Not The Demographic: Green Lantern Review
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I'm gonna punch you so friggin' hard...

I know I already made a fairly fantastic Sixty Seconds or Less take on the unfortunate Green Lantern but I find myself in a rare case of "I need to say more, you guys. You don't understand!" and as such have taken to the sit-and-write-something-lengthy approach to satisfy my appetite.

Today I returned to the theatre, cash in hand and ready to witness Green Lantern a second time. The expectations removed and the story already revealed I attempted to sit back, relax and just try to enjoy it. And of that I found myself capable, just not for too long.

It probably didn't help that the only screening I was able to see was the 3D version but that's a discussion for another time.

This article may bear a resemblance to a wildly irate and impossible to satisfy GL fan, but I assure you, gentle reader, it's nothing more than an opinion piece that will be best understood by readers who have seen the movie. Consider it more of a one-sided conversation about why I didn't like GL and ways it could and would have been better, with the expectation you'll blindly agree.

It finally appears I've managed to pad out the introduction to a sufficient length, and here is where I offer you all fair warning:

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See that totally professionally made image I have up there? Don't you go reading onward unless you want the entire movie spoiled. If you haven't seen it and read on, don't come over here complaining, I did my part to protect you.

While I've had only very limited exposure to the character, for some reason I have always found the Lanterns very appealing. The recent Blackest Night arc in the DC Universe had me pouring over hours of information and back-story in the form of Wiki articles and conversations with true fans. Had I the money I'd track down the entire story - the build-up all the way to the conclusion - in graphic novel format and read, friends ... read!

As I mentioned in the review, DC has managed to avoid, more or less, most major clichés associated with superhero movies. Things like the first fight: discovering a purse snatcher, attempted assault, even the hero himself being attacked and learning he has superpowers now. The damsel in distress, whose inclusion in the story is otherwise pointless beyond being someone the villain targets and the hero has to save before saving the city/world. The hero having an awesome life and no responsibilities and nobody to answer to, before getting his powers and suddenly having to step up and be responsible. The hero giving up when everything looks too hard, and resolving to step up and save the day come the end because someone has to, and only he as the power, etc. etc.

But I guess they had to go somewhere, and GL becomes a wastebasket that contains all of the above.

Let me start out by saying the first twenty minutes are awesome, straight on to the moment Abin Sur dies and Hal Jordan takes the ring. It sets the stage for a grander story and gives us a quick look into who Hal Jordan is and how he interacts with the people who care about him, his friends and his family. It gives us a peek at the villain, Parallax, an ever-growing being that feeds on fear who is also bent on revenge. It even strongly postures the knowledge that, as a still-weakened being, Parallax was able to kill the strongest Green Lantern, and if you're paying attention he's not far from Earth and still hungry for more of our delicious fear.

After the ring passes on to its new bearer is right around the time it starts to become disjointed. There were times I honestly thought scenes were put together in the wrong order; motivations became confusing and the movie's internal clock was brought into question.

Far as the clock is concerned, let me put it this way: at the start, Abin Sur is attacked by Parallax, gravely injured, and knowing there is no chance of recovery, Abin heads to the nearest inhabited planed (Earth) for the selection process. Origin set, right? But as it fades to black it's revealed six months go by. Six months, Abin was traveling and nursing a chest would he knows was killing him (and he knows it's killing him because he makes it clear his only option is to find a new Green Lantern.) Six months, it took, for the guy to reach Earth.

Fine, I'm not a scientist, no matter what these certificates on my wall say. Abin was probably pretty far from an inhabited planet and sure, he was in an escape pod. How exactly did he survive in space for six months? I honestly can't understand, aside from some form of cryogenics. And if that is indeed the case, why go to Earth when you could just as easily return to Oa or even your home planet for a replacement? You obviously aren't in that dire need of a new guy if you can wait that long. And when Hal was summoned to the distant Oa himself, I understand he went through a wormhole and all but he later goes there and back in what appears to be the span of a lunch break.

