'Green Lantern' has reviewer seeing red

"Green Lantern"
Warner Bros. Pictures
1 hour, 45 minutes


Most comic book superheroes, it must be admitted, are a little - often more than a little - silly. Superman wears garish tights, Wolverine has knife-hands, even Batman's mask, when you really examine it, looks a little dopey.

So why not a cosmic tale about a guy who gets a magic ring and a skin-tight green outfit so he can battle outer space evildoers with the power of his will? What makes that any worse than a story about a blind acrobatic lawyer who fights crime by night? What indeed?

It's a question I pondered all the way through the two-hours of utter ridiculousness, out into parking lot, and into the car, where the discussion continued with my fellow moviegoers, albeit louder and with more exclamation points.

Our story begins with a long voice-over, bringing us up to speed, presumably, on everything that's happened in the universe up to now. Apparently in some far flung, long-forgotten time a group of immortals decided to harness one of the fundamental energies: the green power of will. This makes no sense, but basically they scooped up some green energy and made a bunch of super-rings out of it. Then they made a planet at the center of the universe where they could set up shop and watch everybody and everything, everywhere. These are the "Guardians," and lest you forget that they are super-powerful, you will be reminded every time you see one of their obnoxiously, and probably unintentionally hilarious, large heads.

The Guardians split up the universe into 3,600 sectors, assigning each sector two "Green Lanterns," basically interstellar policemen who are supposed to protect the populace of their region using their awesome super-ring. (At this point we're only about half-way through the exposition, and we haven't come close to the actual movie yet.)

It may seem nitpicky to take issue with the logic at this point, but I found it amusing that they are so specific about this dividing up of the universe and the total number of Green Lanterns. I especially like the fact that two Lanterns are supposed to police such a huge area. An astrophysicist/movie geek who I occasionally read online figured out that even if each Lantern were to live 100 years and teleport directly to and from each of the solar systems in his sector, he or she could stay for less than half a second in each before zipping off to the next one.

So, to make a long story short (too late!) there is another potent energy in the universe, this time colored yellow, which can match the power of will. It is - you guessed it - the power of fear. At some point someone let this power out, and now it roams the universe like a giant roiling octopus/mess of snakes, destroying planets and peoples along the way.

Believe it or not, there's some more set-up after this, but eventually we get to present day and the hero of our story, an annoyingly glib "Top Gun" wannabe named Hal Jordan, played by the annoyingly glib Ryan Reynolds, an actor that skews far closer to Will Ferrell than Tom Cruise, much to his chagrin. When the greatest of all the Green Lanterns is mortally wounded, his ring seeks out a replacement and before you know it, Hal Jordan is suited up and ready to beat the bad guys.

The story so far is complicated and over-long, but I guess the screenwriters didn't think there was enough to keep the audience's attention, so there's another 50 characters to keep track of, including multiple villains, a love interest, a bunch of scientists, a side-kick, and several other Lanterns, of every shape and size.

Epic stories I don't mind, but when the dialogue is as terrible as it is here, and when the logic holding the threads of the story together is this paper thin, piling on the plot just makes a mess. On IMDb, "Green Lantern" lists seven people with screen-writing credits. Seven. Watching the movie, this comes through loud and clear.

Aside from the insane amount of plot detail, the tone of the film careens wildly from ironic to sincere, often in the same scene. Hal's gal pal Carol Ferris, played by Blake Lively, is written as a super-smart hotshot test pilot, a driven business woman, a sexy piece of arm-candy, and a giggling schoolgirl. Lively does her best, but there's really not a lot of room for any depth or authenticity in that character.

The rest of the cast fares similarly, but the worst off is poor Peter Sarsgaard, a very good actor who first gets saddled with a terrible wig and scraggly pervy mustache, only later to be buried under so much freakish "giant head" makeup that you can't even bear to look at him. If that weren't bad enough, Sarsgaard is supposed to be Tim Robbin's son in the film, despite the fact that the two appear to be exactly the same age.

If nothing else, a movie like this should look good. And some of it does. The giant sci-fi vistas, the glowing planet of Oa, the myriad crazy Lantern Corps, one of which is nothing but a big eye atop squirming mass of tentacles - this was all very cool. Ryan Reynold's suit, all CGI body-mapping, was a pretty neat trick.

But then, some of the movie looks awful, and I wonder if they had as many art directors as they did writers. The main villain and the Guardians both looked silly, but perhaps worst of all is Hal Jordan's ridiculous looking mask, a detail the screen-writers kept jettisoning and the reintroducing.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

I wanted this film to be good. Not because I was a big "Green Lantern" fan growing up, but specifically because I wasn't. I didn't know anything about this character, and I was sure I could go in fresh, without any preconceived notions, but perhaps some deeply held affection for the comic book might have helped in this case. Maybe it could have helped me overlook the glaring inconsistencies, the terrible writing, and the insane lapses in plausibility. "Green Lantern" did very well at the box office, but it won't last, fortunately. Next week "Cars 2" comes out and that will do far more damage than "yellow power of fear" ever could.

Grade: D+

"Green Lantern" is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence, scary scenes, and some language.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.


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