Dear Green Lantern,
I liken you to a story told by an eager, imaginative, and yet still somehow wholly unoriginal child. He knows the parts of a story, knows that characters must be introduced, obstacles must be created, and themes must be present. He knows that interest in a narrative is sustained through the promise of conflict and romance. What he does not know, however, is that these pieces, these narrative aspects, must be assembled with thought and connected by transitional tissue in order to truly function as a story, rather than as a collection of hurriedly spoken scenes and ideas. As a result, though the energy and intent of the storyteller is clearly seen, the story itself suffers, stutters, and ultimately dies an inglorious death.
Am I being cruel to you? Not nearly so cruel as you are to the concept of a plot/story. At the outset you misstep when you use voiceover as a means to catch us up on the story of the Green Lantern Corps and the villain Parallax. You inform us of the alien police force, the power of the green light of will harnessed in rings, and how Parallax was imprisoned on a planet. You then show us the planet, setting up the expectation for this backstory to be writ visually. Instead, we get a scene depicting Parallax’s escape. Until the scene was over, I was still expecting him to be imprisoned. This discord between your narration and your visual narrative is endemic of your wider issues with just telling a story well.
You have two threats that appear tenuously connected – at best – and who are both treated with such perfunctory and hurried explanation and setup that neither has time to develop in the mind of the viewer as a credible threat. One is a world-eating cloud of malevolence, the other is a put-upon scientist who has been infected by part of the cloud. Each is forgotten about for long stretches of your run time, and suddenly introduced again, surrounded by exposition regarding its level of danger.
You see, in a film the danger should be clear and present, palpable throughout the entirety of the story. The audience should feel as though a small clock is noticeably counting down to the moment when the hero and the villain clash one final time. To that effect, it would be best to have the hero and villain share more than one fight scene. Without the context of a previous fight, a climax holds no weight. So when your climax arrives with the malevolent cloud appearing literally out of nowhere in terms of both physical reality and narrative logic, the audience is merely resigned to the actuality of it, rather than invested in it.
And how do you spend all of the time not spent on creating viable threats out of your supposed villains? Why, you spend it creating a shallow, ill-defined and ultimately pointless hero. Hal Jordan, gamely attempted by Ryan Reynolds, is a cypher of a person. He is given daddy issues that have a shoddy genesis and no real means of resolution, an ex-girlfriend(?) whose history with him is vague at best, and a “comic relief” nerd friend who appears in the film maybe three times. His training montage with the Lantern Corps is so brief and poorly executed that it seems as though it has taken place in real time.
Worse, though, is that you attempt to lend weight to his “hero’s journey” by making him quit over his fear of not being good enough before he has even had a chance to fail at anything. This makes his “return” to the Corps completely meaningless because honestly he was never part of it to begin with. Why they even let him keep the Lantern ring – the source of his cosmic powers – after he quit is beyond me. It takes him twenty different speeches all saying the same thing coming from the same people before he returns, speechifies about things he does not know or understand to people he has never met, and then returns to fight his final battle. Final battle? Nothing else has happened yet!
This is without getting into the fact that your greatest assets – your alien word and characters – are treated with a complete lack of wonder or awe by the characters from earth. You would think that some people would be interested in the life-changing news that aliens exist, but nothing comes of it. The government studies the body of the former Lantern who grants Hal his powers, but we have no idea why. It seems as though no one even notices when a major city is attacked (though we’re never told what city it is, so maybe its not that major).
I’m so hung up on your writing and story that I didn’t even think to talk about your decent-but-not-great special effects. I understand the thought behind making the Green Lantern uniform totally CGI, its a good idea in theory, but it fails completely here. The disparity between human flesh and CG fabric is just too stark.
Oh Green Lantern I could go on but I fear your lack of focus is beginning to infect me, much as the cloud infected that one guy. You know, who does some stuff before the other aliens, who don’t know about him talk about some other stuff, and the cloud is coming to earth, but its going to another place first, but then it comes to earth first and the aliens all are like, yea, that’s cool, we’ll stop it later, and Hal is all, I can’t do this, and then the guy tries to kill his dad but Hal stops him.
See? See how annoying that is? I don’t care if Reynolds looks like he’s having fun and your director clearly has a sense of style. It just doesn’t work.
Yes yes, I know. You’re a comic book movie. Not an excuse. So what if you seemed to insert action scenes of little weight or necessity whenever you got worried things were slowing down, that’s your schtick! Maybe. Maybe I could have tried to meet you on your level, but I don’t see why I should try at all if you aren’t willing to give a little in return.
With regret for your squandered potential,
Brian J. Roan
One thing in your favor – finally someone in a comic book movie isn’t fooled by a mask that only covers the eyes. Thank God.