The Green Lantern movie was something that I was beyond excited for. I had fallen in love with Geoff Johns’s Green Lantern run of comics and wanted to see what a Johns driven Green Lantern movie would have done. When I heard that the movie had the biggest budget of any other movie to date, I was even more excited since I believed they were going to go all out to create the wonderful space world of Green Lantern. Unfortunately, Green Lantern didn’t meet the hype; in fact, it’s received quite a negative reception. I was personally very let down by this film, and I feel like they made many missteps in the story. I also feel like going a different direction would have been more effective make a better film. So here I’m going to explain the problems of the movie and then provide my own amateur outline for what I think would have been a more effective movie.
First, I think it’s important to discuss exactly what went wrong with the story telling aspect. At this point, we might as well start with the protagonist: Hal Jordan. Somewhere along the line, the creators just forgot that we need to like Hal Jordan. We need to be able to like Hal and see that there’s some good in him. What we got was our first appearance of Hal having a one night stand, being late for a test flight that is evidently incredibly important for his company, telling his future love interest that he’s the best and that the rest of the guys suck, and then proceeding to screw up the test flight because he just wants to be an arrogant jerk.
I’m sorry, at what point do we feel like we can like this character exactly? This introduction is horrendous. What’s worse is that they try to make him a cool guy, but they don’t have him even show a shred of decency. There is nothing that tells us “Okay, so he may be a jerk, but he’s not trying to be a jerk and he’s just kind of a screw up, so I guess it’s alright.” No, all we get are a bunch of scenes of Hal Jordan being a giant jerk. And when he tries to screw up the test flight purposefully and cause much of Ferris Air, the company he works for, to let go many of their pilots, we’re supposed to feel for him. He doesn’t try to own that he completely screwed up. All he does is make a bunch of lame ways to defend himself. He doesn’t care that he destroyed many of his coworker’s livelihoods because he wanted to show off how cool he is, he just wants to try to prove he wasn’t wrong. I’m sorry, I don’t want this Hal Jordan to be a hero. He’s a jerk! He doesn’t even show any sort of longing to be a better person! He’s just a jerk!
Now you can forgive this misstep if the follow ups weren’t just so bad. Hal Jordan gets a ring and all he does is whine and moan about how he’s afraid. I feel like the writers for this movie just completely forgot that the ring chose Hal Jordan because he has the ability to overcome great fear and just decided to make him so afraid of everything. I mean, he’s terrified of being in a plane crash like his father, afraid of being a Green Lantern, afraid of fighting with his ring, and he’s afraid of being intimate with his love interest. The entirety of the movie is just about Hal Jordan being afraid until the end where Carol Ferris convinces him not to be afraid. Why do we care about some jerk loser who can’t get over his fears at all?
He should already show little fear, embrace the ring and everything that comes with it due to his ego, and then only show fear when he’s facing something like the insane embodiment of fear, Parallax. It makes no sense that the ring went to Hal Jordan in this movie, especially since when he finally gets over his fear, it makes no sense. He’s afraid of all of these things, but with no development other than a pep talk. He isn’t using his own willpower to get over it, but a talk from some chick he likes makes it so he’s not afraid of going up against Parallax, the thing that killed hundreds of Green Lanterns a hell of a lot better than him. I just don’t understand why they made this choice here.
There is also a problem that lies with Hector Hammond, one of the villains of the movie. Peter Sarsgaard does a good job portraying him, but goodness did he get a poor script. Hector Hammond is a perpetual loser in life who is relatively harmless and holds no ill will towards anyone. He eventually gets invited to research the body of Abin Sur, who was touched by the evil of Parallax, and is infected by Parallax himself which gives him psychic powers for no real reason. He learns his father thought he was a failure, even though he got him the chance to investigate the alien body. He also becomes jealous that Hal Jordan is the cool guy that gets to love Carol Ferris, and it is established in exactly one very brief scene that he has the hots for her. He then uses his abilities to crash a plane, kill his father and a bunch of government scientists, and then threatens to kill Carol unless Hal Jordan gives him the ring.
