Friday, August 12, 2011

Reconstructed from Reviews: The Green Lantern

There's a fun game I learned which consists of trying to reconstruct the plot of a movie (preferably one that you haven't seen and don't ever plan to see) as thoroughly as possible by using only bad reviews. Spoilers ahead, in this, the reconstructed plot of -- THE GREEN LANTERN.


Like Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life, Martin Campbell's Green Lantern (Warner Bros.) begins at the very beginning: the origins of the universe.* And like The Tree of Life, Green Lantern relies on extensive voice-over as it links those cataclysmic intergalactic events to the life of one mortal, vulnerable man.


Green Lantern opening voice-over informs us, in a massive data dump of exposition, that the Guardians, ancient keepers of the universal order who resemble the large-skulled aliens from the pilot episode of Star Trek, have created a "galactic community of peacekeepers." This corps of 3,600 green-clad recruits is taught to harness "the emerald energy of willpower" in order to defend justice across the cosmos.



We’re whisked off to the glamorous planet of Ryut where some Green Lanterns are doing Lantern stuff in space suits.


What, one might ask, is a Green Lantern? They would be a sort of galactic police force, ruled by ... shrunken heads in long robes. Most of the characters look like refugees from the worst George Lucas film never made.


At one point we’re told that fear is the enemy, and that Lanterns don’t fear, and then the bad guy comes … and he’s not scary, but the Lanterns are terrified and getting obliterated, and wait, I thought they didn’t fear?


They’re under attack! Yeeps, there’s something terrible out there, an awful yellow something of fear, and this guy is almost certainly the bad guy! The angry yellow fellow is named Parallax, though he looks a bit like the “Yellow Bastard” from Sin City. Parallax mocks the doomed Lanterns as they perish, just so you know the type of hombre you’re dealing with, and then we get defeated scriptwriter technique number two.

Six months later…

One can only imagine what Parallax has been up to for the past six months, though I could definitely see a fear-monster of his ilk starting fake wedding registries and buying illegal fireworks across state lines. Such is the level of his nastiness. A new Lantern heads out to challenge him, but it all goes terribly awry


One of the most powerful Green Lanterns is Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison), but after he’s fatally wounded in an encounter with an evil alien called Parallax, he heads for the nearest planet so that the ring may find a successor.


Hal Jordan is complicated and troubled.


... Hal Jordan, an ace test pilot with Daddy issues, Daddy having been a test pilot who young Hal watched burn up in a plane.


Blake Lively is Jordan’s fellow F-35 pilot (naturally), and they are tasked with dogfighting the newest in robot fighter plane technology, as part of a presentation. They’re employed by a defense contractor, you see. Blake Lively is Carol Ferris (in the movie), the daughter of someone named Mr. Ferris who heads up (or used to head up) Ferris Aero-planes.

The totally unneeded love interest is played by Blake Lively, a childhood friend of Hal's who now runs the big corporation he worked for


That established, Reynolds and Lively don their flight suits to duel the robot fighter planes, so they can sell them to the government, so that everyone lives happily ever after off the tax dollar fat of the land. Unfortunately, frickin’ Hal Jordan pulls one of his typical jerk moves, and instead of allowing the robo-planes (patent pending) to shine, he goes out and instead wins the dogfight.

Ugh, men are the worst — amiright, ladies?

This puts the government contract in peril, because who in sam hell would want to buy robot fighter planes that can’t even shoot down a mavericky loose cannon sort of guy? Chances are, should these robot planes ever come up against someone who took their job seriously, they’d be in a whole heap of robot trouble. This whole “winning” thing makes Carol Ferris furious, because it’s just like Hal Jordan to blow a billion dollar defense contract.


Flashcut to a doomed alien Lantern crashing on Earth and telling the ring to go choose someone worthy. ... the ring finds Jordan, and he’s whisked off to Abin Sur’s side (the Lantern who crashed). Sur and Jordan chat for a bit, and then Sur hands over the ring, telling Jordan to grab the lantern out of his spacecraft. And say the oath!


Hal is selected by a dying Green Lantern as his replacement, and given a power ring that lets him produce anything that his imagination can conjure up — giant hammers, machine guns, race cars, anything.


Only drawback is that the ring has to be regularly recharged with that special lantern.


After many failed attempts and feeling downright silly having called on both the power of Greyskull and Buzz Lightyear, the ring suddenly activates


Hal figures out how to charge the ring with energy from a lantern the dying alien also gave him (a process not dissimilar from syncing your iPhone), and in no time he's traveling to the planet of Oa, a sort of Camp Pendleton for Lantern recruits, where he's given a crash course in the use of his new powers.


