PG-13 for a couple of reasons. I guess if the bad guy is fear, the point is to make him a little bit scary. This is pre-Man of Steel, so the definition of dark should be put into context. While watching it, I realized that there would have been some pretty messed up stuff that could be seen as pretty scary. But it's also PG-13 because Hal Jordan sleeps around. You also see him in some alien space underwear. Also, while I suppose that this shouldn't be put into this context, his outfit is a mental projection, making it exactly the same size as him. It's more naked than normal clothing, but not really? Regardless, PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell
I'm in a cinematic junk food mood. I love telling my few readers about my process for how I do these reviews. Sometimes, I have a big stack on my coffee table of movies that I own, but haven't seen. That's usually for the six months following my birthday. (I tend to get distracted from this pile. It's not that I get THAT many movies for my birthday or Christmas.) I whittle away from my main pile, and then start cycling through categories. I watch one from DVD.com. I watch a Criterion. I watch a Blu-ray. If I'm being dangerous, I'll throw in a LaserDisc. That's for the self-cred, you see? But my goal is to watch everything that I own. See, there are some movies that I rent or watch in the theater. I love that movie so much, I buy it when it comes out. But I just saw it. Why would I watch it again? Well, those movies get buried. I never thought I would get to the day that I revisited Green Lantern.
I feel like I hit an accidental theme lately of movies that everyone hates, but I kind of like. Sometime in the next few weeks, I'll be watching Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds has not made his feelings about Green Lantern a secret. The weird thing is that Green Lantern isn't that bad. It's not great, and I'll be getting into that. But Green Lantern came out, Man of Steel was just starting to shoot. Despite the fact that Man of Steel was the foundational piece of the DCeU, it really was supposed to be Green Lantern. Structurally, Green Lantern kind of reads like Iron Man. It's a second or third tier superhero. People knew the name "Green Lantern" and "Iron Man", but without the films to explain the plot, there was probably very little to explain the nitty gritty details. (Side note: Is it weird that lots of people know who Pepper Potts is. They also know what an arc reactor is.) It made sense to start here. If you were parroting the MCU, what a great place to begin? Green Lantern doesn't have the investment of a Superman or a Batman. He hadn't had a movie before. Yeah, I would have put more eggs in a Wonder Woman basket, but I also know the studio fears. I don't respect those studio fears, but I get them. Also, around the time of the Green Lantern movie, the Green Lantern comic books were crushing it. Geoff Johns was writing probably the best run that Green Lantern had ever seen. It turned non-GL fans into GL fans. Okay, everything except for that last arc. I don't know what the heck happened there. The movie ended up adapting a lot of that stuff. That's absolutely fantastic. They even got Martin Campbell, the guy who did GoldenEye and Casino Royale to direct this movie. Then why did it kind of stink?
It's got a lot going on. If I have twenty things that didn't really work, I want to be able to say it's one thing. (That sentence sucked, but I'm sticking by it.) That thing is a CG mess. I know. It seems petty. There's way more wrong to the movie. But holy moley, the CG gets old. The landscape of Green Lantern is bizarre. There was the natural instinct to make the alien worlds look beyond imagination. The answer to that is to turn to CG to answer those problems. I even remember that they were hesitant to release the Green Lantern suit pictures because it was supposed to look so strange and alien. Then, the pictures came out and everyone wanted to throw up. We were told that the images were not the final product. They were close enough. We knew that this movie was going to be all CG. "Alien" became synonymous with computer generated imagery. The odd thing is that, as space-opera-y as the Green Lantern stories get, they work because Hal Jordan is so human. I think the movie could have really tapped that idea better. We needed more Last Starfighter and less Avatar. 1) The CG doesn't hold up. I can't take him seriously in the suit for the entire film, which is a huge detriment considering that the movie wants us to follow the adventures of the titular character. It's the mask and the feet that really bother me more than anything else. I don't mind the suit made out of green, glowing muscles. It's just that the mask looks...bad? Also, it looks like he's wearing toe shoes. I hate people with toe shoes. I'm sorry if you wear toe shoes. It's not just because I want you to keep reading. It's because you live a life where you think toe shoes somehow improve your life. But this movie is littered with garbage that just asks the audience to not try and relate to the characters. Yeah, there's script problems. But when everything is just a CG mess, why would anyone want to get involved in the story. It kind of is the same issue that Transformers has. I never cared for Transformers when I was a kid. I was in the right place at the right time and I still never got into it. But the Transformers movie, because I had no idea what was going on, completely alienated me with its use of CG. That movie was just metal hitting other metal. I had no idea what was happening in such a simple script.
