“If in the first act you have a dude named Sinestro, then in the following one he should do something sinister.” – Anton Chekhov.

§ June 21st, 2011 § Filed under green lantern, movie reviews § 19 Comments

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.

19 Responses to ““If in the first act you have a dude named Sinestro, then in the following one he should do something sinister.” – Anton Chekhov.”

  • lankyguy says:

    The noise over the performance at the box office is a trifle annoying. It’s on it’s way to doing similar numbers to Thor, which wasn’t universally liked IIRC. People, and studios need to get past the expectation that all these films will do giant box office. They all want Pirates of the Caribbean numbers, when what they really get are closer to Batman Begins, and that worked out pretty well.

  • Noah says:

    Pretty much agree with you, Mike. Except I see what they were trying to do with Sinestro, which was build him up for the next… which would have made more sense if we went through a whole arc of Sinestro learning to accept Hal and Hal learning to trust Sinestro,,, only to have it blow up in the next film.

    World killing clouds of gas are never a good idea, and I wonder how much better this would have been if they just skipped Oa and had Sinestro, Abin Sur, and maybe that evil Red Lantern thing (Atrositus?) from “Secret Origin” be the only aliens.

    Because for my money there wasn’t a whole lot of ring-slinging, which is 90% of the fun of Green Lantern.

  • Nik says:

    Yeah pretty much my thoughts — you nicely described why Parallax pretty much DIDN’T work as a villain here. No real “character,” no motivation, and the best villians usually aren’t floating piles of goo. There’s also just too much damn emphasis in comics movies now on “laying the ground for the sequel.” It’s infuriating to see so much focus on part 2 rather than one making part 1 self-contained, efficient and bold.

  • Chris G says:

    The comparison to Thor doesn’t hold up since Thor cost less to make and to market than GL — Thor’s budget IIRC was around $150M, so be generous and add $75M for marketing and call it $225M. GL cost over $200M just to make, and WB spent over $100M on marketing it. So even if GL does triple its opening weekend domestically, it’s going to have to more than double that internationally just to break even. It’s not a disaster, necessarily, but it’s not the blockbuster it was intended to be, either.

  • Richard says:

    “It’s on it’s way to doing similar numbers to Thor”

    Well, maybe, but probably not. Even if it does, GL cost about $100M more to make and promote than THOR so it’s starting from behind. Makes you understand why Marvel Studios is thrifty sometimes.

    Agree with Mike that this film should have gone another direction. The best stuff was all in space, and this version of Parallax was a lame (and apparently stupid) villain.

  • Alex says:

    Now a write-up on X-Men: First Class! I enjoyed the hell out of that movie!

  • Ken Begg says:

    Richard is entirely correct, although it’s pretty sad when a $150 million production budget can be described as “thrifty.”

  • MrJM says:

    So there wasn’t an appearance by G’nort?!?


    — MrJM

  • Mikester says:

    Alex – I probably won’t see X-Men: First Class ’til it hits DVD. Just don’t feel any real urge to go to the theater to see it. Sorry!

    MrJM – Who knows? There might have been a G’nort in one of the giant crowd scenes somewhere. If I rewatch the film on DVD I’ll have to freeze-frame the crowd shots and take a look!

  • On the one hand, Green Lantern seems to have a difficult uphill struggle to break even because of its enormous costs; on the other hand, it’s just about impossible for movies to fail these days, what with all the different revenue streams available to distributors. I guess the only thing really at stake is whether it’s successful enough to spawn a sequel

  • Ken Begg says:

    Actually, that’s not true anymore. Most films lose money at the box office and have for a while, but auxiliary monies used to help compensate. There was a good decade there where DVD sales were generating more income and profits than box office receipts. However, DVD sales have plummeted the last few years, which is killing Hollywood.

    Then they gambled on 3-D being a huge thing, with theaters spending large amounts of money to install 3-D auditoriums in all the multiplexes. It turns out once more, though, that 3-D is not something audiences want to experience on a regular basis. So that won’t help any, and given the monies spent on installing the equipment, has proven actually counterproductive.

  • Hey, Mike I think I found that guy from your LOTR showing. Check out the first comment:


  • Alex says:

    Mike – I think that X-Men is worth seeing if you can find it in the next month or two at a dollar theater, anyway. Michael Fassbender is waaaay too good in that movie, in my opinion, to wait all the way until a DVD release.

