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The “Extended Cut” of Green Lantern Still Stinks

October 31st, 2011
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I was really disappointed by this summer’s Green Lantern.  I had high hopes for the epic space adventure promised by the trailers, but what we got instead was a lame, Earth-bound mess.  (Read my full review here.)

I wondered if the “Extended Cut” of the film released on DVD and blu-ray would address any of my criticisms of the film.  Sometimes I find that extended versions of films can really flesh out the stories and characters in a way that alters my opinion of a film that I had previously disliked.  Sadly, that is not the case here.

Basically, the only change made to Green Lantern in this new, longer version is an extended flashback, set at the beginning of the film, in which we get to see Hal, Carol, and Hector as kids, and we witness firsthand the death of Hal’s test-fighter pilot.  It’s a great sequence, and never should have been excised from the film.  It’s a much more coherent way of presenting this important back-story than the laughably ridiculous Airplane!-style stress-induced flashbacks that Hal gets, in the theatrical version, when trying to out-maneuver Ferris Airlines’ new pilot-less drones when we first meet him.  It also enables us to start the movie by sympathizing with Hal, which is far better than starting the movie thinking he’s a jerk the way we do in the theatrical cut.

After watching that long new introductory sequence, I was jazzed — this movie is already a whole lot better, I thought!  Sadly, if there were any further changes or extensions to the film after that point, I didn’t notice them.  The rest of the film is as turgid as before.  They even left-in the ridiculous flashbacks in Hal’s test-flight early in the film!!  That makes that whole sequence even MORE stupid than it was in the theatrical cut, when at least the flashbacks were presenting us with some new information.  In this version, we just saw ALL of those scenes literally minutes beforehand!!  Having to sit through those scenes again is beyond stupid.

But Green Lantern is afflicted by this sort of ham-handed story-telling from start-to-finish.  Take the whole introduction to the film, and the escape of Parallax (the film’s main villain).  We hear, in prologue, all about the Green Lantern Corps and about their great enemy, Parallax, who only the great Green Lantern Abin Sur was able to defeat, and imprison in something called “the Lost Sector.”  First of all, as much as I loved Geoffrey Rush’s voice in the narration, and the cool sci-fi imagery on display, I think telling the audience everything we need to know about the villain right off the bat deflates all of the tension in the early part of the film.  Wouldn’t it be cooler if we, like the Green Lantern corps, were mystified as to the nature and origin of this scary new menace?

But, whatever, we get that information.  Then we see a scene of a bunch of hapless aliens whose ship has crash-landed on a deserted planet.  A text graphic appears, letting us know that this is the Lost Sector.  Then we hear one of the aliens transmitting a distress call, saying that they’ve crash-landed in the Lost Sector.  OK, hang on a sec.  If this sector is really “lost,” then why the heck does everyone know exactly where it is?  And even though we’re going to see Parallax thirty seconds later, wouldn’t it be just a tad more suspenseful if we didn’t see that “Lost Sector” graphic, and if the alien just said they’d crashed and had no idea where they were?  Wouldn’t that give the sequence just a teensy bit of suspense, and make a bit more logical sense?  As it is, it’s like the movie thinks we’re all incredibly stupid, so it has to hit us over the head with this obvious information.  “SEE??  THIS IS THE LOST SECTOR!!  THIS IS PARALLAX!!  HE’S THE VILLAIN!!”  Yeah, I get it.

I also wish the film would have just stuck with Hal Jordan’s perspective, and not shown us ANY of these outer-space goings on until Hal becomes a Green Lantern and visits Oa.  OR I wish the film would have more thoroughly engaged with the outer-space elements, and spent more time on those aspects of the story.  I lamented in my original review how Mark Strong was perfectly cast, and in perfect make-up, as Sinestro.  With such a great character in such a fascinating role, I am so disappointed that the film doesn’t let us get to know Sinestro at all.  I wish we could’ve spent a lot more time with him.  I wish we could’ve seen a lot more of his relationship with Hal, and of the grudging respect that Sinestro eventually gains for Hal (when he sees Hal’s willingness to stand up to the Guardians, and when he sees Hal’s courage in facing, alone, the menace that killed countless other Lanterns).  That would have made the character’s eventual turn so much more potent.  But that was not to be.  Sigh.

Green Lantern is the most painful kind of disappointment — a film that could have, and should have, been so much more than it was.  This new “Extended Cut” does little to improve the film’s many failings.  Bummer.

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