That time I saw an early screening of Green Lantern

I was searching through some old files and came across a review I wrote after seeing an early screening of Green Lantern back in June of 2011. I’m pretty sure I wrote this immediately after seeing the movie because it’s fairly terrible. It looks like I didn’t edit it at all.

But, here it is anyway, as I originally wrote it (with the exception of one added footnote). Because I’m sure you’ve spent years wondering what my initial thoughts about Green Lantern were.

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I had the opportunity to see a screening of Green Lantern here in New Orleans tonight (more on that in a bit) and thought I would offer up a few thoughts on it.1 I haven’t really written any movie reviews before, so this may be pretty spoiler heavy if only because I’m not sure how I can talk about a movie without describing what I saw. Also, I just got home from the theater, so my thoughts my jump around a bit. Apologies.

As quick background, let me say that I’ve been looking forward to a Green Lantern movie for pretty much my entire life. Green Lantern was my favorite super hero growing up and ever since they started with the Batman franchise when I was in junior high, I’ve had my fingers crossed for a good Green Lantern movie.

As I exited the theater tonight, a woman with a clipboard asked me what I thought of it. My instinctual reaction, no fore-thought involved, was to blurt out “it was good, but could have been so much better.”

Before I go on, I should also add as a bit more background that I wouldn’t consider myself an over-the-top comics fanboy nor would I consider myself a cynic about these kinds of movies. I generally accept that I’m there for a few hours of escapist fun and pretty much enjoy the ride.

The problem with Green Lantern was that the ride seemed like it was on fast-forward the whole time. Maybe I was just geeked up to see it and time seemed to compress but the movie just seemed to jump from scene to scene without much of a connection between them.

It also seemed like they tried to compress two movie ideas into one movie – which is maybe why the movie seemed like it was on fast forward; they had a lot to get through. And the best way I can explain that idea is to mention The Dark Knight. I really loved The Dark Knight (other than Bale’s raspy Batman voice). Like everyone else, I thought Heath Ledger was note-perfect as the Joker. I also really enjoyed the Harvey Dent storyline. But I left that movie thinking that as good as The Dark Knight was, they could have made TWO great movies if they had just done one movie about the Joker (with more time for Ledger to shine) and another, separate movie about Harvey Dent/Two Face.

With Green Lantern, they took the story line of Hal Jordan becoming Green Lantern and compressed it so that it could fit with Green Lantern defeating Parallax. Usually with superhero genre origin-story movies, my complaint is that they spend too much time setting up the character in the “before” stage before he embraces his role as the hero. My complaint about this movie was that they didn’t spend enough.

I know the CGI effects are expensive and time consuming. But how great would it have been to have a movie that was solely about Hal Jordan’s growth from cocky test-pilot into the hero known as Green Lantern? About Hal overcoming the fear and doubt within himself. Sometimes the greatest battles are fought within. THAT could have been a great movie unto itself. Show Hal as the test-pilot with the Devil-may-care attitude. Show him being selected as the next Lantern of Sector 2814. Show more of him on Oa, training with Kilowog and other Lanterns. Let him come back to Earth because he thinks he’s got everything under control only to realize that he doesn’t know enough to stop Hector Hammond, which makes him go back to Oa to finish his training. Show him back on Oa interacting with other Lanterns from whom he learns what it means to serve. Show him with Sinestro, slowly building a relationship that becomes the story line for the sequel. Show him finally overcoming his doubts/fears and realizing his true calling. Show him return to Earth and stop Hammond and get the girl. They did some of that, but not nearly enough. And, not to sound like a broken record, what they did show seemed rushed.

If you make that movie, then the sequel, which they are obviously alluding too in the scene that comes mid-closing credits, is easily about Jordan and Sinestro and Sinestro’s inevitable fall. And that, too, could be a great movie if they let it breathe and not rush it too much.

One other quick criticism… As I alluded to before, I would have liked to seen more of the other Green Lanterns. Kilowog and Tomar Re were nice, and you see snippets of other notables, but in general, we didn’t spend enough time on Oa for my personal tastes. Part of what makes the Green Lantern mythos great is the fact that Hal Jordan is part of something much larger than himself and they didn’t spend enough time with that. And they could have left Parallax out of this movie and saved him (it?) for a bigger role down the line – I was surprised he was the main villain in this film, frankly.

Ryan Reynolds, while pretty good as Green Lantern, was much, much better as Deadpool.

There is plenty about this movie to like. I have no doubt that I’ll go back and give it a second (and maybe a third) glance. I thought Ryan Reynolds was great as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern with the one caveat that he’s perhaps a little to over-the-top during the moments when he’s trying to show fear and doubt. Blake Lively, much to my surprise, was actually pretty decent. The first few clips of her as Carol Ferris that circulated made Lively come across as wooden but she was good. Of course the bar is pretty low for female leads in these sorts of movies. Quick side note to studios and casting directors… when casting the female lead in action/adventure/sci fi movies, a good, believable actress with actual talent beats the flavor-of-the-month pretty face any day. I call that the “Kate Bosworth was Horrific as Lois Lane in Superman Returns” rule.

The constructs were also pretty good. Some people might complain that they are simplistic but I think it works with the character – Jordan is just learning to use the ring and he is the epitome of the man-child at this stage in his development as a Green Lantern. And the voice casting for Kilowog and Tomar Re was spot on.

Two final comments about tonight’s movie-going experience… First, as I mentioned, I got a pass to see the preview and it was the first time that I’ve gotten to see an early screening. A friend explained that they give out more passes than they have seats for and that I should probably get there early to make sure I got a seat. I get that the studios give out extra passes because they want to ensure a full house but, after getting my seat, I happened to be out at the concession stand when they announced to everyone else that they were out of seats and they probably turned away 175 people. To me, that’s a dick move. If you have a 250-seat theatre (just to make up a number), I understand maybe giving away 275 passes and turning away a handful of people. But to give out so many passes that you turn away enough people to fill another entire theatre is pretty crappy.

Getting there early leads me to my second point… Again, this was my first experience at this, so maybe this is pretty standard, but I was pretty pissed off at the number of people in line who were saving spots for other people. I got there at about 4:30 for the 7:30 show and when I arrived there were about 18-20 people in front of me. By the time they finally let us into the theatre, I was at least 100 people back in line because so many people in front of me let others in. One woman right behind me, and I am not exaggerating, ended up letting in 19 other people. Holding spots for people for a couple of hours while others actually show up early and stand in line is also a dick move and for anyone who does it, I respectfully hope they rot in hell.

So, to sum up…

  • Green Lantern – good but not great but definitely worth seeing on the big screen.
  • Studios/Theaters who give out way more passes than they have seats for suck ass.
  • People who save spots in line deserve a special place in hell.

1. “Tonight,” if the date on the file can be believed, was June 11, 2011 and it looks like my final version was saved at 11:43 p.m., so I definitely came home and wrote it immediately after seeing the movie.

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