GREEN LANTERN ON FILM: It Needs the Star Wars Approach
Over the course of this series, we're exploring ways to make prominent DC heroes, members of the Justice League, work as films. Green Lantern, of course, has already had a film and it wasn't successful. In preparing for this article, it was impossible to avoid thinking about the 2011 Ryan Reynolds film, which was designed to be the beginning of a new era for Warner Brothers and their DC properties. Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy was winding down and Superman was in limbo. Meanwhile, Marvel was seeing continued success in their build up to The Avengers. So it fell to Green Lantern to light the way. It didn't work. The movie was a failure at the box office. But why did it go wrong? Where did it go wrong?
The writer identifying himself as "Vadakin" continues his exploration of what is needed for various DC characters to work on the big screen. Having already tackled Batman and Aquaman, he now turns his attention to Green Lantern.
In Blackest Night
The truth is, Green Lantern wasn't a bad movie, proving itself to be mediocre at worst. Poor marketing in the months leading up to release failed to create any significant buzz about the film while unfinished effects shots in teasers and trailers made it look cheap, and the now infamous “I know, right?” moment in it was deemed a calling card for an overly comedic Reynolds performance that in the film, didn't materialize. But the damage had been done on the marketing side. Then there's the film itself. A bland performance from Blake Lively didn't help matters and Martin Campbell, while more than competent as a director, never felt like the right person to tackle a big sci-fi adventure. Then there's the script. The first draft of the script is actually really good. But as with most things in the Hollywood system, everyone has notes, everyone has to have their say and the result was a watered down shooting draft that failed to reach Green Lantern's true potential.
But the biggest problem with the Green Lantern movie is that it felt small. In spite of involving aliens and an army of space cops, the movie never really felt like it had the scale you would expect from the character. One of the biggest complaints about the film is that it spent too much time on Earth and not enough time on Oa or visiting alien worlds. Fans spent years talking about Green Lantern's potential to be a sci-fi epic while detractors questioned the logic of making any kind of Green Lantern movie. This film was supposed to prove those detractors wrong. It didn't. In keeping the movie local to Sector 2814 for large sections, the film makers failed to grasp what the property was truly capable of. Green Lantern had been pitched to Warner Brothers as a trilogy but it failed to get out of the starting gate and, in the end, felt too much like 20th Century Fox's Fantastic Four films.
Now it falls to an old reliable to kickstart DC's new era. Man Of Steel will seek to do what Green Lantern failed to do and prepare the audience for a post-Dark Knight movie world to compete with Marvel. But what of Green Lantern? Should Warner Brothers reboot? Should Reynolds get another movie? Should he appear in Justice League or should Hal Jordan be put out to pasture in favor of Kyle Rayner or John Stewart? Does anybody even want to see Guy Gardner? Looking to the future, there are many directions Green Lantern can go, but there is one thing, above all, that Warner Brothers needs to get straight in their minds.
Green Lantern Is Star Wars
It is. Let's be honest with ourselves here. You can break it down. The Green Lanterns are Jedi. They have strange powers and light-based weapons. They guard peace and justice. The Guardians of the Galaxy are a Jedi Council full of Yoda clones. The rings are lightsabers.The Manhunters are effectively Stormtroopers, a created army fighting for peace only to turn on their masters. Sinestro is Count Dooku, a legend within the Corp, who becomes disillusioned and seeks out power to end what he sees is corruption only to become consumed by that thirst for power. Even Hal Jordan has a Darth Vader turn in the comics when a tragedy causes him to go mad with grief and become evil and hunt down the Green Lanterns only to have a final moment of redemption.
Ever since the release of the original Star Wars in 1977, movie studios have searched for a way to recapture what that movie did, not only at the box office but in merchandising. In theory, Green Lantern has it all. It has the merchandising potential that Warner Brothers have long been desperate to exploit, but I believe it also has the box office potential in creating an experience like Star Wars or Avatar. If and when the next Green Lantern movie materializes, it should fully embrace the space opera aspect of the mythos. There's an entire universe to explore. Cosmic threats that demand cosmic heroes. In Hal Jordan you have a hero with the swagger of Han Solo and the charm of Captain Kirk.
Green Lantern is often labelled as a science fiction story, but in truth, it is more of a space fantasy along the lines of Flash Gordon and Star Wars. I don't believe Green Lantern works as a traditional superhero, living in a city, fighting crime and saving lives. The source of his power indicates a much grander story in a much larger universe. He should be hunting war criminals on Thanagar, not spending his days tackling muggers. As Green Lantern of Sector 2814, Hal Jordan has more to protect than just a single world and while connecting the threat to Earth in some way can make things more personal and give the audience a reason to care, the scale shouldn't be reduced to an Earth-based story.
By giving Green Lantern the Star Wars treatment, it also places the character in a unique position for Justice League. I've long maintained that what will make Justice League work (more on this in the coming weeks) is that each hero is different. Avengers worked by connecting the heroes, Justice League will work by separating them and Green Lantern fits a cosmic niche within the line-up.
Normally at this point, I'd talk a little about Hal Jordan's story and his journey in becoming Green Lantern of Sector 2814. The trouble is, we've had a movie about that already and now Warner Brothers face a dilemma. There are different options on the table and I will attempt to explore some of the pros and cons of these options.
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