Green Lantern (2011)
In the Last Decade for DC…
Things have been quite interesting for DC comic book movies in the last ten years, haven’t they? When we take a look at Marvel flicks for the past ten years, their status has been continually solid with very minor lows and reaching unbelievable heights along the way. Then taking in everything DC has had to offer and, well… It’s a different story. One with several twists and turns, ups and downs, lefts and rights, and occasionally a shelved director’s cut that tractions a legendary Twitter campaign by dedicated fans to eventually be released publicly. To say that the films on DC’s end in the last decade are less than consistent would be quite the colossal understatement, yet somehow they have managed to inject some real ambition into their projects again recently. Winning the fans over by returning back to their roots of what made their movies so great to begin with; balancing an edgy and dark nature with colorful characters and gritty worlds to explore. Basically everything the 2011 Green Lantern movie is not.
In the 2000s, I think it’s safe to say that DC reigned supreme in the comic book movie realm mainly with their success of the Christopher Nolan Batman flicks. Introducing grounded yet vibrant stories to witness. Outside of the Dark Knight features, DC clearly struggled with an identity crisis which went on for years. For the most part, after the worldwide acclaim of the Dark Knight films, DC seemed to try incorporating dark and gritty tones without fully understanding how to utilize those elements properly; resulting in publicly flopped attempts such as Superman Returns, The Spirit, and Jonah Hex. However, they did find some modest hits in A History of Violence, Watchmen, and V for Vendetta. After having little to be shown in their accomplishments while simultaneously being surpassed by their competing studio of Marvel, DC apparently attempted to push for a much lighter tone and less challenging ideas in their placeholder for the next Batman flick, Green Lantern.
2011’s Green Lantern was officially my very first 3D movie I ever saw in the theater. Prior to then I had only seen a couple flicks with terrible 3D quality on home video, but never in the theater. At the time, I was legitimately excited to see a 3D movie on the big screen for the first time. Especially a movie I was already looking forward to, seeing how I’m a huge fan of both Ryan Reynolds and comic book flicks in general. And from my nine year old recollection of the experience, I do recall the 3D particularly popping as the colors were bright and the CG did often help the visuals stick out as well. And there goes the one and only compliment this movie will likely get from me.
Reckless test pilot, Maverick… I mean Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) becomes a superhero space cop known as Green Lantern and must learn to control his power to save the world from an intergalactic space turd voiced by Clancy Brown. Oh and also he has to fall in love and overcome his demons of daddy issues.
2011’s Green Lantern is the definition of a studio note comic book movie; good looking rebel without a cause who must learn to be selfless and work as a team in order to save the day? Check. Attractive romantic lead in a love subplot of the ol’ “will they, won’t they” routine? Check. Past trauma for our hero to overcome as we flash back to the incident multiple times? Check. Before hitting the third act, we have a moment where our protagonist goes through his personal doubts of being a hero only to realize he’s the only one who can stop that baddies in the end? Check. Forced in training montage with lazy foreshadowing? Check. Generic villain that has no other goals from destroying the Earth? Check. Cram in decades worth of comic book lore into less than two hours of screen time because we don’t want to spend real time setting up these ideas throughout an actual franchise, but rather just fast forward everything into the first movie instead! Also, make sure that this is a PG-13 because showing an ounce of blood is simply too scary for modern audiences.
There isn’t a single frame of originality to this script in the slightest; it’s Top Gun mixed with every basic screenplay ever written for an action/superhero flick, only with less focus than most other examples under the genre as it pushes the limits of how much can be squeezed into one narrative. We get the rebel redemption story turning into a hero, we get countless lines of exposition on the lore of this universe without actually getting to experience any of it, backstory on the main villain (Parallax) without exploring his true story, inserted family elements of Hal Jordan that are dropped literally within the first 15 minutes of the picture, Hal’s training to become a Green Lantern which is reduced down to a forgettable mediocre training montage, the story arc of Hal proving himself to take the place of a deceased member of the Green Lantern Corps. is nothing more than a lazy excuse to make Mark Strong’s character give our hero some undeserved sh*t talking, the inclusion of a secondary villain with his own daddy issues which ultimately amounts to nothing by the time the credits roll, a love interest that was childhood friends with the lead and they grew apart only to come back together through our hero’s arc, on top of all this is the inclusion of the Amanda Waller character who is no more than a glorified cameo. Not to mention the last minute villainous turn by the Sinestro character only used as an after credit scene setting up a non-existent sequel.
