“If in the first act you have a dude named Sinestro, then in the following one he should do something sinister.” – Anton Chekhov.
Okay, I may be paraphrasing the quote slightly, but the title of this post points at what I think was the main problem with this film, and perhaps why it’s not performing quite up to some folks’ expectations…though a $53 million dollar weekend (or $70 million, including the international take) seems okay to me, and writing it off a flop already, as everyone seems anxious to do, seems to be jumping the gun just a little. Let’s see how it does over the week or so…and more importantly, how it continues to do internationally, since that seems to be saving a lot of films’ bacons lately. (‘Course, if it takes in, like, $5 million next weekend, you may be on to something.)
Anyway, enough money talk…was the film any good?
Well…sorta. I liked a lot of it, some of it was…unpleasant, and essentially undermining the whole venture was a fatal conceptual flaw to the film that may have proven to be its undoing. It was enjoyable if shallow, with a thin plot that barely held the film together, and when the end comes you can’t help but think “wait…that was it?”
Lemme get into some SPOILERS after this pic of Ryan Reynolds looking befuddled…SPOILERS end after the Sinestro image farther down the post:
- The main problem with the film is this: nobody cares about the primary menace, a big glowing cloud of evil (which has a face, at least, unlike a certain other film‘s big cloud of evil) that’s tied into the whole Green Lantern/Guardians mythology, and all that talk about “the yellow color of evil” and “the green of will” and blah blah blah no one gives a shit.
They were partway on the right track, with Hal Jordan as the new fish-out-of-water recruit, which allows us to learn along with Hal about the Green Lantern Corps. But seriously…you’ve got Sinestro right there. A plot involving the corruption of power and fall into evil of Sinestro, with only Hal to stop him, would be a conflict of a more personal and relatable nature than the impending menace of the Giant Special Effect.
Okay, that’s essentially the story from the direct-to-DVD animated film Green Lantern: First Flight, and I know I’ve complained about the trope of having the superhero’s main villain be a bigger, badder version of himself…but it’s a missed opportunity to have such a well-cast and performed Sinestro (played by Mark Strong) and not have him as your primary antagonist. (We are given a brief teaser in an after-movie/mid-credits bonus scene, where Sinestro dons the yellow ring…enticing, and further reminder that I would have rather watched that story than the one we got.)
I realize this is a very fanboyish thing to do, to complain that they should have done this story instead of that story, but this seems like such an obvious thing I really wonder why they made this decision. With any luck, maybe the film will make just enough to get us the sequel they so obviously set up for.
- There is a lot to like, despite my misgivings about the, well, entire structure of the film. I thought the film was well-cast…I already mentioned Strong as Sinestro, and Ryan Reynolds made a pretty good Hal Jordan. Geoffrey Rush, as the voice of Tomar-Re, made that character far more entertaining than I expected him to be. Taika Waititi as Hal’s pal Tom gave us some nice humorous counterpoint to the whole Green Lantern business.
- Speaking of Tom, I did appreciate that bit of business when Hal demonstrates the ring to him and Tom shouts “you’re a superhero!” I like that the concept of superheroes is a known one in this film’s world (not that I think there are other superheroes there, just that it exists as a pop culture thing, as in the real world), instead of the title character being the very first time the very idea of a “superhero” was ever conceived.
- While I liked Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond, who gave the character some creepily-humorous personality, I found myself put off by the grotesque screeching that the character did too often. That was just…kinda gross, really. But the bits with Hammond using his newfound telepathic powers to further alienate himself by discovering, say, what his father really thought of him, were nicely done. And by the time they showed him in the wheelchair, near the climax of the film, I really thought, just for a second, they were going to give us the immobilized super-giant-head Hector Hammond from the comics. Ah, well.
- Blake Lively made a good Carol Ferris, Hal’s boss and former girlfriend, with her best bit being her reaction to Green Lantern showing up on her balcony and not being fooled for long by Hal’s get-up. In fact, that whole scene was probably one of the best in the film, undercutting the whole “secret identity” cliché in amusing fashion.
- Come to think of it, the best bits of the film were the character interactions, far more than the “making things with light” special-effect showcases. Hal talking to his nephew, Hal remembering his father’s last flight, Tom giving Hal crap about being responsible, Hector realizing his failures, Hal meeting with – and being trained by – the other Green Lanterns, the frisson between Sinestro and this upstart human Lantern who took the place of his friend Abin Sur…heck, even Hal meeting Abin Sur, as brief as it was, carried more weight than all that other Parallax business.
And seeing Hal argue with the Guardians, even briefly…that, almost more than anything else, felt like seeing the comic directly translated to the screen.
- I’m still kind of weirded out that I just saw a major Hollywood movie that featured Kilowog as a character. This is not the future I was expecting.
- Should probably note something about the CGI costumes, since such a big deal was made out them. Thought they worked out okay…a little busy, but not distractingly so, and they did successfully give the impression of the amount of power the Green Lanterns were wielding. However, Hal’s mask never seemed not awkward, for some reason.
And the actual power ring stuff itself…I am very glad they used the rings power to make things and not just to shoot green lasers, even if the Hot Wheels-esque car track in the helicopter rescue scene was just a tad over the top (even if nicely foreshadowed by the toy car track sequence in the nephew’s bedroom). Happy to see big green ring-constructed fists punching things. No big green catcher’s mitts, but maybe next time.
- Favorite moment of the evening…after the extra mid-credits scene with Sinestro, I overheard someone else in the theater exclaiming “I knew that he wasn’t any good!” A guy with the name “Sinestro” turned out to be bad…who knew?
Not quite up there with the time when, after Fellowship of the Ring was over, hearing someone in the theater say in disbelief “wait…there’s gonna be another movie?” but it’s close.
In conclusion, I thought it was a brave choice to kill off Hal Jordan and bring in the power team of Medphyll and Ch’p to take over the film franchise.
But seriously, while there was a lot to like in the film, it seemed like a huge missed opportunity to go with the plot they did. I liked the character stuff far more than the special effects hoohar, and if they had built the story’s primary conflict around the characters (like, oh, say, Hal versus Sinestro), we might have had a better film. And there still would have been room for the special effects, too, I’m sure.