I really wanted to like Green Lantern. If you’ve been a reader for any amount of time you’ll know that I was very much a champion of the film leading up to release, so when the movie ended up being not very good at all I was completely bummed out.
There was a lot wrong with the film, but there are three things that really stuck out to me. Now that some of you (judging by the box office it’s only some - this movie is currently tanking when you look at its budget) have seen the film we can talk about them.
1) Coast City. Or rather, where is Coast City? One of the great things about the DC Universe is that it’s filled with unique fictional cities. Gotham and Metropolis are as famous as their superheroic defenders. Most of the big DC heroes have their own fictional city, and Green Lantern is no different. His city is called Coast City, and it’s sort of DC’s version of San Diego. Green Lantern is so identified with Coast City that, when the town was destroyed by the alien villain Mogul, Hal Jordan went nuts in an attempt to use his ring to bring it back and ended up wiping out most of the Green Lantern Corps and becoming the villain Parallax (yeah, that’s the name of the baddie in the movie, but Hal was Parallax first. It’s complicated and filled with retcons).
I’m not even sure I heard the words ‘Coast City’ at any point in the film. Green Lantern, near as I could tell, was set in a generic town. This is indicative of the film’s incredibly generic qualities. Having Coast City established might have made Parallax’s threat at the end feel a little more personal - a hero’s city is very much an extension of himself. Instead the giant cloud is attacking Some City, USA.
2) Blowing Hector Hammond. I don’t know a whole lot about Hector Hammond in the comics, but he’s wasted in the movie. First of all, Peter Sarsgaard gives a great performance, one of the all-time wonderful weird performances, as Hector, and he’s ill-served by the film. But even beyond that, the character is ill-served - we’re told that Hector and Hal and Carol were old friends, but we never see that. The film only introduces Hector when it’s time to start turning him into a villain, and it’s only because of Sarsgaard’s performance that any of it works at all.
But what’s really dumb is the way the movie makes him just the precursor to Parallax. That leaves the whole second act hanging. When Hal quits the Corps and returns to Earth it should be a REAL threat from Hector Hammond that forces him to use the ring again, not a rinky-dink helicopter crash. As it stands Hal has to overcome his crisis of self-confidence via… pep talks from his girlfriend. It would have been much more satisfying if he had learned those lessons about courage while battling Hammond, and then had to put them to the test in the final battle. Also, making Hammond the threat in the second act would have made him feel more separate as a character and not just the precursor to Parallax (ie, a time-waster in act three).
3) Sinestro’s turn to evil was moronic. If you stuck around through the first set of credits you saw a sequence where Sinestro takes the yellow ring and puts it on. Why? What’s the point of this? How does it make any sense? There’s simply no motivation - Hal Jordan just effectively proved to Sinestro that there was no reason to wield the yellow power of fear by taking on Parallax single-handedly*. In fact it seems like the only reason Sinestro puts on the ring is because that’s what happens in the comic and because fans have come to expect post-credits surprises.
Apparently there was a draft of the script where we learn Sinestro’s home world was destroyed by Parallax and the Guardians wouldn’t help, so in that draft his change of heart might have been slightly motivated. But that isn’t what’s on screen, and so that final bit plays out like shitty, depraved fan service.
These certainly aren’t the only problems - how about Hal quitting the Corps for little to no reason after being on Oa for about fifteen minutes, or the movie’s infuriating tendency to keep returning to Hal’s apartment for pep talks and exposition - but they’re the things that really stick out to me a week after seeing the film. And now, because nobody could bother to get Green Lantern‘s script right, the very future of the DC Universe on film seems doubtful.
* Just a side note: the fact that the other Lanterns don’t get involved until the very end of that fight makes them look completely like dicks.