  • Jeremiah says:

    Combined with the basic stuff Hal was doing like the fists and the guns, I thought the race track showed him to be a bit unimaginative with a ring that could literally create anything. He wasn’t inspired by the moment; he was just remembering some dumb play set he just saw in his nephew’s room. I was waiting for Reynolds to slip back into VAN WILDER mode and start fashioning giant boobs.

  • Dav-El says:

    I really really REALLY wanted to see this film succeed just to show DC can play in Marvel’s sandbox. Apparently, they can’t which is a shame because there was so much in Green Lantern that was good or had to potential to be good and it was wasted on a disjointed story and bad directing choices. I liked the individual performances (even Blake Lively!). There were some cool sequences (I happened to like the Hot Wheels track construct.) But it just did not gel into a cohesive and coherent whole. Scenes shifted with no explanation or follow up. The big bad big and bad but that’s it. All in all, I will say I enjoyed the movie more than I didn’t but I really wished I could have been more enthusiastic than that. Maybe someone could pull a Wrath of Kahn and still green light a sequel but with a leaner budget and more focused script.

  • Kid Nicky says:

    Does anyone exclaim “Jumpin’ fish hooks,GL!” in this film?

    Mikester,I second the notion that you should watch First Class. It’s a great movie. And you should probably also check out Looney Tunes,since this week’s episode featured Pete Puma AGAIN!

  • Hardcastle McCormick says:

    Here’s an idea for what could have been, that popped into my head whilst reading this post (bear in mind I haven’t seen the film yet).

    Standard Abin Sur crash and Hal being selected. After travelling to Oa, Hal discovers that the GLC is in disarray after some large scale galactic conflict, casualties were high and Hal is one of a new wave of recruits selected in the aftermath. There follows the usual training sequence with Kilowog, et al.

    Perhaps the Corps has just defeated Parallax, I’ve never been a massive fan of the whole ‘Hal Jordan is the most important Green Lantern ever’ angle as it detracts from the idea that this is the most powerful force for good in the universe when all we see are the adventures of someone constantly being told that he’s the best GL ever and things just weren’t as awesome before he turned up. Anyway, why not shake things up a little with a movie.

    During the conflict, contact was been lost with Sector 1417 and lantern Thaal Sinestro. The Guardians agree to send Tomar-Re and a small contingent of lanterns (of which Hal is one) to investigate. Cue an Apocalypse Now-like journey into the war ravaged sector towards Korugar.

    Would be a nice way to really ramp up the fearsome aspect of Sinestro, we don’t see him until the third act and all we have to go on are stories that other lanterns in the group have to tell about him and the disconcertingly horrific discoveries in 1417 that suggest Sinestro is no longer the hero he was.

    Upon arrival on Korugar, we can have the regular Sinestro as feared dictator as per usual, but now we have a reason to be scared of him ourselves, seeing the horrors he commited to ‘save’ his sector during the previous conflict (whatever that may have been).

    As for the ending, I’ve no idea. Ring slinging, city block destroying throwdowns, eventual fist fight between Hal and Sinestro like in Sinestro Corps War perhaps. Whatever.

  • Masonic Youth says:

    I haven’t seen the Green Lantern movie yet, but did want to pop in briefly to mention I also had a “Fellowship of the Ring” laugh when — at the end — the lady in the seat next to me sighed and said, “Well darn, I wanted see see him throw the ring in that volcano” and I had to tell her there were two more movies coming.

  • Bear says:

    I really wanted to like this film but I just couldn’t. The plot-holes were glaring and the pacing was horrendous.

    At first I thought we were going to get that rarest of things – a love interest that doesn’t bring the movie to a grinding halt. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.
    Carol started off a tough-talking fighter pilot (cool!), then a no-nonsense business woman (she’s got balls!) and then doe-eyed love interest (dammit) and finally damsel-in-distress (*sigh*).

    I might not have found her and Hal’s scenes quite so painful if the other scenes made up for it, but for a film with such a big premise, it didn’t really deliver any WOW moments. I got a tingling in my Fan-gland when Hal first recited the oath, but that was undermined by having him dragged off to a bar for some repetition of stuff we already knew.

    All-in-all, the bad far outweighed the good.

    And, annoyingly, a lot of my friends are giving the film a pass as it’s “only a comic-book movie.” As if that’s an excuse.