(Spoiler Alert — for those of you who want to be surprised)
Who needs energy bolts, or control of magnetism, or telekinesis when you can punch people with a green huge fist, or fight evil by shooting it with an anti-aircraft gun, or protect yourself with a green umbrella? This is question I had watching Ryan Reynolds run around in a CG body. All deeper messages of “will” versus “fear”, or parental disapproval of under-appreciated offspring, or that hot chicks can fly jets too is simply lost in a thin veneer of silly, literal representations of said messages — coated with a very thick glaze of very expensive visual effects. But all this glitz and glamor makes for a fairly lackluster vehicle for Reynolds, who seems to have been cast in everything that Bradley Cooper was not.
The story starts off with a Star Wars type battle of good versus evil in space, only not as good. There are so many factors in the prologue that one cannot hope to follow it. And then we get dropped into an asteroid to meet the embodiment of fear itself — Parallax — who sucks the fear right out of you, or in this case four hapless asteroid-visiting victims, and then becomes a flamey-smoke head and proceeds to eat through a few planets.
6 months later (because that’s important to alien beings who for some reason use Earth’s orbit to measure time), we have MORE exposition as an member of the Green Lantern Corp, Abin Sul, is attacked by Parallax, and as per the requisite of the Corp of having no fear, he ejects in an escape pod within about 8 seconds of the confrontation with a mortal wound. One might think that he could summon a little green surgical team to stitch him back up and be as right as rain. But no.
Enter Earth, and Hal Jordan. He wakes up with a woman with no speaking lines, leaps out of bed in underwear to reveal Reynolds’ ripped physique. He must have the same contract lawyer at Jason Statham. So… he’s a womanizer, thoughtless, in good shape, and irresponsible because he’s late for something. That something is a test flight flying against test jet fighter drones with his wing-woman Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) — hence showing that hot chicks can fly jets — probably the least plausible presumption in the movie and something borrowing from the amazingly successful Stealth, with Jessica Biel playing the part of hot chick pilot.
Hal outwits the drones by flying to altitudes higher than they can manage, but its also higher than he can manage, and even though he takes out the drones, he falls into a tailspin — a perfect time for flashbacks and more exposition to show that underneath the smarmy exterior, Hal is a fearful child stemming from the fiery death of his pilot father. But now he’s in trouble with the company because he ejected from his jet and destroyed a multi-million dollar aircraft — and his wing-woman sachets away in a huff. Not only that, like all presumably top secret military jet missions, his story is all over the news, and the thoughtless media relates it to Hal’s dad’s death.
Hal visits his nephew for quality time and to say cliched remarks that make no sense, and then leaves…never to return to this character in the film. — and then immediately after, he is suddenly surrounded by a green energy ball and is whisked off and dropped into a puddle. He sees an obviously alien spacecraft crashed in a lake and (because of his cowardly nature) he immediately runs to help. He finds Amin Sul who gives him a ring and a lantern.
Enter weak and underprivileged, Hector Hammond, played with surprising depth (or maybe not so surprising) by Peter Sarsgaard. We are introduced to him behind a bank of computers, and playing chess on one of them — foreshadowing? Nope. He never again shows mental acuity for strategic thinking — its just a trope of “this guy is a NERD!” Hammond is a scientist who is given the opportunity to examine the government confiscated body of Amin Sul, and in the process he is exposed to Parallax juice, which ultimately makes him all powerful and bat shit crazy at the same time (but we’ll get to the culmination of that soon enough).
In an attempt at comedy, Hal tries to conjure up the power of the Green Lantern, and then suddenly goes into a trance and somehow recites it perfectly. Why not? Hal Jordan is a good lookin’ guy with a cool job and a hot ex-girlfriend. He gets chosen by an all powerful ring to be a superhero. And then the magic lantern gives him the answer he is looking for. Let’s not make the guy who has everything actually EARN something. I mean…why would we want someone weak and underprivileged to have a chance at greatness?
This is intercut with Hammond doing an autopsy on Amin Sul, I guess to give us the impression that these two guys are cut from the same quarry, and they are evolving at the same time to have superpowers.
