Gandalf vs. Green Lantern

by limebirdmike

The main inspiration for this blog arose a few weeks ago now when I was forced to endure the horrendous film that is Green Lantern. Now, I’m sure I’m probably going to offend some of you out there by saying this, but I think Green Lantern is possibly one of the worst films I’ve seen.

Why? Because it’s so flawed in terms of its fundamental concept, the plotting of the movie and its final presentation that the writer in me was literally screaming at the TV in frustration!

For a start, when your ‘power’ is the power of ‘will’ (basically, ‘stuff’), how on earth is the antithesis of ‘will’ supposed to be ‘fear’? Also, even if the antithesis of your power is ‘fear’, why is it that there is nothing to actually make fear ‘fear’. Simply being a different colour just doesn’t cut it!

With me so far? Unless you’ve seen the film, I’m guessing probably not, though this in itself is part of my point. If you can’t explain something back to yourself, then how as a writer do you expect to be able to explain your story to your audience?

Naturally, as is the case with so many Hollywood blockbusters these days, plot comes a very poor second (if that) to action, explosions, and special effects. Ok, so maybe I’ve got a bit of a chip on my shoulder about this one, but the point still stands: things such as plot and concept are important!

So, I hear you ask, what has Gandalf got to do with all of this? Well, as I hope some of you at least will agree, it is my belief that The Lord of the Rings is one of the greatest works of literature ever to have been produced. Period. If J.R.R.Tolkien hadn’t put pen to paper and crafted his epic masterpiece I genuinely believe this world would be a worse place. As a work of literature then, for me at least, it stands at the pinnacle of what we can achieve.

But while Gandalf et al serve as a source of inspiration, and indeed are an aspiration for what I want to achieve as a writer, I’m not quite sure how much I can actually learn from Tolkien’s masterpiece. For one, I am perhaps never going to invent my own language – nor indeed am I going to achieve the same level of prose as the eminent professor. I am, after all, M.J.Ryder, not J.R.R.Tolkien. We are two separate and very different writers. While The Lord of the Rings serves me as an aspiration, I am going to be slightly controversial here and suggest in some respects Green Lantern has taught me a lot more about writing!

It is often said that the best lessons we learn in life are made from our mistakes. Under this umbrella I would also add, the mistakes of others.

As a writer you should always strive to absorb as much as you can, and in the process, learn from the works of others. In the modern 21st century world, visual media is just as important as written media. After all, Green Lantern also had a writer – probably a team of writers (though I use the word ‘writers’ in the very loosest sense!)

My point then is this – while Green Lantern was without doubt, for me, one of the worst films I’ve watched in quite a long time, this is not to say I haven’t gained something from it. In this respect Green Lantern can stand beside Gandalf and friends, not as an equal, but as a powerful lesson for us all.

Until next time,



24 Responses to “Gandalf vs. Green Lantern”

  1. I enjoyed reading this post a lot. I feel the exact same way and it’s nice to know I am not alone. We can learn from the mistakes and successes of other writers. I can’t stand movies without plots, although they are a great source of information. I just consider what would make the plot and/or concept better. As writers, it’s easy to forget that at our most basic we are storytellers just like the people writing TV episodes and movie screenplays. We can learn from them as much as we can from reading. I’ve always believed that I learn the most from bad writing, bad plots and bad concepts. I think it can be easier to figure out what went wrong, than to figure out what worked and why. Why make a mistake someone already made? It’s great to know that I am not the only one who feels this way. Thanks for sharing! I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    • Hi Nicole, thanks for your reply! As writers I think we’d all do well to remember that writing is critical to so many more areas of life than just books, and that we can indeed learn from just about anything! Glad you liked my post 🙂

  2. Some films should never be let out of the box!


  3. We learn just as much if nor more about what works from what doesn’t work. We see what we never want to be, or what we never want to do. The things we love show us a bar to set.

  4. Ack I felt the same way about that movie. I don’t really know a whole lot about the comics, but my husband does and I thought he was just sitting there the whole time we watched it yelling at the screen and sighing.

    • Your husband’s reaction sounds quite a lot like my own. I think the worst film I saw for this was Transformers — probably more because in making the film they destroyed a little part of my childhood, but there sure was some awful writing in there too! (Don’t get me started on the cheesy dialogue…)

  5. I never saw the movie, but I completely agree with you that the bad forms of “art” are just as educational as the great stuff. I have a bookcase filled with writing manuals, handbooks, novels, short story collections, poetry, etc, etc. I have favorite stuff as well as stuff that tick me off for any number of reasons. And that’s because those works help to show me what NOT to do. I highlight the heck out of passages, scribble in the margins, and keep them as notes for what to avoid in my own writing aspirations.

    Great post, Mike

  6. From one M to another:
    We can learn a lot from the mistakes of others. Also, it’s great for the ego. Legendary works of literature can inspire us, yet make us feel soul-crushingly small: Awful books are somehow reassuring, because if that fool could get published, so can you and I! LOL.

  7. I read/heard/saw somewhere the following:

    An intelligent person learns from his mistakes. A wise person learns from the mistakes of others.

    Also, this sorta links up to the “write a bad first line” exercise/notion here:

  8. I haven’t seen the movie, but I have seen bad ones and read bad books too. Very seldom if the writing is really bad will I finish the piece. I would so much rather read a great work like Tolkien and highlight it, the artful turns of phrase and dialogue bits that appeal to me, the scenes that are cleverly wrought, etc.
    I love to watch their characters, written with depth and substance evolve throughout the story. It helps me to think about the things I need to show in my characters in order to have the audience become emotionally involved with them. Tolkien and Stephen King are both masters of their art – providing many great learning experiences when we stop to take apart and look at their work.
    While I do understand the appeal of learning from the mistakes of others, I just can’t stand to read/watch them for very long. I start skipping whole blocks of the work just to get through to the end, and in the end, how much did I absorb?

    • I completely see where you’re coming from Neeks, but I do disagree with you slightly. Sure, we can pick things up from Tolkien et al, but from my own perspective I certainly don’t go out and deliberately try to copy things he (or any other author come to that), does. Certainly by reading more I think we all become better writers, but I should also point out that it’s a dangerous game trying to replicate someone else. Ultimately, I’m never going to be JRRTolkien — nor do I want to be. I want to be known as MJRyder — I want to be remembered for the things I do that stand out in the world — I want to forge my own *unique* path.

  9. Obviously you have not seen the horror that is Ghost Rider 2….I’ll bet you’ll be able to learn even more from that one! (lol) But I do agree. I have several books that I keep around and I’ll have friends say, “why on earth do you have that piece of trash?”, and it’s because I want to make sure I’m not heading down that same horrible path.
    And Lord of the Rings rules the universe. Amen.

  10. Aww poor Ryan Reynolds! Ok, I admit, Green Lantern wasn’t a particularly good film and it’s only saving grace was seeing Ryan Reynolds with his top off. So, I can see why that wouldn’t appeal to you!

    Great post though, it’s a good idea to keep bad films/books as inspiration of what not to do, just as much as the ones you admire!

    Oh yeah and Tolkein FTW!

  11. It’s strange, my partner thinks that I am a really negative person; however, whether it be a book or a movie, I always find that I get something out. It might be a new approach to dialogue, or some wonderful back story. Maybe it is because I find it very easy to suspend my disbelief, and so even the shoddiest of stories seems to be able to draw me in.


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