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The Green Lantern Movie Review: Studio Cliches and Random Scenes

I’m stunned that Martin Campbell didn’t take his name off this movie.  I can’t believe he had anything vaguely resembling a final cut.

Have you ever been watching a movie and it was immediately obvious the studio had been sending notes and then took a way too heavy hand in the editing room?  The worst example of that I’ve ever seen was the film adaptation of the Avengers television show (Steed and Mrs. Peel, not Iron Man and Captain America).  That film started out well enough and then started jumping around incoherently.  The studio had hacked out so many scenes to get it down to 90 minutes, I could watch the trailer and tell you where parts of the trailer were supposed to fit in the movie… unfortunately, they were plot points that had been cut.  That was also a Warner Brothers film, coincidence or otherwise.

Green Lantern is not as bad as that, but that’s what came to mind as I tried to watch it.  Green Lantern is horribly uneven.  The tone vacillates from scene to scene.  You have entire sequences missing.  (When did ***** quit?  When did ***** get kidnapped?  Oh, we’re back on Earth?)  A good portion of the film feels like the scenes are just plunked down without linkage between them.

How many color by number studio cliches are in this film?

  • Hero hanging out with an 11-year-old
  • Hero and (secondary) villain grew up together
  • Hero and (secondary) villain vying for the affections of the same woman
  • Hero is all nervous and doesn’t want to be a hero before finally taking action
  • Hero reveals himself to the world via an aircraft mishap (*cough* Pick a Superman movie, any Superman movie *cough*)
  • Plenty of time spent setting up the villain for the second film (how many modern superhero movies can refrain from this?)
  • A couple scene solely there for the hero to miraculously arrive to save the innocent bystander from imminent death.
  • (Secondary) villain set up to be an inverse of the hero, powers/origin/etc
  • Random romantic comedy scenes
  • Big bad alien menace that’s more powerful than the space cops retreats when hit by medium strength earthly weapons
  • Goofy nerd sidekick

That’s enough cliches for now.  My personal favorite is the hanging out with the kid scene.  It’s so badly shoehorned into the movie, Hal Jordan is grabbed by the power ring in the afternoon after talking with the kid.  When he’s dropped on the beach to meet the dying alien, it’s the middle of the night.  Anybody think the meeting the dying alien scene was shot first and the kid was dropped in later in a desperate attempt to widen the audience demographic?

Ryan Reynolds is badly miscast as a character who’s supposed to be without fear.  He gropes his way around all jokey and pensive — you know, standard Ryan Reynolds character.  If you wanted to do an overcoming fear story, that might work.  And for all I know, that was part of the film left on the cutting room floor.  But that character accounts for a lot of cliched, boring dialogue that drags this movie down.

You end up with a lot of moping with some fight scenes in between.  The confrontations are rushed, particularly with the top villain, and its all rushed to the point of incoherence.  The best performance of the film, by a country mile, is Mark Strong as Sinestro.   The best sequences are an aerial combat scene at the beginning and the Green Lantern’s training sequence with the alien Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan).  Yes, the training sequence is a movie cliche, but this is a well done one.

For all the special effects budget, I really wasn’t that impressed with the effects.  Parallax, the big bad villain is this ridiculous floating skull with some sort of cloud-like body that looks like it got rejected from a Matrix test reel.  The manifestations of the power rings are not as frequent as you might think and could have done with a bit more imagination.  The film is at its best, much like the comic, when the rings are serving up more unusual objects than a sword or a fist.

For Green Lantern purists, this stays relatively close to the spirit of the comic.  Green Lantern, the Guardian of the Universe and the Corps are pretty close to verbatim.  Parallax, a recent addition to the Green Lantern myths, is switched around in a slightly more logical way.  Hector Hammond’s powers are the same, but between growing up with Hal Jordan and being set up as a sort of avatar/henchling of Parallax, the back story has been switched around almost completely.  Then again, if you’re such a big Hector Hammond fan that this bothers you, it might behoove you not to discuss it in public.  (Geek alert and this is a geeky film to begin with — and that’s coming from me.)

I suspect there’s a watchable, possibly mildly enjoyable cut of this movie.  That certainly was not what was released.  Green Lantern came in slightly under two hours and I get the feeling there was an order from the studio to get the time down, as well as add the little kid scene.  Of course, that doesn’t excuse the casting or the writing.  Call me if there’s a director’s cut.  As long as the fast forward button is near, I might re-evaluate.

In the meantime, do yourself a favor and wait for this on Netflix or $1 rental night if you’re curious about it.  This film is too sloppy to encourage more.

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