Green Lantern: 5 Things I Liked, 9 Things I Didn’t

By  · Published on June 20th, 2011

So much potential and so much promise… and yet so much blandness. I had been trying to stay as hopeful as one could when it came to Green Lantern. Even after Neil – who I usually think is spot on when it comes to his criticisms – posted his review, I still held on to what little optimism I could maintain. “Perhaps Green Lantern would be this summer’s G.I. Joe, a film that is so cartoonish that you just can’t help but to laugh with it,” I thought. But, boy, was I wrong. Green Lantern is no laughing matter.

Green Lantern + The guy who reinvented Bond twice + Reynolds’ mojo + Great Sarsgaard + Potential for Space Battles + Mark Strong as Sinestro = what should’ve been a real event film. Wha happened?

Things We Liked:

5. The Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Trailer That Played Beforehand

What a cool and epic trailer. It was a nice reminder that there are some summer blockbusters with real heart, characters you care for, and moments that don’t look like video game cut scenes. Green Lantern should have taken notes…

4. The Big Boss Battle

The climactic battle was done well. While Hal’s transformation into finally becoming “fearless,” or a real Lantern, holds no weight whatsoever, it’s an impressive action beat. And there were real stakes to the fight; far too many tentpole films have the littlest possibility of destruction. Most superhero villains seem to get their plans from Professor Chaos nowadays. Parallax (wasted voice provided by reliable badass, Clancy Brown) provided a threat. I still have no idea what the hell Hector Hammond’s plan was or what type of chaos he was capable of, but seeing Hal face off against Parallax was nice eye candy with real consequences.

3. One Cool Abin Sur

With only a few minutes of screen time, a good sense of who Abin Sur is and what he’s capable of was greatly established. The “let me spell out how this all works!” voice-over at the beginning informs you how powerful of a warrior he is, but actor Temuera Morrison made you feel it for every second he was present. If there’s ever another Green Lantern film, it should be a prequel from the point of view of Abin Sur and Sinestro. How great would that be? Well, it would at least be better than this.

2. Mark Strong’s Purple Presence

Despite Sinestro being written as more of a dick instead of an understandable cynic, the excellent Mark Strong brought an attention-grabbing gravitas to the role. When he spoke with that dominant accent of his, one listens. After all, the speech he gave to the Lanterns is one of the few well-handled moments in the film. Ultimately, Strong defeated his one-note role and turned out another solid performance, as we expect from the pro.

1. Peter Sarsgaard Acting in a Much Different and Better Film

Sarsgaard must have known early on how dull and stilted nearly every other aspect of Green Lantern was going to be, and that’s the moment he decided to garble down as much scenery as humanly possible. Sarsgaard makes a villain with an underwritten arc terrific fun. I kept wishing that Hector would brutally kill off Hal early on and the film would then begin to follow him from that point. There’s a sad, childlike nature to Hector; with that, Sarsgaard proved to be the only one in the cast capable of playing off an interesting character trait. He represented the type of entertainment I wish the whole film had.

Things We Didn’t Like:

9. Want to Become a Green Lantern? Easy as Pie

So, after five minutes of training, Hal Jordan becomes that good of a Green Lantern? Sinestro kept discussing the honor and the challenge of being a true Lantern, but it seems relatively easy based on how quickly Jordan picked up his skills. At least the fans got to hear Kilowog stupidly say ‘Poozer’ during those scenes.

8. Daddy Issues

A thematic connection could have been made between Hal and Hector: Both of them have huge daddy issues. To no surprise, there’s no attempt to make this an interesting parallel. Instead, they waste Tim Robbins’s time to have him act cartoonishly smarmy and have laughable flashbacks with kiddy Hal hanging out with his dead papa. Every moment of Hal thinking back about his Dad left me in stitches.

7. Ryan Reynolds, kind of, playing Ryan Reynolds

I like Ryan Reynolds. He’s got charm and a likability to him, but here he’s almost a parody of what some people think of Ryan Reynolds. Perhaps his attachment led to the many credited writers thinking about how Hal could be more Ryan Reynolds-y. The actor is capable of great dramatic chops (in films like The Nines, Adventureland, and Buried), but none of that comes through in Hal. As the titular character, he’s stuck to dishing out dumb jokes and being overly serious when he’s called on to emote.

6. That’s a Love Story?

Great actors can make a so-so written relationship work. We recently got X-Men: First Class, where the friendship between Xavier and Erik felt a bit rushed, but there was still chemistry between the two and a real effectiveness to their last moment. I couldn’t have cared less about Hal and Carol. She is constantly on Hal’s back and talks like a wooden robot: “Hal… this test today… it’s important.” What real purpose does Carol serve in the grand scheme of things? Outside of trying to reach a broader female audience, no apparent reason can be found or argued.

5. Another Emo Hero…

Why do screenwriters think it’s a good idea to have your hero sit on his ass during a second act? Where’s the fun in seeing your lead whine about how unsure of himself he is, especially when you already know he’s going to work up the courage he needs – it’s a character beat that always feels pointless and unearned. Taking both this and Thor into account, it would appear that recent comic book films have a burning desire for a pit stop that allows their heroes to do nothing of any real importance. And who could actually sympathize with Hal Jordan during all his moping? This is a man who gets to sleep with beautiful women, looks the way he does, has Blake Lively interested in him, and gets chosen to be a superhero. Jesus, quit your whining…

4. The Face-Slapping Sequel Flag

How bad, annoying, and incomprehensible was that post-credits scene with Sinestro? After he realizes how powerful the Green Lanterns are and accepts Hal as one of their own, why on earth would he turn evil? He’s supposed to be their leader (one full of pride and honor), and yet, he seemed pretty cool and at ease about screwing the Lanterns over for no reason. What should have been an interesting arc during the sequel is instead an unneeded and nonsensical quick transformation. Turning yellow for no reason? What a dick…

3. I’m Not Stupid… Or, At Least, I Don’t Think I Am

Martin Campbell and co. must have thought 99% of their audience were going to be brain dead zombies. Every character beat, emotion, and step of the world is constantly spelled out, and almost every line feels like unnerving exposition. If I had to hear Hal complain one more time about how he’s not fearless, I would have gladly punched the old lady sitting next to me out of annoyance. If you enjoy being treated like you’re in kindergarten, then this is an experience you’ll enjoy.

2. Bad Structure

An introduction that’s nonstop exposition, a second act that has the hero just hanging out, the idea of Hector, Hal, and Carol once being friends not introduced until 40 or so minutes in, a useless nerdy buddy of Hal’s, and so little of Oa shows how truly messy the script for Green Lantern is. Why not set up Hal and Hector’s relationship early on? Why not establish a rising tension between the two? Why not have Kilowog and Tomar-Re help Hal save the universe? Would have been better than them just showing up at the end to say “Good job, human!” Either a whole lot was left on the editing room floor, or nobody ever devised a respectable structure in the script phase.

1. Lacked Ambition

My greatest hope – and the expectation I got from the recent trailers and the cast constantly name-dropping Star Wars – was that Green Lantern’s scope would be massive and unlike any other superhero film. It’s not; this is about as safe as an action film could get. The word “ambitious” gets thrown around way too often, and even as a summer blockbuster, this is far from having grand aspirations. If Green Lantern is ambitious, then so is Fantastic Four

What did you like and/or dislike about Green Lantern?

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Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.