Congratulations, Green Lantern movie. You made your villain more sympathetic than your hero. Sure, Hector goes mad but it’s not his fault at all. He wasn’t a bad person, but he was corrupted and made into a bad person because of the Parallax power that consumed him. He at least has an excuse to be a jerk, which is more than you can say for Hal Jordan. Hector Hammond was very sympathetic, but his characterization was just confusing. As he lost more of his sanity, the movie just shifted in trying to make the people around him even more sympathetic and not doing a particularly good job of it.
Aside from that, Hector Hammond isn’t a very good choice for a villain. He’s kind of a doofus and not very threatening. He’s just a very, very ugly nerd with psychic powers. At the very least, they could have hammed him up a bit by making him be absolutely insanely in love with Carol like the comic counterpart. At the very least, they could have made him be filled with hate before he got infected by Parallax. Then, at least when he’s trying to kill his father and creeping on Carol Ferris, you can at least say “Wow, I want this guy to lose because he is totally evil.” But we don’t get any of this; instead we got a sympathetic villain in a movie without a sympathetic hero.
Speaking of villains, Parallax was an absolutely awful choice for multiple reasons. Firstly, you need to explain so much of Green Lantern, and it isn’t simple. You need to explain the way the ring works, the way the Lantern works, what the Green Lantern Corps is, and who the Guardians of the Universe are. And then you expect people to retain the part of your mythos that includes the embodiment of fear and the rest of the emotional spectrum? This is too much for the oblivious viewer who knows little about Green Lantern.
Not only that, they made Parallax just something that is so hard to concretely understand with such confusing motivations that people just can’t care about it. After seeing the movie multiple times, I still don’t understand what Parallax wants to do. I mean, it wants to destroy the Green Lantern Corps home planet, Oa, which I guess I can kind of understand, but why does it make a turn to Earth? It’s curb stomped all of the Green Lanterns with ease, so why does it need to eat Earth in order to become powerful enough to defeat them? And why do the Green Lantern Corps fear it so much and act as if once Parallax gets to Oa it will be the end of everything? Oh, and he’s a giant cloud monster with a scary face. Nothing about Parallax makes any sense to people who know about Parallax, so what are people who don’t know anything about Parallax going to think? It’s just a bad, bad choice for a villain with a very bad implementation.
Then we have the Guardians of the Universe and how they are portrayed. The thing about the Guardians is that they are, in fact, all a bunch of jerks aside from a couple. However, they still seem like they care about the universe and have their own ideas on how to save it. What went wrong with the movie is that they made the Guardians just be jerks who don’t seem to care about the universe. At least let them show some kind of care or motivation or initiative! They just act all superior the entire movie and crap on Sinestro and Hal Jordan’s plans and do absolutely nothing. Why aren’t they trying to come up with some way to beat Parallax here or find a weakness? Why aren’t they showing concern for the lives lost? Why aren’t they doing anything to try and show they aren’t absolutely worthless? Why aren’t they at least giving a few orders or something? This is just a poor characterization for the little blue guys.
Now another major issue is with Sinestro. Let me just say that Sinestro is an absolutely golden character who is among the best in comic book history who is probably one of the greatest villains ever. And they didn’t do a terrible job with Sinestro in this movie, but the biggest issue with him is that he’s really the only one they didn’t do a bad job with. Sinestro is the only one trying to make stuff happen in the movie. He’s the only one trying to save the universe and stop Parallax. While Hal Jordan is crying about how he sucks too much to be a Green Lantern, Sinestro is sending a squad to destroy Parallax. While Hal Jordan is making a Micro Machines track on Earth, Sinestro is learning everything he can about Parallax to try and stop it with new ideas. Hell, he even dresses down Hal Jordan when he’s trying to learn how to use his ring and tells him off about being full of fear and lacking what he needs to be a Green Lantern, and Hal just proves him right.