But back to the all important Hal — He’s all disjointed and sad about losing his job and the contract for the drone jets, and because Carol mentions his Dad’s death in an intimate conversation while dancing to “their” song. Outside the bar he gets into a fight with some Union guys who also lost their jobs because of Hal’s irresponsible behavior that day. In the fight, Hal unleashes a can of whoop ass in the form of a huge green fist. At which point he gets launched into space, rocketing passed astronauts working on a satellite or something (I can suspend my disbelief for a Corp of Green Lanterns, but not for a space program that is now essentially defunct). He gets pulled through a wormhole, and then wakes up in Green Lantern Central, the planet of Oa, where he is met by a fish Green Lantern with Geoffry Rush’s voice who show him what’s what — after all, we haven’t had enough exposition. They fly around expensive CG for a while and then join a gathering of a bazillion green lanterns who are addressed by Sinestro in a speech that tells us all kinds of things that we already know — including that Parallax is crabby and they have to go and dispatch him (it).
There is a ludicrous training session led by Kilawog (Michael Clarke Duncan) and the appropriately dumb drill sergeant jargon including “The Bigger You Are The Faster You Burn” and the followup “Gravity’s a bitch”,(in regards to conjuring a small sun!), which is so out of context that it screams foreshadow. It would have been far more appropriate, yet still moronically contemporary, if the line was “Gravity Sucks!”.
All sorts of energy is conjured up into things so literal that you want to smack yourself in the face. Don’t make a force field. No — make a BRICK WALL. I’m surprised that the Lantern he was fighting didn’t conjure up a pick ax to break through, yelling “You just wait! Once I pick my way through this green brick wall — you’re dead! Just….hold on…….Dead I say!……” Ultimately, Sinestro shows up and acts all sinister, taunting Hal into almost the point of crying — telling him that he’s worthless and fearful and that humans will never add up to being a Green Lantern.
In a huff, Hal sulks back to Earth —- WITH the ring mind you. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think that usually when you quit a job, you turn in your security badge. I guess the Green Lantern Corp is pretty progressive. “Yeah, just let him have it. We’ve showed him how it works already…he probably won’t do any damage. Outside of maybe destroying his solar system with that all powerful ring. What’s the worse that could happen?”
Meanwhile, back on Earth, Hammond, affected by the Parallax juice, is hearing peoples thoughts. In the class he is teaching, he lashes out at a jock who thinks he a loser — throwing him out of the chair with his mind. Pent up anger from growing up as a nerd? BTW — as a sidenote, if I were to wager a guess, the screenwriters did not grow up bullied. Hammond’s character is built completely on thin stereotypes perpetuated by those who perceive themselves above those they harrass.
Sinestro launches an attack on Parallax, only to watch his soldiers have the fear sucked out of them. He returns to the Oa Guardians (Big Blue Headed aliens in robes) who explain that Parallax was once one of them, but he went bad. Sinestro convinces them that Parallax is headed back to Oa, and that they must use the yellow power of fear to forge a Ring of Power. Hasn’t he read Lord of the Rings? Doesn’t he know this is a bad idea?
Back on Earth, a party happens celebrating a new contract for jets! And in not breaking the theme of blessing the already blessed, Hal’s failure is somehow turned into a success. Hal is back from his universal jaunt and is none worse for the wear. Hammond is also present and we find out that he grew up with Hal and Carol, and that he has lusted after Carol in the creepy, lack of self-esteem way that makes women swoon. Shunned by both Carol and his father, Hammond proceeds to get drunk. In the process, he attempts to kill his father by psychokinetically sabotaging the Senator’s helicopter during takeoff — not by thinking about making the engine stop, but by launching a small projectile from the open bar. But DON’T FEAR!! Green Lantern is there to catch the runaway copter in a giant green car and Hot Wheels track to race them to safety. A HOT WHEELS TRACK!
Distraught, Hammond goes home and begins physically changing into something from a Chris Cunningham video. His screams of fear distract Parallax billions of miles away from his ultimate errand of destroying Oa and the rest of the Universe.
Comedy break as Hal shows the suit to his buddy — and then romantic interlude while Hal and Carol talk on top of an air traffic control tower. It ends in tears when Hal said he quit the GL Corps, and Carol leaves…disappointed and expressing in words what the movie is about “You have been given so much, so often…..”
