Confession time: I don’t see a lot of movies out in theaters. Tickets are expensive, I am poor and I’m also terrible at torrenting, so I am selective about what movies I see on the big screen. What I am trying to say is, I don’t think I can accurately say what the worst movie to come out in 2011 was — I won’t ever see all of them. Most “Worst Of” lists for 2011 universally pan things like “Jack and Jill,” “Bucky Larson,” or “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1,” which are films you couldn’t make me watch even if I were presented with a “Saw”-like scenario where I either had to watch one of the above films or watch my mom get eaten by piranhas. I love my mom, but not that much, hence, the long title with all the caveats.
So what is the worst movie I paid to see in 2011? The answer is, without a doubt, “Green Lantern.”
This is not to say this film is without merit, or that there were not moments I legitimately enjoyed. In fact, the amount of talent, potential and truly effective scenes are what make this film so thoroughly disappointing.
For people who don’t know who the Green Lantern is (and I assume it’s most of you, since his movie tanked): a cocky ace-pilot named Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) finds a dead purple alien named Abin Sur who crash on Earth. It turns out Sur is a “Green Lantern” of the Green Lantern Corps (kind of like a space police force, with the least imaginative naming committee ever) along with a bunch of other aliens from around the universe. He gives Hal the weapon of choice for Green Lanterns: a magical space ring that lets him create “green energy constructs” of anything he can imagine, from big green machine guns, to green swords, to a giant green Hot Wheels track (for some reason).
I initially was excited about the film because I thought the idea of creating anything imaginable was a visually cool idea, and something only accomplishable with today’s sophisticated CGI. This aspect of the film is one of the few things that worked; in fact, the construct fights were one of the only aspects that reached the movie’s potential. They were imaginative, fun and well executed. These scenes alone were almost worth the price of admission for any big Green Lantern or DC Comics fan.
Beyond the special effects and action sequences, some of the acting was also good. Peter Sarsgaard did well as the creepy scientist-turned-telekinetic supervillain, Hector Hammond, and gave an understated, chilling performance of a man slowly losing grip with himself as an alien force mutates his face and body. It’s just a shame the plot turns him into a lame deus ex machina, quickly discarded and disposed of without Green Lantern doing anything to stop it.
Also of note is Mark Strong as Sinestro. Any comic book fan knows he’s the main antagonist for Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern, and Strong gives a, well, strong performance. He’s commanding, tough and charismatic. In fact, he’s so awesome in this film, it’s a shame he’s not the hero rather than Hal Jordan, that whiny asshole.
Then there’s the main problem I had with the movie: Ryan Reynolds. I don’t fully blame him. I love Ryan Reynolds. I think he is a great comedic actor, he has the build and charisma to be an action star and he also has some amazing dramatic chops (if you doubt that, go watch “Buried”). I think he was actually well cast. He could have pulled this off, no doubt.
But somewhere along the way, Reynolds or director Martin Campbell (“Casino Royal”) had the wrong instincts about how to portray Hal Jordan. Reynolds goes into full “Van Wilder” mode for this film, which is aggravating at best and unbearable at worst. Reynolds is going for an aloof, fun, Han Solo sort of thing, but he just comes off as obnoxious and immature, like someone who sees himself as Han Solo, but who is more of a Jar Jar.
For example, during his first day on Oa, the planet of the Green Lantern Corps, Jordan gets beaten down in a training sequence by the true hero of the story, Sinestro, and then straight up quits being a Green Lantern! Just like that. With the world hanging in the balance!
On top of that, the love story between Hal and his on-again-off-again girlfriend Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) is awful. They have no chemistry, she has no acting talent and the subplot takes up over 70 percent of screen time which could be used for more construct fights. Even a joke about secret identities and the ineffectual use of domino masks does not make up for the time Carol wastes.
Some effects are also shoddy (the Guardians and Parallax look like they were made from PlayStation One cutscenes), with the whole film having a very CG feel which never seems very real. Nothing is tactile, not even Hal Jordan himself, whose costume is computer-generated. This effect kind of works on his suit since it’s made of green energy, but it ultimately exacerbates the already artificial backgrounds and characters surrounding him. The entire film feels like a video game, and not in a good way. I might have been able to overlook all of this if the characters had enough depth to latch on to or if there was a story that made sense. But alas, there wasn’t, so it can’t be.
The film should have worked. Martin Campbell is an awesome action director, Ryan Reynolds is a talented actor and the concept of the Green Lantern is ripe for the cinema, but, for whatever reason, we got this instead. Sigh. As I said before, this is probably not the worst film of 2011, but I am positive it is one of the most disappointing in the true “mom and dad aren’t mad at you, they’re disappointed in you because they expected more” sense of the word. We all expected more.
And, seriously, who actually thought “Jack and Jill” was going to be a good movie?