Guardians of the Galaxy would prove that something as space heavy as Green Lantern could work. But Guardians really holds you hand into the weird stuff. It gets there. It actually ends up getting mildly complicated by our time with the Guardians has reached its conclusion. But Green Lantern, especially the Extended Cut, holds hands in the wrong way. Think about Oa where the majority of it was practical. People in makeup. Do you know which character kind of works the best? Sinestro? He's a dude painted purple with a mustache. We get him really easily. But you know which relationships are kind of abstract? Tomar-Re and Kilowog. They blend into a CG background more than I care to admit. There's something about the uncanny valley that reminds us that this is too bizarre to care about. There's a scene towards the end of the movie, where Hal Jordan is petitioning the Guardians to defend Earth. Ryan Reynolds's head is the only thing in that shot that is not CG. It should be a powerful moment where Hal finally finds his real courage and stands up to remind the most powerful creatures in the galaxy of their duty. Instead, the focus is on how bizarre this world actually is. We have a wide-angle shot with a galaxy in the background. What about looking these characters in the eyes? Why not actually have some physical interaction? Honestly, the scene is the famous Jack Nicholson scene from A Few Good Men (which I'm now aware that I haven't seen). It should be that level of intensity. Instead, we're given a lot of time to look at the background of a galaxy that has nothing to do with the scene we're looking at.
But can I say something crazy? Green Lantern would be one of the better movies in the DCeU. If it was part of it, I would be such a massive improvement over the other films in that series. Man of Steel is a travesty. If I ever hate myself enough to sit through that film again, I'll write about it. I would be in a dark place and you should check on me if you see that review up. Batman v. Superman is bleak and has a couple of moments that are mockery worthy. It's watchable, but a super bummer. Green Lantern has just a kind of general suckiness to it, but very few things that you can put your finger on. Okay, Parallax looks a little dumb. Justice League is a huge step backwards and also has a massive CG problem. It also had to be good and it wasn't. That leaves Wonder Woman, Shazam, and Aquaman. Green Lantern doesn't hold a candle to Wonder Woman, which is a pretty good movie. Shazam is very entertaining, but I don't think that it is an amazing movie. I loathed Aquaman for trying to do way too much. That would make Green Lantern, a movie that the star of the film has made fun of in other films, the second or third best in the franchise. I know. People liked Aquaman. I ask you to read my analysis before attacking me. I don't like that Green Lantern got lambasted for every element of it. People make fun of Hector Hammond looking weird. He's supposed to. His motivation is a little garbage, but I think he makes a functional villain who has a relationship with the hero. I'm okay with that. But I also like that Green Lantern as a film didn't exactly shy from the source material. It's not a copy and paste of the source material. Ryan Reynolds brings his own version of Hal Jordan into the story and that's pretty admirable. Similarly, despite the fact that they drill the origin myth of Hal Jordan into the story with a sledgehammer, it gets it right. (Okay, the kid stuff really needed to be allowed some room to breathe.) However, if you wanted a Green Lantern origin story, it covers all of its bases. Sure, it's done through telling, not showing. But every element of the Green Lantern mythos is there. It's actually pretty impressive.
Similarly, the one thing that I wanted to see was Hal making constructs with his ring. The constructs look absolutely perfect. I spent a lot of this analysis focusing on why CG completely poisons every element of this film and then I say that the CG looks fine. Part of that is that the constructs are a reflection of Hal's imagination. Having it look a little bizarre works more than I thought it would. Also, the constructs being completely green acknowledges that these objects don't have to look real. They are allowed to be an artist's interpretation. That freedom actually provides something rad that, if everything else stayed away from CG. I don't want to be anti-CG. CG has opened the door to a lot of great storytelling. It's just the tendency to use CG as a crutch. That limited element in a grounded world could have done a lot. There's a shot where Parallax confronts a failed Hector Hammond. So much of the screen is about CG. Hector should be able to push things around without an effect happening. It should just happen. Think of the villainy of Doctor Octopus. Things just move. They had puppeteers, so nothing was tempting to go above and beyond. There were no lights coming out of Doctor Octopus's tentacles. It kept it so grounded. Lights and flashiness were meant to distract from weak moments. Instead, they acted like highlighters.
But Green Lantern, despite its issues with CG and waiting a long time to present the title character, could have served as a great foundation for the DCeU. It has a tone that is mostly right for the character. It addresses important themes and motifs for the series. It has a great setup for a sequel. It's just that it didn't really seem to believe in the content to not cover it up with a bunch of gunk. Sometimes adding too much nonsense to the cake makes it taste bad. That's exactly what happened here. Green Lantern, from a context of bad taste left by the DCeU, proves to be a better movie than I remember. It's not great. But it could be accepted given how much trash DC has released lately.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.