal human villain, doesn’t even show up until the middle of the second act, and he does so without any fanfare or foreshadowing. And this is BEFORE he’s turned evil by Parallax’s golden evil-sauce.
Perpetual lidded-eye weirdo-player Peter Sarsgaard does the best he can with the role, but there isn’t much to it beyond screaming in pain and drooling slime over Blake Lively. If you made a drinking game out of Hector Hammond’s screams, your liver would explode out of your abdomen, grab a gun, and shoot you in the gaping hole where your liver used to be.
Those are fairly nerdy complaints, so obviously the geeks are turned off, but why do the straights hate it?
It’s simple – the flick is a pure comic-book movie. It throws some fairly high-octane DC backstory nonsense at you without much explanation – not even the ham-handed opening narration can solve the massive problem. The fact is, for the normals, the movie reads like the demented ramblings of a coked-out ’50s sci-fi novel writer.
“So there’s these little guys with big heads. They turned willpower into green, and put it in a big flashlight. One of the dudes with a little head liked the color yellow better, and they had to lock him in a fishtank on the moon. A thousand years later, some alien dudes smash the fishtank and . . . so Ryan Reynolds makes a racecar . . . then Sinestro’s mustache . . . another dude with a big head, but not the little dudes with the big heads . . .fighter jets into the sun . . . “
The concept is crazy, complex, and half-way towards gibberish.
Still though . . .
Why You’re Wrong
Ryan Reynolds: I’m gonna knock that right out – Ryan Reynolds is a charmingly charming charm-factory with more charms than a Charms blowpop factory in Charming, California.
Whoa. Sorry. I almost broke a hip with that one.
If you watched “Smoking Aces” and came away with the opinion that Ryan Reynolds is a bad actor, you are just wrong. Hell Ryan Reynolds is the only reason to EVER watch Blade 3, a movie so bad that it actually tanked Jessica Biel’s career so hard that the ripples of destruction went backwards in time. It’s true. If you watch an old 7th Heaven episode, you just see a white formless shape on the screen every time her character should normally appear.
Ryan Reynolds has at least TWO comic-book movies under his belt where he’s the only thing worth watching in the whole movie – his other contribution includes his fun-as-hell turn as Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and that movie was so terrible that the audience at the premiere actually died. They just forgot how to live.
The “Green Lantern” movie actually holds a special distinction for me, personally – it’s the only time I’ve ever given two shits about the Hal Jordan character, which I directly credit to Ryan Reynolds. Normally Hal has the personality of wet Wonderbread stuck to a dog’s ass, but Ryan made Hal someone I wouldn’t immediately make fart-noises at if I actually met him.
The Script: The Earth stuff is pretty bland, agreed, but the Lantern scenes? Great. Super-great. The ten-year-old inside of me would have creamed his jeans if he’d seen this movie. And if, you know, he’d been physically capable of doing that at ten-years-old.
The lantern-training scenes are colorful and vibrant, with cool ideas and fun fights. Kilowog, the drill sergeant / space pigmonster in charge of whipping new lanterns into shape, is a blast to watch. Oa, the Green Lantern home base, is beautifully realized. One Oa feature in particular still sticks with me – the lantern graveyard, with the actual lanterns themselves frozen in green amber plinths in memoriam, is haunting.
Though Hector Hammond drops the villain ball like it’s hot, Sinestro steps up to give a fantastic turn as antagonist. Sinestro is an older lantern, one who doesn’t think humans are ready for Green Lantern rings, and isn’t too happy with the newest recruit. He’s at Hal’s throat in every encounter, including a fantastic scene during Hal’s training where he schools the young upstart. Mark Strong, perpetual genre villain, kills it, reminding Hal that when you can create anything in the world with only the power of your mind, choosing to use boxing gloves and swords is incredibly lame.
The face-off with Hector Hammond at the end is suitably disappointing, culminating in (you guessed it) some high-volume screaming from Peter Saarsgard. However, the end-fight with Parallax is fun as hell. If there is anything left of your inner child, the one who hated tether ball but loved four-square, there is no way some part of you didn’t squee when Hal kicked into high gear. Launching gasoline trucks with giant springs, shooting space monsters with flak cannons, reciting the Green Lantern oath in a gravelly voice as Space-Cthulhu tries to crush Hal Jordan into a speck of dust?
Earlier in the movie, Hal saves a crowd of people by turning a crashing helicopter into a racecar and redirecting it on a giant-sized Hot Wheels track. If you can’t find the awesome in that, I don’t know what to tell you.
It’s possible that a big-budget live-action Green Lantern movie just doesn’t work. Modern comic book movies, even when they get high-concept (like the Avengers), still spend a lot of the running time hand-wringing, trying to “explain” all the magic and nonsense away with semi-rational Stan Lee science. Apparently even Batman, a relatively low-fi concept, needs to be brought down to Earth. One could argue that the entire Dark Knight trilogy, fantastic as it was, is one long fan-wank trying to make Batman fit in the real world. The bat-ears are even explained away, for God’s sake.
Is Green Lantern a good movie? I can’t tell you that, because that shit be subjective, son! However, I enjoyed it despite it’s flaws, and I think if you cast a less-critical eye on it, you might dig it too.
I can say, and I do say, loudly and often, that while Green Lantern’s status as a good movie is always up for debate, its status as a TERRIBLE movie is ridiculous. Is it goofy at times? Yes. Does it smack reality in the face? Yes. Does it feature high-adventure childish heroics up against villains with Saturday Morning Cartoon levels of subtlety? Certainly.
But so did the 1989 Batman movie, and everyone loved that flick. So did the Donner Superman movie, and no one seems to have a problem with that.
In the modern era, superhero movies have to have gravitas, and they have to be rational, and everything has to be super totes serious all the time. And here’s the thing – I like that trend. It’s provided the medium with some much-needed respect, and I’m definitely not arguing for a return of the Joel Schumaker Bat-Anus days.
However, if there’s a movie that needs to be light and silly, Green Lantern is one of them.
“In Brightest Day,” after all.