Last Friday, the Green Lantern movie hit theaters with a resounding thud. Everything from the story to the visual effects to the casting was downright lambasted across the board by both fans and critics alike. But, is the movie really THAT bad? I honestly didn't think so. I thought it was an entertaining summer movie and DVD-worthy. But, does that mean it was without its problems? Not at all.
Those who know me know I'm hyper critical when it comes to all things comics. With the industry in a slow decline since the 90s bust, we can't be anything but vigilant that our products are the absolute best (and affordable) possible. (Note: some spoilers may follow, so if you haven't seen it yet but want to, come back after you have).
The biggest problem with this production was the casting of Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan. Very few people besides his loyal fanbase thought this was a great idea. Reynolds is more suited for the wise-cracking Deadpool character he almost played in Wolverine: Origins and is slated to reprise (more closely to the comics) in the announced Deadpool movie. The simple fact is, he has very little range. And if he does have range, he refuses to explore it fully beyond the odd outing, like the Amityville Horror remake. As someone said to me the other day, they see Reynolds and automatically think Van Wilder, which is not exactly the perception you want going into a "serious" movie such as this.
But even despite the misgivings, Reynolds actually did a tolerable job with the role. There were some comedic moments ala the trailers, but they helped to lighten the mood in otherwise tense moments and were not inappropriately placed. Although he was still a goofball slacker as per his usual characters, this time it was in service to the story. Reynolds would probably have been better suited as one of the other Earth lanterns, either Kyle Rayner or in some ways Guy Gardner (who, incidentally, beat Jordan to live-action in 1997's failed TV pilot for Justice League of America).
Now, the story itself is where the most problems lie. Thanks to the fast-paced movie industry, movies are not allowed to go beyond the hour and a half mark without damn good reason, resulting in many scenes that should be given relevance either completely removed or cut down to virtually nothing. One such instance was the training sequence. After what was literally a five minute lesson with Corps trainer Kilowog (Michael Clarke-Duncan), Jordan was able to use his ring with pretty good efficiency mere scenes later, with the only hindrance being his inability to focus on more than one area at a time. The basic story was there and it started off fine, but there was so much crammed into it that nothing was fully allowed the chance for exploration or to breathe.
Characters also suffered from the cramming factor. As many who know even a little bit about the comics, or even watched Superfriends when they were younger, knows Sinestro eventually becomes a yellow ring-wielding villain. However, Sinestro didn't receive nearly enough screen time or scenes to establish what would lead to the shift from hero to villain, or why he and Jordan would become arch-enemies. It seemed most of the love for Sinestro in the movie came from the anticipation of what he would become, rather than anything immediately presented in the film. Good for established fans, not so good for the average moviegoer off the street. That's truly a shame, because Mark Strong delivered a phenomenal performance with what little he had to work with.
Despite being heavily featured in promotional material, and even receiving their own prequel tie-ins from DC Comics, Kilowog and Tomar-Re (Geoffry Rush) were extremely underused characters. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) and Parallax (Clancy Brown), the film's main villains, were both altered from the comics to fit the movie. Hammond became altered by exposure to Parallax's yellow energy rather than a meteor that hits Earth, and Parallax was a former Guardian who sought to harness and use the yellow power (more along the lines of the Guardian Krona in the current comics) rather than a purely evil entity. Seriously underplayed, though hinted at, was Hammond's obsession with Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), Jordan's boss and on again/off again girlfriend, which would have gone a long way towards solidifying his motivations for his evil acts. Parallax, on the other hand, received tremendous build-up only to fall far easier than he should have. Obviously DC hasn't learned the lesson about multiple-villain movies (see Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, and Spider-Man 3). Carol herself served as little more than a plot device or damsel in distress. Honorable mention goes to Jordan's family, who after having some prominence in the opening scenes disappeared entirely the rest of the film.
The CGI itself was what you'd expect from a mega-blockbuster movie. Although there were times when the integrated live-action/CGI shots (such as the suit) didn't work as well, and the green energy was a little too translucent for its own good, it was still a visually pleasing movie.
I think, what would have ultimately made this a better film, was if they took a couple of cues from 2009's direct-to-DVD movie Green Lantern: First Flight. The movie featured Jordan's training and first mission as a Lantern, but glossed over his origin story due to the producers feeling everyone was familiar enough with it. If you had taken the opening scenes from this film, and combined it with the story of that film, you would have ultimately had the best Green Lantern movie possible. Save the Earth-threatening danger for a sequel. If you're going to kick things off with a character's start, then you damn well better commit to that direction.
Bonus: Origin of the Green Lantern circa 1970s!