For some reason, Hammond is outside stalking…. then suddenly back in his lab looking at his Parallax juice. A stoic Angela Bassett as Senator Hammond’s crony, shows up and touches Hammond to get his attention from him obsessing over his cellular makeup, who sees all of her memories of growing up in the projects, and having her family murdered by gunshots in the most meaningless bit of visual exposition so far. They ambush the obviously troubled Hammond, and drug him. He wakes up cranky and goes on a telekinetic rampage. Mind you, he doesn’t just pull a Scanners an make peoples’ heads explode or their hearts stop or something. Instead, he trips them up with a wetvac. Blows Angela across the room. Controls robotic arms to throw people around. But, caving to the Green Lantern calling, Hal steps up and tries to prevent the Senator from being bruised by a plastic recycle bin, or slapped around by an extension cord. But ultimately, during the confrontation, the Senator is burned alive, Hammond reads Hal’s thoughts, accuses him of being just as afraid as he, and that Parallax is going to devour the Earth to give him strength to battle the Corps — all in all, a bad day for Hal.
Hal goes back to Carol and says he can’t do it…. because he’s scared — and a Green Lantern can’t be afraid. This is the third time that we’ve been verbally told that Hal Jordan is afraid inside. She gives him a pep talk and he says “OK, I’ll do it” and he flies off to Oa to ask the Guardians to loan him the Corps to save Earth. He gives them the “Earth people are worth saving” argument and throws in that he’s been afraid all his life. Fourth time literally “telling” the audience that Hal’s a chicken shit. In fact, in this speech, Hal uses “afraid” and “fear” so many times that I think they outnumber all the other words and is used as every function in a sentence — including a preposition. Anyway, he strongly suggests to the Guardians that they shouldn’t use the now complete Yellow Fear Ring (are this Power Rings actually Mood Rings?), and then asks for the help he needs to fight Parallax. They politely deny him, and so he asks if he alone can go back and fight….what? Yes. He asks for permission. Last time, when he quit the job in a teenage, emo tantrum, they just let him go back and think up stupid constructs to impress people. And now, for some reason he needs permission. I don’t know. Maybe he’s asking for their blessing.
So he goes back to the Ferris Jet hanger to fight Hammond, who is now in a power wheelchair? The guy can move things with his mind, and yet he’s in an cart like a shopper at WalMart. Hal appears, but Hammond has somehow acquired Carol Ferris and she’s floating in the middle of the hanger, suspended with a hypo full of Parallax juice hovering by her next. Once again, Hal tells Hammond that they are very much alike — and that he knows what its like to be afraid. So — this is getting to be nonsense. Every character in the movie does NOT need to know that Hal Jordan is afraid inside. The only people who need to know — are US…the audience. And once you tell one character in the movie. WE KNOW!!!
Hal pulls off the ring and gives it to Hammond in exchange for Carol. Hammond puts on the ring and feels the power and reneges on the deal and attacks Hal. But in a bit of the ole switcheroo, the ring backfires with Hal proclaiming that the ring chooses the user. I guess Hammond really DIDN’T know how to play chess.
Parallax takes this opportune time to make his appearance. Breaking through the walls of Ferris Hanger. Hammond’s fear is ingested as he screams like a little girl. But — uhoh! The ring is still on the now shriveled body of Hammond. I guess Parallax didn’t have the insight to maybe destroy the ring. Perhaps he can’t, since he has no hands. Hal runs for it, but is grabbed by Parallax who like every great James Bond villain has to wax poetic as he dispatches his prey. Fortunately, Carol is as brilliant as she is beautiful, and she programs of the drone jets in the hanger to fire missiles at Parallax, who writhes back in pain and anger. This guy has no problem with the best Green Lanterns in the universe — but a couple human missiles he just can’t deal with. The break is enough for Hal to grab the ring and they make their escape as Parallax continues to writhe in pain. Maybe these missiles are like getting an eyelash in your eye. Its so small — but it just drives you totally bananas.
Now the people of Coast City begin to notice this churning mass of black chunky clouds… with a FACE sticking out of it. Somehow they must of missed it coming down through the atmosphere on its way to meet up with Hal and Hammond. But NOW… now it looks like it could mean trouble. And it does. Parallax begins eating peoples’ fear left and right like a fat kid at a Chinese buffet.
