Comic Picks By The Glick

A very “meh” lantern.

June 21, 2011

"Green Lantern" made $53.1 million over the weekend. That's not a great start for a film that cost around $200 million to make and an additional $100+ million to market. It could surprise everyone and decline by, say 35%, next weekend, but a trajectory closer to that of "Watchmen" is more likely. Now that the film has drawn all the fanboys out, it'll be hard pressed to get everyone else onboard. While the film isn't as bad as its Rotten Tomatoes score would indicate, it's still not all that great.

If anything is to blame for the film's wan reception, it's the script. Between the four credited screenwriters we get exactly one truly memorable scene. It happens when Hal, as Green Lantern, shows up at Carol Ferris' place to introduce himself properly. Her reaction is... something that we've never actually seen in a superhero movie before, despite how obvious it should be. That was a great moment and it really stood out in the sea of blandness that is the rest of the movie.

I can't say that I really hated the film, but it committed one of the worst kinds of sins any adaptation can in my mind -- making me think that I could've done a better job. Granted, I don't have the professional experience that these people do, but whose idea was it to make the core of the film about how Hal Jordan overcomes his fears? The whole reason he was chosen in the comics was that he had no fear. What we've got here is something that would be better suited for a Kyle Rayner origin, and while I really like the character, he's not the star here.

It's especially frustrating when you consider that current "Green Lantern" writer (and a co-producer of the film) Geoff Johns wrote an updated origin story for Hal in the form of "Secret Origin" for pretty much this purpose. The film follows the broad outline of that book's plot, but also decides to shoehorn in a drastically different version of Parallax as the main villain. Now I can understand the need to make the stakes higher by introducing a cosmic-level threat (this is a summer movie after all), but the way Parallax is portrayed here robs him of the significance he has in the comics. Where this creature was responsible for the character's fall from grace and eventual redemption as laid out in "Green Lantern: Rebirth," Hal just kicks his ass here, saves the universe, and that's it.

Getting back to my original point, I would've made Atrocitus the film's main villain. While he was the bad guy in "Secret Origin," one angry alien doesn't really constitute a planet-level threat by himself. That's when you bring in his cohorts "The Five Inversions" and you've got a nice little intergalactic terrorist group. What's their goal? For the sake of simplicity, we'll have it so that the Guardians wound up destroying most of his sector in their early attempts to gain control over "Will" and utilize the first Lantern rings. With revenge as his motive, Atrocitus sees destroying Earth and its newest Green Lantern as the best way to send a message to the galaxy that the Green Lantern Corps. are vulnerable and can be hurt. Then you follow the comic's setup of having Sinestro come to Earth to meet Abin Sur's successor, they bicker, and then team up to combat this new threat. It's "Lethal Weapon" meets "Star Trek" -- you can start printing the money now (or at least that's what I'd like to think would have happened...)

What we got was decidedly less inspiring. I will say that the special effects looked nice and the cast does about as well as you'd expect with what they're given. Ryan Reynolds was a good choice for Hal and he's consistently watchable and fun to see in action throughout the movie, even when he has to do dumb things like leave Oa in the middle of his training because he's afraid. Peter Sarsgard also does a good creepy turn as Hector Hammond, and you can tell that he put some thought into this. While other actors would go right over the top with such a character, he dials it back and gives a more focused and satisfying performance. You can also say most of the same for Mark Strong's turn as Sinestro. Though Strong is Hollywood's villain-du-jour after his turns in "Sherlock Holmes" and "Kick-Ass" he actually does a good job of creating a Sinestro who is both believable as the "Greatest of the Green Lanterns" and still someone you can see being corrupted by too much power (which is spelled out in the most obvious way possible in the end credits...). Everyone else is okay, though you get the feeling that Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett just showed up for the paycheck.

(And really WB, this is how you want to introduce us to Amanda Waller!? The strong-willed and utterly devious head of the Suicide Squad is now a doctor whose sole purpose is to bring Hector Hammond in contact with Parallax! Bassett could've done her justice, but she's not given anything to work with here.)

Barring a surprisingly strong second weekend hold, it's safe to say that this is going to be a setback for the WB's plans to make DC Superheroes their next cash cow now that the "Harry Potter" films are almost done. One can only hope that the lesson they take from "Green Lantern" is that "It's the script, stupid!" and not only find some better writers for the next superhero they tackle, but also take some cues from Marvel/Disney and find a director better suited to the material. Martin Campbell did a serviceable job here, but his "Bond" and "Zorro" films show that he's much better working in the real world. Yeah, "Green Lantern" could've been a lot worse, but is that the legacy any film should have?

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