Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The "Act Two problems" of Green Lantern: Part II - Hal's arc

Part I

We continue with our look at the Act II problems of Green Lantern.

The next problem: Hal's internal arc. When we meet him, he's a cocky test pilot, seemingly driven by ego and a lot of false bravado. Before long, we learn he's haunted by the death of his test pilot father in a plane crash years earlier. Some of this works - I can buy that Hal is haunted and being fired from his job might send him towards rock bottom. But the script whisks him off to Oa for training, where he retains his cocky personality until Corps member Sinestro basically says he doesn't deserve to wear that uniform, saying he brings shame to it.

Somehow, these words from someone Hal's known for all of three minutes cut him so deeply that he decides he needs to quit the Corps. Thus, Hal spends the entire second act moping that he can't be part of the Corps because he's afraid, and that his fear makes him weak and he'll never be as good as the other Lanterns, and so on and so on.

Having a character mope during the entire second act is always a dangerous move. Your hero sets the tone. The reason people loved Iron Man had less to do with any affection for comic book heroes and more to do with the fact that Robert Downey Jr. was a helluva lot of fun to watch in the role. I absolutely believe that Reynolds could have been just as much fun as Green Lantern, but he's stranded by a script that doesn't give his character much sense of fun. There's no motivation for Hal to really be hurt by the fact that Sinestro doesn't respect him and so the whole arc feels false. It's just there to give him self-doubt that he can "heroically" overcome by the end of the film.

The thing is, there was a better way to get to this. While Hal's sent back to Earth, Sinestro leads a squadron of Corps members against Parallax, who makes shortwork of them by tapping into their fears to make them vulnerable before he finishes them off.

My solution: when Sinestro tells Hal, "You suck, I can tell after 30 seconds you haven't got what it takes. Hal retorts, "Screw you. I'm as good as any of you." Play up that arrogance and insecurity that we've already seen and then send him on the initial mission to confront Parallax. Here's where Hal finds out he's in over his head because he experiences first hand the menance and what he'll need to overcome it. When the Corps attack, Hal should fall in battle pretty quickly, overwhelmed by the fears that Parallax brings to the fore. Perhaps with Sinestro's help, Hal is one of the few to escape alive, only to flee back to Earth.

Here's where we would hit the "Dark Night of the Soul." Hal wouldn't mope for an entire act - but maybe just ten minutes or so. Then he gets forced into action by Hector's plots. He doesn't have time to think about it - he has to be a hero. And then it gets worse. Maybe Sinestro and the rest of the Corps have fallen back to hold the line at Oa. There's just one problem - Parallax isn't headed there. Having become aware of Earth through Hector, he's now heading there to power up before going to Oa for the main dish.

In the film right now, there's not a particularly good reason given for why the Guardians don't send the Corps to defend Earth. Yeah, it gives Hal a good scene where he stands up to the Guardians and accuses them of being afraid. In the end, it feels like a clunky way to set up Hal as the only one to take on Parallax.

For what it's worth, I enjoyed Green Lantern, even if it wasn't as airtight as I would have liked. It's a shame that the box office fell short this weekend, because I would have loved to have seen this universe explored in a sequel or two. WB and DC Entertainment really needed this one to be a hit and I can't imagine they're thrilled with the box office results. It's a shame because I'd say it's a mostly decent comic book movie.

In terms of this summer's offerings, I think it's better than Thor, but perhaps short of X-Men: First Class. The difference is that even while Thor was held back by some of the cheesy stuff in Asgard, Chris Hemmsworth really anchored that film and was allowed to give a fun performance. Reynolds isn't given the same freedom from his screenplay, and unfortunately, I think that's what led critics to attack the film.

1 comment:

  1. I think in the 6th start down..."My solution: Sinestro tells Hal.." you mean "Hal tells Sinestro..." Just a heads up! :)