Seriously, the overabundance of subplots crammed into this script only gives us a scatter brained story with nothing to invest in because practically nothing is allowed the time to develop or be followed through with because there is no time to share in under two hours. Maybe as a series on Netflix, this could have worked attempting to balance the dozens of story threads introduced and not fleshed out in the film. As it is, including the ‘Extended Version’, this is a sloppy pilot to a TV show that never aired. Which, by the way, the Extended Cut adds all of five minutes which are a flashback of Hal’s father dying… A scene that we flash back to yet again only ten minutes later… this was a much needed addition to the film as a whole. Clearly. Without question! Another way this film could have succeeded is if maybe there wasn’t four different writers credited for the screen play and the… screen story? Whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.
Ryan Reynolds – Hal Jordan
As we all know, Ryan Reynolds IS movie magic. There is little to no wrong that this actor can do with how unbelievably charismatic he is and the unlimited range he possesses, Reynolds is practically every reason why I love movies. Unfortunately, even with all of this man’s talents, there was no saving Green Lantern. And it’s not as though Reynolds is sleepwalking his way through his role, he does at least try to bring some level of charm to this character. The problem is that this is as standard of a protagonist as one can get; any development made here can already be seen in Tom Cruise’s performance as Maverick basically, there’s practically no difference other than Ryan has superpowers, no big whoop!
Although even the Hal character’s arc is clumsily written as the whole point of his personal growth was to overcome his fears and work as a team. Then as we reach the climax, he runs to the Green Lantern Corps. for help, only to immediately redact his plea for support in order to prove that he can stop the menace all on his own. So what exactly is the lesson Hal is supposed to learn here? Don’t be afraid because you’ll always have a team to rely on… but forget about working with anyone else because you’re the only one that can get sh*t done? The hell kind of lesson is that?! Sadly it’s clear as day to see how little effort or thought was actually put into the development of this lead character, as anyone could easily tell that the writer was obviously on autopilot the whole time.
Another issue is the themes of Hal overcoming his fears in order to become a hero, but there’s never any actual consistency behind the character being afraid or even what he’s afraid of. Is he afraid of dying? Doesn’t seem so as our introduction to the character is watching him drive down the highway not paying attention to the road while wrapping up a last minute gift to his nephew and almost colliding head-on into a truck, then instantly brushes off the incident in a jovial manner. So that’s a no. Maybe he’s afraid of flying, seeing how his father was killed in a flight accident. That’s a hard nope as Hal is a career test pilot. How about losing someone he cares about? We have evidence to the contrary as we witness in a flight simulation him actually sacrificing his own wingman (a.k.a. his romantic interest) in order to defeat the test drones during a dogfight. What exactly is this character afraid off? Because it comes across as less fear and more plot convenience when he becomes scared of something randomly. It would be one thing if the script fleshed the character out as a flawed person with personal anxieties of some sort, but instead it’s an arbitrary obstacle in order to grind the plot to a halt entering the third act so our hero goes through a predictable moment of doubt before facing his foe.
Peter Sarsgaard – Hector Hammond
If I’m being honest, I find Peter Sarsgaard to be an underrated gem, seemingly never getting the recognition he rightfully deserves yet consistently performs his heart out. And there is certainly potential in this character, but like everything else in the script, there’s no time dedicated to developing any of it. So what we have here is a spoiled whiny b*tch who’s jealous of Hal because he’s good looking. Even worse is the fact that Hector is supposed to be supplying the story its antagonist for the majority of the runtime until a giant turd monster shows up at the end to overshadow him, yet Hector’s impact to the script means practically nothing. Not a single thing that the Hector character does remotely effects how the story ultimately concludes. The only reason he exists is to fill up space until the climax and is immediately axed off. What a threatening character we have ourselves here. All build up with no payoff.
Parallax – Clancy Brown
A generic, CGI space turd monster that wants to destroy the planet Earth and is voiced by Clancy Brown… There is nothing more to add here, other than Clancy Brown deserves so much better.