And here is where the movie gets silly.
In a battle to the death filled with dialog about fear. Hal conjures up big springs to launch a gas truck, and a big anti-aircraft gun to shoot the truck and make it explode, a crowd riot shield to protect him from Parallax Fear spittle, an engine with a big propeller!!!! to pull him through Parallax’s mouth and out the other end!!!!! This guy can fly at hyperlight speed and create wormholes with this ring. But he needs a damn windup rubber-band propeller to carry him through Parallax’s gastrointestinal tract.
On their way out to space, Hal conjures a David and Goliath-type slingshot and hurls a satellite at the pursuing Parallax. I suppose the country who owned that satellite will bill Hal later — and he can conjure up a billion green dollars. They have a chase through an asteroid field, even though the asteroids in the belt between Mars and Jupiter are millions of miles apart from one another. And finally, Hal looks at the Sun, and utters the inane words “The Bigger You Are, The Faster You Burn” and then heads to the Sun to trap Parallax in its gravitational pull. Please make note that in the phrase above, there is nothing about gravity… perhaps it would have been better to repeat “Gravity is a Bitch”. Its just as stupid. But between two stupid phrases — at least use one that makes some kind of sense.
Well, Hal lures Parallax close to the sun, and then flies by Parallax. How does he overcome the Sun’s gravity from pulling he, Hal Jordan — Green Lantern, into the fiery star?? He conjures up a couple of jets and harnesses himself to them like a water skier. Hal evidently becomes a dolt under pressure. His constructs just get more and more absurd. The jets pull him just out of reach from Parallax’s yellow fear-breath, and then he finishes Parallax off with a big green fist to the face. BIG…GREEN…FIST….. yes — this is the climax of the film. This is the best he can do.
The Green Lantern Corp celebrates the victory. Hal tells Carol goodbye, and he must protect the universe with big fists and chainsaws.
Then — Epilogue. Sinestro puts on the Yellow Mood Ring… and… becomes yellow.
I’m not saying that Green Lantern is flawed. I don’t need to. The screenwriters have done that for us. Its primary flaw is making a statement to society that if you are handsome and talented — that you will still be blessed by the universe. And that if you are flawed and less than beautiful, you will end dead and shriveled on the floor of a jet hanger. They talk all day about overcoming your fears, but the audaciousness comes from overcoming fears that are nearly all based in Hal’s brain. He has no external source for his fear, whereas Hammond has grown up under the thumb of his successful father, and is a failure in his father’s eyes. That is legitimate angst. This whole theme is a typical problem with DC superheroes — Superman, Batman, Green Lantern…. they are nearly invincible, and don’t have flaws. Arguably, Batman has some issues — but… HE’S A HANDSOME BILLIONAIRE!! These characters are not like Spider-Man — a troubled teen bullied around by Flash and his posse. Or Wolverine… a short Canadian with an anger issues and an adamantium skeleton — I mean, he must weigh a TON. All the X-Men have issues with their powers and are constantly persecuted. But Superman? Man of Steel? What does he really have to worry about? Chunks of a long ago exploded planet millions of light years away?
I’m off track here.
The film is WAY over produced. The FX went EXTREMELY overbudget. They made the decision to make his suit all CG too late in the game, causing everyone to go into massive overtime to make the summer release on a film that didn’t deserve the time the artists put into it. The CG environments were unrealistic — and not because they weren’t technically well executed, but simply because it was too much for the audience to suspend disbelief. The characters are shallow and they don’t give enough for the actors to work with. Every bit of emotion is verbally expressed, and true emotion is limited to a furrowed brow. And what makes this even more sad is that the director, Martin Campbell, recreated James Bond from a flat, if entertaining superspy, to a flawed and expressive character in Casino Royale.
Warner Brothers? Please don’t waste your money and our time of making a sequel where Hal has a rematch against Sinestro…. I don’t want to see Hal conjure up a big tennis racquet to whack Sinestro, or maybe a huge green baseball mitt to lovingly catch Carol from a death by fall.
(Spoiler Alert — for those of you who want to be surprised)