It is because of this that Hal Jordan looks like the absolute worst—because Sinestro is the absolute best. He makes the Guardians look absolutely terrible too as a result. Sinestro does a great job, but he doesn’t have anything to do with defeating Parallax in the end. And for no reason whatsoever he takes the yellow ring to be corrupted at the end of the movie. Why? He has no reason to now that Parallax is gone and he’s seen what the yellow fear will do. So why does he do that? Why does a guy who is easily the most noble of characters in this movie make such a monumentally bad decision? I don’t know why. And I don’t think the creators did either.
The other major issues are entirely based upon the direction they made with the movie. They wanted to make it as much of a love story as it is a hero story, which is absolutely not the way they wanted to introduce Green Lantern. I understand that movie makers feel it is absolutely necessary to include some manner of a love story in every film ever (and honestly, I don’t think it’s an absolutely horrendous slant to take), but this was not the way to do it. When I think of a super hero movie with a love story done absolutely right, I immediately think of Batman Begins. Besides being a brilliantly written movie, it gave us a love story that was always secondary to the story of Bruce Wayne becoming Batman. It keeps those who might not be completely interested in the Batman shenanigans to at least be compelled by the Rachel and Bruce Wayne love story.
The way in which Green Lantern presented their love story was by having it be as big of a part of the movie as Hal Jordan becoming a Green Lantern. You have a brilliant world of Green Lantern mythos to explore, and yet here I am seeing Ryan Reynolds have cutesy scenes with Blake Lively. In short, it murdered the pacing of this film when every other scene that they were having some kind of emotional scene. You spent more time with Carol Ferris and Hal Jordan than you did with Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, which is so wrong when you want to tell a story of Hal Jordan growing to be a stronger person. He’s entirely dependent on Carol throughout the movie and honestly, that seems like all Hal even cares about.
Hal Jordan saves people because Carol is there. Hector Hammond hates Hal because he’s into Carol. Hal Jordan wants to show off he’s a hero with Carol. Hal Jordan is urged to be a better hero because of Carol. Hector Hammond threatens to kill Carol and Hal Jordan has to trick Hector Hammond in a cliché manner to save Carol. Hal Jordan goes after Parallax only after Carol gives him the courage to do so. My god, imagine if Batman Begins was like that, with Batman always having to go to Rachel for his motivation on what to do, or if Ra’s Al Ghul wanted to destroy Gotham because of Rachel and threatens to kill Rachel because he’s so jealous of Batman. What a freaking lame movie that would be. They did that with Green Lantern and it became borderline insufferable at times.
So my solution to all of this is to establish that yes, Hal Jordan and Carol Ferris have the hots for each other. However, you sprinkle these scenes into the movie. Get rid of the foreign friend of Hal Jordan and make Carol his Earth buddy. Most of the development in the movie can be shifted to Hal and the Green Lantern Corps members (more specifically Sinestro) and Hal Jordan can drop by Earth every so often to talk to Carol about it all. Maybe have a scene where he saves her life from a freak accident on Earth. Maybe have a scene where she gives him the proper motivation if he has doubt. But do not linger on Carol for the entirety of the movie. She should be a supporting character, and she can be a bigger focus on the second movie.
Now, I could spend time bringing up all of the nonsense plot points such as Hal Jordan not being able to just summon his ring back or Hector Hammond being able to use the ring to begin with, or Hal Jordan just being allowed to run away from his training with his ring no problem, or rookie Green Lantern Hal Jordan with five minutes of training beating Parallax by making him run into the sun when Parallax obliterated the Green Lantern Corps’ best members, but what’s the point? We all know the movie had holes in it, especially when you align it with Green Lantern lore. What I want to do is explain what a much better overall approach to the movie would have been.
Check out the next page for my concept for a Green Lantern movie.