Don’t let cool images like this fool you. The crazy space opera stuff is just so much window dressing.

I pride myself on trying to find cool quotes, or at least apt ones, to fit my reviews. The quote I chose this time is a chastisement against what I view to be the thing Green Lantern is the shortest on. There is some sense of scope, and there’s certainly imagination involved in creating the planet Oa or the creature Parralax, but most of this is owed to the comics. I’m hard pressed to give the filmmakers much credit for translating the work of others and doing such a piss-poor job of making even that work, let alone adding anything to the proceedings.

Green Lantern is a by-the-numbers movie. Yes, superhero movies have progressed to the point where there’s a template of bland genericness which seems to be a combination of samey origin stories, daddy issues, and what worked in Iron Man. We get it already, Hollywood, these movies are hip to the fact that they are about ridiculous guys in tights with unlikely names. At the same time, a movie that was much more earnest than Green Lantern yet had many similarities in apparent scope and context is Thor, which is by far the better movie.

Helped in part by that Thor had cool powers that were used well in his movie. Maybe Hal Jordan is just unimaginative but a gatling gun? Really?

To be more specific about the formulaic nature of the movie, let me point to its overly familiar plot and characters. Elements which are so familiar that they are almost a short-hand in the film, patched together weakly and trying to bank on the same old big Hollywood assumption: people won’t notice or care, they want the same old story over and over, etc. Except no, they didn’t. As Green Lantern becomes the biggest bomb of 2011 to date, watch how they didn’t.

The plot, if you couldn’t completely pin it down from the trailers, centers on a cocky fighter pilot named Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds who really deserves so much better than this) who inherits an alien ring even though he’s an irresponsible ass with daddy issues 3 miles long. Dodging the government peoples who inevitably come snag the body of Abin Sur, Hal gets warped to Oa and learns a bunch of exposition the movie already dumped on us, Thor-like, in the first 3 minutes or so. He meets some other Green Lanterns who are present pretty much for fan service, exposition, and functionality. They aren’t characters but collections of characteristics. Even the inestimable Mark Strong, thought of by many as the best thing about this movie, is barely more than a poorly written cartoon character.

Not even red-skinned magician and misanthrope Mark Strong could save this fucking movie.

Oa remains, however, the only place where any sense of scale or wonder is shown in the movie. Coast City, one of the aggregate cities of the DC Universe, is never named as such and just looks like some generic California city… which it probably is supposed to be anyway. Because we spend most of our time in Coast City locations, especially (and fucking oddly) Hal’s apartment, the presence of a place like Oa is even more missed than it would be if the earth-bound locations were interesting in any form.

But of course, Green Lantern is another Campbellian story so the hero must “resist the call” and get shamed into quitting by Sinestro (Mark Strong) after he’s been on Oa for like five minutes. Maybe fewer gigantic green racetracks would have given the budget for more Oa, not to mention the ridiculous twice-used shot of all the Lanterns shooting green shit into the air after doing absolutely dick all about the “greatest threat they’ve ever faced” all movie long.

So back on Earth, the movie really starts to fall apart. Other critics have made a fuss over the reversal of the “show don’t tell” policy in this movie. I mean, it really is ridiculous. Remember what I said up there about how they are so convinced this shit works for people that they don’t even bother to string it together or background it well? I said something like that didn’t I!? Anyway. In no greater way is this shown than by the alleged relationship Carol Ferris (Blake Lively who kept appearing as Cristal from The Town superimposed over the bland “heroine” she plays here), Hector Hammond, and Hal Jordan are supposed to have. Periodically, stuff going on with Hal is juxtaposed by Hammond’s study of Abin Sur’s corpse. This is supposed to thematically link their respective “journeys”, I guess. Instead, it creates this bizarre moment of disconnect when you see them meet up at a party once Hal comes back (a party that I’m sure cost them millions which could have been better spent elsewhere). They’re like “hey wassup?” and you’re supposed to understand that they are/were friends especially when Hal sticks up for Hammond with his dickhole Senator dad (Tim Robbins, who also deserves better than this… notice a theme here?).