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Though I suppose he is faster than light.

As I said above, right after the moment Abin Sur dies and Hal Jordan takes the ring, the story starts to get disjointed. And I meant right from that moment. The next scene features Hal placing a call to his best bud, who rushes over to pick him up and they tear out of there as soon as the military helicopters make their approach. "They're going to know someone was here, dead aliens don't just bury themselves, you know," his friend says as they drive off, referring to the makeshift grave Hal made for the fallen hero out of respect.

Aside from a secret underground government facility studying Abin's body, this concept is never brought up again. They find a buried alien next to a crashed spaceship, and don't seem at all interested in who did the burying or why there's fresh footprints and tire tracks everywhere from that civilian car they noticed peeling out of there in a rush.

Right from that moment, I can't help but focus on how that would have been an incredible story: the human government trying to find and understand what Hal has been given, curiosity turns to greed and a demand for control over this great power and Hal has to keep it a closely guarded secret while he tries to practice and understand what the ring does ... all the while working and associating with people secretly involved in the secret groups hunting the mysterious green flying man ... all the while Hector Hammond is becoming stronger and stronger as he unknowingly (or even knowingly) acts as a beacon for the now all-consuming, Galactus-like Parallax. Hal has to decide what's more important, keeping his identity under wraps and his loved ones safe or risking his own exposure to the world as the military gets in the way of the big fight against the coming danger.

Keep the story entirely on Earth, maybe show a bit of him trying out flying, seeing how high he can go (like in the opening scene's flight test) and discover he can go into space. Occasionally show Parallax on the move, closer and closer to Earth as he seeks out Hammond and the ring bearer ... by the end, after an incredible victory he finds himself summoned to Oa, learns of the Green Lantern Corps and is told he's about to begin training to police the galaxy; which comfortably sets up for a sequel (because every comic book movie needs that.)

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"I must say, you've adjusted to the concept of a multi-species, intergalactic police force with the greatest of ease."

Also, for what reason does the hero and villain have to know each other? A five-second search revealed to me that Hector Hammond and Hal Jordan didn't know each other at all before their first hero/villain encounter. This is surprising since the movie tries really hard to suggest that the big three (hero, villain, love interest) all grew up together and have known one-another for decades.

At least, I think that's what they were trying to get across, but the two times they seem to mention our hero and villain have a history something seems to be missing. Something like any indication they know each other at all.

This may be a matter of scenes being cut down or removed entirely. It happens, it's hard to avoid when it's already a long movie and the studio is demanding it be cut down. But instead of trying for forced subtly they could have removed the entire thing. It really wouldn't have been that hard to do, given what was left in.

Instead we're sloppily spoon-fed a love-triangle that doesn't have to be there. The characterization of Hammond was already great from the start; a meek biology teacher who suddenly finds himself growing powerful and able to finally be in control of something, and he quickly discovers he becomes more powerful as peole around him are afraid. There's your motivation, there's the character we started out with. How does making him an old friend or acquaintance of the hero make the villain any more tragic or villainous?

The whole thing looks to me like a movie that will make better sense with a Director's Cut. There's a strong sense of cut and re-written scenes that require an hour's worth of deleted/alternate scenes the DVD will probably hold, having the impassioned viewer recite, "Oh, now that makes sense," over and over again.

Superhero movies have come a long way since the times they was considered a bad investment. There's been much change in the tones and levels of effort and care put into the stories since the early-2000's when the modern superhero movie got its start. When I said this movie lowers the bar, I mean brings us back to the days of mediocrity, the days of Elektra and Rise of the Silver Surfer. In the last two years alone some of the best movies out there were based on comic books. I'm not demanding every comic franchise from here on be the next Dark Knight or Incredible Hulk, I'm just asking studios to keep the trends moving forward rather than shifting back to the ways of old.


If you enjoyed this review, feel encouraged to visit Not The Demographic and make yourself at home. Just don't steal the good silver.

 

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