"Why are we
          being forced to watch this awful botch? I need some
          aspirin."Green Lantern movie’s failure can serve some good purposes

Why I can’t feel sorry to see it flop

September 17, 2011

By Avi Green

By now, most people are probably aware of how the new movie based on Green Lantern has opened to plenty of negative reviews and tanked badly at the box office, gaining just $53 million in its first opening weekend, and prospects beyond that look very dim.

But there’s at least a few reasons why I personally am not sorry to see it belly-flop as its fortunes in green are overwhelmed by yellow, and will not care if a sequel is never made.

"Gee, Abin Sur
      didn't tell me there was this much gook in the ring! It's messing
      up my whole shirt! Yuck!"One of the those reasons is none other than the involvement of Geoff Johns – the one and only – on this project, which he clearly seems proud of. After all the severe, blatant damage he’s done to the Flash, and Green Lantern too, I see the film’s failure as a perfect punishment for him. Indeed, as the Deadline Hollywood site notes, some of the disappointed have placed blame upon his shoulders, even if not squarely.

And since he did all he could to weave whatever gold he got his grubby hands on into straw, I’d say he deserves whatever he gets and will shed no tears over any problems this causes him with upper management. It’s almost laughable that after he made comics once considered optimistic like the Flash into grimy, violent mishmash, he’d take nearly the opposite path with the GL movie, which is only rated PG-13 and undoubtably less noxious in terms of visual violence than the comics are under his pen. All that does in a way is make him look hypocritical, and compounds whatever perception’s been made that today’s industry is insular.

Following this catastrophe, I thought I’d present some of the various reviews I’ve read that pan the movie for the poor job it does. Not all of them are to my liking even in this regard, since there are some critics who seem to criticize the characters instead of how they’re written and even crafted (depending on the situation, the only time I might be willing to reject a character altogether is if the writer happens to be a total scumbag, and there are at least a few coming that close in the medium today. But even then, I tend to ponder my leading position). I thought to try and find the ones that offer the best reasons for why the movie is so awful, and there are quite a few that can. For example, there’s the Village Voice review, which says:

I could easily fill pages running down the plot obstacles that Lantern director Martin Campbell soullessly cycles through; identifying all the characters introduced by the film's four screenwriters, only to be easily disposed of; and "explaining" the complete hodgepodge of psychological cause-and-effects, from the pervasive daddy issues and complete absence of mothers, to the arbitrary, less-than-convincing confidence issues that Hal is able to surmount as soon as it becomes clear that Carol really wants to kiss him. But the movie never bothers to suggest that any of that really matters: Campbell’s ADD style privileges spectacle over story—so much so that the film never rewards the viewer for even trying to keep track of what is going on.

So it’s a classic case of style over substance, eh? Well, that figures. Then, how about what the View of London says:

Unfortunately, the film is roundly scuppered by a laughably poor script (try sitting through that first flashback scene without giggling) which combines shockingly bad dialogue (“Oh no! Yellow power!”) with a plot that feels awkwardly rushed, as if wanting to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible. It's also glaringly obvious that large chunks of the film are missing; one particular scene has Hal appearing out of nowhere, with no set-up whatsoever.

I’m guessing they really didn’t care about the material. Or, they were so desperate; it all just had to be produced or else!

And then, here’s the Badass Digest’s review:

"Does my forehead look awful, folks?"One of the biggest problems with Green Lantern is that it’s not particularly engaging. The big Green Lantern universe is explained – the Guardians, Oa, the green energy of willpower, the yellow energy of fear, the Corps, hundreds of alien species – but it remains inert on screen. Green Lantern is a pretty standard 1980s-style superhero movie with some fancy scifi trappings that don’t amount to much beyond fan service. It’s the sort of movie where we’re told that the Guardians are ancient, powerful immortals… and that’s it. There’s little else to them, and they do little else. We see the Corps in big crowd shots, and we’re told what the Corps is and what they can do, but we only get to see them doing anything once – and in that scene a whole bunch of them are killed off by the evil Parallax, which sort of undermines everything we’re told.

"This lamp is cheap! I could buy it
      right out of a souvenir shop!"Oh, that reminds me, about that Parallax bit, that is easily one of the biggest, gravest errors the scriptwriters could possibly make. Back in 1994, when DC published the abominable Zero Hour, Hal Jordan was originally turned into a role with that name. Later on, Johns undid this by making Parallax a separate entity, but that doesn’t make the whole monstrosity any less embarrassing. The screenplay by at least four writers (and Geoff Johns, who served as a co-producer, could easily make a fifth if he had any influence over the scripting) is based on one of the Secret Origins specials Johns wrote, and I’d say drawing their “inspiration” from one of his works not only reeks of a form of editorial mandate, it’s practically cheap. Going for something brand new when there’s a whole lot of older, better stories out there they could surely get some great ideas from, that’s pretty weak and unchallenging. And they definitely shouldn’t have used Johns’ ideas for a movie story.

Christian Toto of the Wash. Times tells of another problem that drowns the movie in yellow:

“Green Lantern” is so CGI dependent it’s a wonder someone bothered to lug a camera onto the set. Reynolds flexes his appealing blend of arrogance and heart to play the title character, but there’s little super about this hero.