Mark Strong – Sinestro
Possibly this film’s best bet as this movie’s main antagonist, yet totally thrown out the window to be used as the disapproving Chief of Space Police that busts Ryan Reynolds’s chops until the final moments where he approves of him as an equal. Now that I think about it, you know what Sinestro really is? A lowkey, discount version of Val Kilmer’s Iceman from Top Gun. Disapproving of the main character’s whole persona, sh*t talking the man until the very end where Sinestro might as well say to Hal, “You can be my wingman any day!”
Honestly, there was a lot of potential setting up the villainous turn of Sinestro here, or at least build it up as the runtime could have also focused more on the tense relationship between him and Hal if the film had went in a direction centering around the hero’s training to replace all of the run of the mill summertime flop-buster we have here. There could have been something really special here to witness the slow decline of this good hearted warrior succumbing to the power of fear and turning against all he believes in after the death of his close friend/mentor. But no, we spend minimal time with the character throughout the feature, to the point where it feels like Mark Strong simply showing up on a green screen set during the weekends, only to have an end credit Easter egg alluding to the character’s dark turn for a future installment that never comes. What an absolute waste of a promising character arc and a great actor of Mark Strong being used as barely a supporting character.
The special effects range from terrible to almost passable… Almost. CGI fills the entirety of the frame for the majority of its runtime and to an extent it makes sense seeing the amount outlandishly high budgeted concepts there are in the action and environments. Only issue being the visuals never once look convincing with the awfully cartoony effects used. Maybe with more time for the artists to work or more restraint utilized in the writing would have helped the production artists come up with more practical means to accomplish the visuals instead. Neither of those things happened though, so what we have on our hands is a two hour CG splooge that is never fun or exciting, but always laughable.
Green Lantern is one of the few instances where I feel as though the musical score is constantly distracting me from what is going on in a scene rather than adding to the experience. Always as though the percussion section is relentlessly trying to liven things up by overcompensating along with an electric guitar to add to the “cool” factor. Turns out when the soundtrack is a continuously obnoxious loud jumble of noise, it just makes the action feel lame and the “quiet moments” never remotely quiet. When the cynicism of a production goes so far as to taint the music, there’s clearly a major problem that needs a total overhaul.
2011’s Green Lantern is a feeble effort to catch up with Marvel at the time by launching a full cinematic universe into one film using a generic script scrounged up on someone’s lunch break. No care or thought was injected into the script, the characters, or the filmmaking in general. The only goal in mind by these producers were to make money by recycling ideas already seen countless times before and set up about a dozen subplots without taking time to legitimately develop them or follow through because they counted on catapulting Green Lantern into a franchise without working up to it first. Squandering the massive amount of potential with Martin Campbell behind the camera as director, the man who brought us GoldenEye, The Mask of Zorro, and Casino Royale; the man clearly knows how to make a kick-ass action movie, as well as a great origin story at that! The talents in front of the camera do their best to make do with empty material, but there was no saving this production with the cynical motives behind it.
An unfortunate rocky start to creating a DC cinematic universe at the beginning of the decade, one that the studio wouldn’t recover from for a very long time, in terms of fan consensus at least. I suppose if there was any real good to come from the whole fiasco here, it’s that hilarious joke seen in the after credits sequence at the end of Deadpool 2. Not going to lie, that was probably one of the funniest moments ever made in a comic book flick. Aside from that, Green Lantern is a failed attempt at popcorn entertainment without any of the charm or spectacle to carry it. Please go watch Top Gun instead! Freaking classic.
Oddly enough, another better version of this movie is 2019’s Shazam! I know it sounds like a joke, however there actually are a fair number of similarities between the themes and ideas of both properties. Only Shazam! accomplishes the character and story development with far more charm and better humor at that… Also, strangely enough, Mark Strong is in Shazam! as well as the main villain… Weird. Anyways, go watch that instead. Leave Green Lantern back in 2011 where it rightfully belongs.
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Billy Batson is given the power of a God as long as he says that power's name... Shazoo! No. Wait. I mean, Shazaa!! Shazbill!!! Shazummm... Shaztla? Shazbaloo?? Shazberry??? Sha-something.
Favorite DC Movie
That’s All Folks…
Green Lantern… Anyone give a crap? I doubt it. What do you think though? Like or dislike? Agree or disagree? Wonder if Ryan Reynolds would dawn the CG mask and motion capture suit again? Comment down below and let me know! Also, if you so happened to have enjoyed my review then please do me a favor and share this article around the social media world. Thank you all so much for reading and have yourselves an illuminating good day!
© 2020 John Plocar