Hal meets Sinestro (Mark Strong), the head of the Lanterns, who is skeptical a human weakling like Hal was chosen. But then again he knows the ring never makes a wrong choice.


he learns that he is now a member of the Green Lantern Corps: a band of intergalactic warriors who use the power of Will to fight against the forces of evil and Fear. In addition to getting a quick crash course on how to use his Will and receiving a dressing-down from Sinestro (Mark Strong), the leader of the Green Lanterns, Hal learns that an ancient enemy, the Parallax, has been released from its prison and is rampaging through the galaxy, heading (of course) for Earth.


Also, the villain of the piece is a cloud.

An evil cloud, to be sure, composed as it is of nothing less than the Yellow Power of Fear. It has a face like Monty Burns, and it's given to slurping up its victims' souls like so many bluepoint oysters, but even so: a cloud.


Meanwhile, the U.S. government recovers the body of Abin Sur and brings in scientist Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) to conduct the autopsy.


Angela Bassett is wasted in a tiny role as a fellow scientist


The planet's survival is also threatened by a more human enemy, Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a biologist who, while dissecting the body of the alien, was infected with an organism from its blood that's slowly taken over his body and deformed him horribly.


(his senator dad, smarmily played by Tim Robbins, prefers the jockish pilot Hal Jordan over him)


(He is also secretly in love with Carol. This we know because he keeps newspaper articles of her all over his office.)


Wearing a cool new costume, Hal returns to his home planet to confront the Parallax's agent, Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), prove his worth to his ex-girlfriend, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), and defeat the bad guy.


But after a disastrous training montage, [Hal] figures he doesn't really want the responsibility that goes with all that power. The only problem is that his would-be girlfriend back home isn't really into quitters. That, and the nerdy kid from high school who has always been jealous of Jordan is about to help bring about the end of the world. (That would be Peter Sarsgaard, made up to look so much like a pedophile, one wonders how he'd even get an interview to become a teacher.)


Our hero, you see, has been chosen for super-ness because he's supposedly fearless. But he spends most of the film whining about how scared he is.


Green Lantern’s foe feeds on fear like a CGI-enhanced Judge Judy. It’s the yellow energy of fear against the green energy of will.


But his girlfriend Carol (Blake Lively) tells him he can do it as does his best friend Thomas (Taika Waititi).



There's an inevitable scene where Hal discovers his powers after getting jumped by some toughs outside a bar. As soon as the scene shifted to the bar, I knew some thugs would appear shortly to serve as Lantern tenderizer. It's practically encoded in the DNA of movies like this.


The Lantern’s ring makes Hal Jordan’s thoughts a reality; he can’t just ask it to blow up an alien ship or knock someone across a room. Jordan must actually think of a giant fist that then materialises out of green light from the ring and punches his opponent.


there are far too many scenes staged for the express purpose of reminding us that this seeming daredevil harbors guilt and anxiety over the long-ago death of his missile-jockey father


The Green Lantern first gets the chance to show off his powers and save the day during a celebratory ceremony in which a helicopter is about to crash into a crowd of people. With little time to spare, our masked and spandex-wearing hero prevents the impending disaster by transforming the chopper into a Batmobile look-alike and having it speed down race tracks that resemble something made by Hot Wheels.


[Hector Hammond] is promptly killed. Wait, what? His daddy issues and fury over being an abused nerd gets him thrown into a computer and then swallowed? That just plain stinks.


... while Geoffrey Rush looks on, dressed as a fish.


Sound convoluted? Boy is it; as are the Gatling guns, catapults and other weapons that Hal must manually operate against his foes instead of the ring simply being able to dispatch the bad guys.


(watch out for Hal's nerdy best friend suddenly disappearing, never to be seen again, in time for the third act).


One rare clever moment involved Hal appearing before Carol in his Green Lantern regalia for the first time, including a teensy, utterly pointless plastic domino mask. “You think I wouldn’t recognise you because I can’t see your cheekbones?”


There’s a scene with Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively conversing at dusk that might as well be a radio play.


Don't even get me started on the awful self-help mumbo-jumbo Blake Lively's Carol Ferris uses to inspire Jordan when he's doing the usual "I'm not worthy" routine.


The final showdown in outer space is brilliantly realised.


We get a glimmer of the Hal Jordan comic fans have come to love toward the very end of the piece as the Lantern fights Parallax, a fully-CGI creature that looks like the love child of a dreadlock wig and a giant dust bunny, but it’s far too late for anyone to care.


Ryan Reynolds sells Hal's transformation from self-absorbed hotshot to self-sacrificing champion.


perhaps the post-credits promise of a Sinestro vs. Green Lantern smackdown will go unfulfilled.

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