"It appears the deceased was bored to
      death by the movie"That’s another serious problem with movies of this sort, one that I first came to notice after I watched movies as cruddy as the Matrix and the Mummy in 1999 (I haven’t seen the sequels, nor do I intend to). They’re just so smothered in special effects, there’s no room for real human drama anymore. Whereas comics today destroy themselves with cheap stunts and crossovers (and if they do supposedly offer “good” writing, it’s in entirely dishonest ways), the movies will do it with special effects that sweep over the screen like a tidal wave.

There was even a comment on the review page at Toto’s site that I thought makes for good think-food: first, a comics fan arguing against reviewing the movie if they haven’t read the original comics said:

To all people who are not fans of a comic book. Don’t review the movies or if you do read the comic before approaching it. Quite frankly I’m tired of reading misinformed critics who don’t bother to read source material before seeing the film.

Another person said in reply:

If you have to be familiar with the source material to enjoy the adaptation, then that adaptation is a failure as anything other than fan service. If it’s not possible to make an adaptation that can stand alone, then it probably shouldn’t be made in the first place (unless you can make it cheap enough that you can get by on the fanboy market alone).

"So, Hal, how do I look? How's my
      figure, hairdo, makeup job? Do I look sexy enough to at least make
      this flop of a film worth seeing for other guys?"Which describes another problem with the movie perfectly: the writers went miles out of their way to make it something that comics readers would otherwise be the only ones to comprehend, certainly those left. That could explain why they went out of their way to feature nearly every GL Corps member ever seen, with the possible exception of Katma Tui.

I think the Rolling Stone review is worthy of note too for the following, even if this is a movie and doesn't have to count:

Ryan Reynolds is all surface as Hal Jordan, the reckless test pilot recruited by the intergalactic Green Lantern Corps to protect the world from evil, in this case the many-tentacled Parallax, a former Lantern who went power-mad. Adapting the DC Comics franchise are four credited screenwriters who, besides deserving no credit, falsely indicate that Hal is the first human Lantern. Huh? Back in 1940, artist Martin Nodell and writer Bill Finger created the first one as railway engineer Alan Scott. Hal didn't show up on the page till 1959.

I gotta wonder if they even offer any onscreen credit to John Broome and Gil Kane, who created Hal Jordan later on. Why wouldn’t I be surprised if they didn’t, all because they may have been work-for-hire? That still doesn’t mean they don’t deserve credit for the effort they made to entertain the audience.

Another worthy movie review is this one from About.Com:

The green ring allows Hal Jordan to conjure up anything he can think of, but what's frustrating is that much of what the filmmakers dream up for Hal to conjure are items that are just silly. Hal saves dozens of lives - including Carol's - by turning a crashing helicopter into a race car and spinning it around on a race track. And because it's just downright ridiculous, one of the film's big action scenes is squandered and what could have been a powerful, dynamic demonstration of Hal's new powers turns into something akin to a childish-looking prank.

"Oh Green Lantern, thank you for saving
      me from that awful Johns! Oh, this CGI outfit is so comforting;
      mmm"I think the way Hal rescues Carol here is actually by generating some kind of a pool from green energy, whereas the father of Hector Hammond is the one who needs saving from a falling helicopter. But there is a good point made that they turned the whole scene into an absurd, dismal joke by taking it far beyond supposedly good intentions. And good grief, wouldn’t sending the copter for a spin on a race track run the danger of landing Hammond’s senator father in the hospital, if not in the graveyard, and maybe make him feel worse than he did when the copter was about to crash? Hey, if I went through such an experience, I’d emerge feeling very angry, assuming I even survived. In fact, I hesitate to think of what would happen if I fell into a “pool” of energy; I’d probably suffocate to death! What’s worse, drowning or asphyxiation?

As mentioned before, as Hollywood insider Nikki Finke later noted in her dust-up, Warner Bros. Execs said that some of them blame Johns at least partially for the mess, and even acknowledged that he’s “controversial in some circles.” Glad to see someone is willing to hint at just how much Johns really is disliked for his crude contempt for DC’s properties in some parts of the audience. Hey, I’m one of those who definitely developed a serious distaste for him after all the trouble he’s caused.

Speaking of which, I recently watched a movie called Super 8, directed by J.J Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, the latter who’s sure been going down the liberal drain in the past decade, and when I think about it now, it’s galling on the grounds it bears the earmarks of a liberal morality tale, as per this review at Big Hollywood.

What I find disturbing now when I think about it is that even Johns’ own work contains a bit of that; specifically, the Blitz storyline in the Flash: in a way, the new Zoom – in his infliction of harm upon the Flash family – was saying something similar to what the alien in Super 8 was de facto telling everybody: you hurt me and are the cause of my problems and now you can just pick up the tab. If that’s the kind of slant any work of Johns is going by, that’s one more reason why I’ll shed no tears over any problems the GL movie’s failure causes him with the higher echelons at Warner studios.

There’s no way to ascertain if there’ll ever be a sequel or even a remake of this catastrophe as there was with the Hulk movies, but if there is, I think it can be safely said that Johns – and Dan DiDio, who may have been involved in its making too – will be kept a safe distance from the production. A movie with a committee-crafted screenplay is simply not something workable, at least not the way they did it.

Copyright 2011 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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