Sam Strange Remembers: GREEN LANTERN

Hollywood legend Sam Strange recalls that time he made a movie about a guy with a ring.

It’s always been my opinion that filmmaking is the ultimate act of willpower. A masterful painter fails to will words, while genius poets fail to will visuals. And yet I will the ass off both on a daily basis.

Apparently, an intergalactic corps of filmmaking aliens felt the same way and offered me a ring which would allow me to literally will my films to life. I just pointed my ring at a wall and willed away while someone filmed the results. Obviously, this was a very exciting prospect, and I jumped in with gusto.

Looking back, I should have seen the inherent flaws of making movies with a stupid ring. For one, all I had on my mind was the ring itself, so the movie is basically a remake of what was happening to me. But worse than that, willing a movie to life means you’re literally pulling the movie out of your ass in real-time. I may not often need it, but I appreciate the safety net a second draft provides.

Green Lantern opens with a bunch of info about an intergalactic police organization called The Green Lanterns. There are something like 4,000 of them, and they each have a multi-planet sector to patrol, which strikes me as really inefficient, especially since they all appear to be gathered on a Green Lantern HQ planet all the time instead of watching their planets.

Every Green Lantern has a ring which harnesses he/she/it’s willpower to make things. The more a Green Lantern wants a sword, the stronger the sword will be. And the more the Lantern wants to know how to wield a sword, the more the Lantern will know how to wield a sword, I guess. I didn’t really have time to think these things through.

Since Green Lanterns are all about willpower, their greatest enemy is fear, represented by a gigantic yellow cloud that is often actually black. The rings themselves pick the Lanterns, and the sole requirement is that the bearer be fearless. Otherwise, the yellow cloud will pull out your skeletons, which happens to a shitload of Green Lanterns, so I’m not really sure how that work, either.

One Green Lantern in particular is a real fearless badass who long ago imprisoned the yellow cloud in some ice. It escapes by trying to escape and gives him a fatal wound, which I think means he didn’t really want to win the fight that bad. Anyway, he’s alive just enough to crash on Earth and find a replacement. The yellow cloud fails to follow him because some kids at a sleepover are watching the “Zelda scene” from Pet Semetery on a nearby planet, and it gets distracted.

At this point we meet Hal Jordan, the film’s hero. Hal’s quite possibly the most chicken-shit character I’ve ever created. It doesn’t look like it at first because he flies airplanes recklessly and generally acts like he doesn’t give a fuck. But this is just a form of fear. It turns out that when Hal was a boy he was severely traumatized when Goose died in Top Gun. Instead of getting over it, he spent all his energy trying to prove that airplanes don’t scare him, leading him to overzealously up the ante the way some gay guys become Republican Senators.

For instance, Hal has to fly in a dogfight against two mechanical planes. When he realizes he can’t win according to the rules, he simply breaks the rules by flying higher than he should. This shorts-out the robot planes, but sacrifices his, as well. There is a moment where Hal could maybe save his plane, but he gets frightened and flashes back to the scene where Goose dies instead. That’s okay with Hal, though. Only pussies and faggots actually land their planes.

This insecure posturing tricks the ring (along with my first-draft intelligence) and Hal is chosen to be the first human Green Lantern. Hal puts on the ring, but doesn’t do anything because he’s so scared. There’s this lantern Hal must touch, but he thinks it might give him cancer. After pussyfooting around for twenty minutes, the ring itself wills Hal to touch the damn thing. Then he’s whisked away to Green Lantern Planet for Green Lantern training.

Meanwhile, self-centered Hal failed to bury or burn the dead Green Lantern’s body, so SHIELD comes in to do all kinds of spooky government stuff to it. They get this greasy nerd named Hamburg Hamburger to do an autopsy. While fishing around the alien’s guts, Hamburg Hamburger gets a little yellow cloud on his finger that slowly turns him into Rubber Johnny.

On Green Lantern Planet, Hal meets up with a fish-guy who fills him in on all the Green Lantern stuff his ring didn’t already tell him automatically, which is about half of it, I think. Then a big pig-guy starts beating the shit out of him to get his ring working. After two minutes of that, another Green Lantern takes over beating up Hal to get his ring working. This rather stern Green Lantern is called Evilestro, and he’s kind of the Corps’ top dog. After a moment or two of this, Evilestro tells Hal, “Go home,” as a bit of reverse psychology. Shockingly, Hal says, “Yes, sir,” and pees his pants. He takes off so fast, Evilestro can’t even take the ring back.

Back on Earth, Hamburg Hamburger is causing trouble. Everywhere he goes, people stare at his gigantic head and wreck their cars. The fear his deformation causes finally gets the yellow cloud’s attention and it begins moving very, very slowly toward Earth.

Hal flies around Earth acting like he’s a Green Lantern even though he’s not actually a Green Lantern. He wears a mask to protect his identity, but only interacts with people he knows anyway. Hal hones his craft by making beautiful green necklaces for girls, but they disappear as soon as he tries to read something. When he’s not doing all that, Hal sits in his apartment, crying about Goose.

Meanwhile, Evilestro and a bunch of his Green Lantern buddies try to take on the yellow cloud before it reaches Earth since they know Hal won’t be helping. The Lanterns shoot little green blobs at it, but it pulls their skeletons out anyway. Evilestro survives only because a nearby preschool is watching Return to Oz and it gets distracted.

One night, Hal is at a party people are having for some airplanes. Hamburg Hamburger is there being creepy because his dad is giving some big speech. But before he gets too bored, his yellow cloud powers make him aware of Hal and his Green Lantern powers. Trying to goad a fight, Hamburg Hamburger makes his dad’s helicopter crash into the party. Hal really wants to do something, but fear paralyzes him until the last second. The helicopter has already slid across the whole dance floor and exploded spinning propellers all over everyone when Hal finally puts the ring on.

Hal’s first attempt to beat Hamburg Hamburger is to give up and hand over the ring. Fortunately, the ring gives Hal a 404 Error on that one. Hal’s second attempt never materializes because the yellow cloud itself shows up and eats Hamburg Hamburger’s yellow skeleton.

So now, Hal has to become a hero or die. Hal’s afraid of action, but he’s way more afraid of dying, so he comes up with a plan. First, he let’s the yellow cloud eat Earth while he waits in space. This makes the yellow cloud really big. Next, he musters all his fear and concentrates it so the yellow cloud will follow him. Once that works, he leads the yellow cloud to the sun, which has a very strong gravitational pull according to fish-guy. While the sun consumes the yellow cloud, Hal has his ring make two jets the pull him away from harm. Once the yellow cloud is dead, Hal passes out from fear and almost goes into the sun himself. Luckily, Evilestro and the only other two Lanterns we’ve seen speak are there to save him.

Back on Green Lantern planet, Hal is celebrated as a hero. He lost Earth, sure, but he saved like a billion other places. The idea of going to such crazy extremes in order to win really blows the Corps’ mind. They mostly just shoot green globs at things and do what they’re told. Hal may be a giant chicken-shit, but his ability to ignore rules and embrace his own fear illustrates that Hal gets his unique strength from being a human, while the rest of the Corps are more like Asians.

Anyway, it’s in 3D. That wasn’t my choice, though. Apparently it’s the default on ring-shot movies. Another reason I’m glad regifted the damn thing to Brett Ratner.

(three stars)