Later, when Hammond is infected by Parallax (I’m not even going to get into the backstory of this otherwise this blog will become as eye-glazingly expositional as the fucking movie) he becomes this grotesque figure. This creates a bizarre but fascinating parallel between he and Hal that I’m sure was unintentional but gets awesomely caught up in the shuffle of all the other weak-ass parallels they try to set up.

See, Hector looks like this:

See? They’re friends. They’re standing together and everything. A guy who looks like Hal wouldn’t hang out with a guy who looks like Hector otherwise. It makes sense!

Even before he looks like this:

I see guys like this on the bus all the time. I am not afraid of them.

And is fucking wheelchair bound. So here we have the ugly guy who starts out ugly only to become uglier facing off against the handsome guy in top physical form. Their true battle, we are told, is over the heart of Carol Ferris whom newspaper clippings reveal is the object of Hammond’s pickled desire. Of course, since I’m pretty sure the two never have a scene together (unless it’s in the 2 minutes of the party scene when I took a piss and even so, big woop), it’s not an easy buy but HEY GREEN LANTERN, WHATEVS I ALREADY PAID $16.50 FOR A FUCKING AVX TICKET SO SURE, BRING ON THE FUCKIN’ NONSENSE.

Anyway, back to the parallel I was talking about. Not only is Hammond the awkward science ugly guy with weird hair and an unironic pervstache to Hal’s cocky-jock fighter pilot fucking hero handsome underwear model… the fucking guy is crippled and in a wheelchair when they have their big confrontation over Ms. Ferris. Having her floating in the air unconscious while Hammond psychic-menaces her with a needle full of Parallax-juice (his blood? who fucking knows, it just appears out of nowhere) is about the perfect example of what Hollywood has managed to boil the damsel in distress down to. Fire your fucking agent, Blake. You are a real actress, you proved it in The Town. Fire him and have a real career.

So right, another digression. This movie. Anyway, you should be able to see by now what I’m getting at. It’s beyond fucked up to have this kind of hero with this kind of villain. It’s as if we’re back in 1985 and Rocky Dennis is squaring off against teenage Biff Tannen so that the whole world can remember just what the social status quo is supposed to be. I mean… the fuck? Nerds are actually putting up with this? I guess we all still secretly want to be the Superjock.

I have ranted about this film’s many failings but I have yet to mention it’s one great strength. That great strength is Parallax itself. Up til it invades the Earth, it is a boring-ass non-entity as a villain. On Earth we have Hector Hammond and his inept tantrums but in space, fucking shit up, we have Clancy Brown-powered GIANT FUCKING SPACE RASTAFARIAN.

This looks cool. It’s doing vampirism by sucking out fear or something stupid like that, but dammit if it doesn’t look good.

In Parallax and, by association, the final confrontation in the sun’s orbit the movie finally shows us the sense of scope it should have been more than gently stroking all movie long. Of course, the effect is slightly ruined by Hal Jordan’s utter lack of imagination (really, for someone who can make constructs out of any idea he has… jetplanes and racetracks and a fucking flamethrower?) but then it redeems itself utterly when Hal defeats Parallax with a giant green punch in the face which sends it careening into the sun.

And while the movie built around this moment is a festering pile of Kilowogg’s stony shit, this one scene almost makes it worth seeing because it is utterly bonkers.

Now they’re threatening to make a sequel. It’s a terrible idea and it probably won’t happen but if it does I think they need MORE space nonsense. If you want to sell cheesy characterization with sentimental pap and daddy issues, bring Sam Raimi into this. He fucked Spiderman so hard it needed reincarnating, but he would have been perfect for Green Lantern. While you’re at it, get a real writer too. Stop hiring all these hacks who think Joseph Campbell was the last word on how to write a heroic narrative. In fact, send them all to China to work for Nike. Sometimes when the crop is afflicted, best burn it and plant anew.

In the final analysis, there are precise reasons why Green Lantern is failing in cinemas. It isn’t rocket science but people are going to say it’s that the character is too weird, the blah is too blah or not enough blah. It’s all nonsense. What it comes down to is a story being told poorly, with too many shortcuts, and not enough imagination to limit (they certainly weren’t limited by fucking budget).

Now that we’ve seen the low-point of 2011’s big superhero clusterfuck, bring on Captain America and make mine Marvel til The Dark Knight Rises.