Justice League fast approaches. And to say there is a lot of anticipation for the film is an understatement. It’s bittersweet, though. While seeing so many iconic DC characters onscreen will be thrilling, there’s one MVP who (more than likely) won’t be there: Green Lantern.
It shouldn’t be surprising, because the 2011 Green Lantern solo film is one of the worst superhero movies ever made. Sure it has its admirers, but let’s face it, it’s just not very good. From a poor script to panned performances to dismal CGI, it did not deliver the goods. To put it succinctly: it sucked. And it bombed at the box office accordingly.
The truth, in retrospect, is that Green Lantern was probably doomed from the start. A continuous series of poor decision-making and a rushed production schedule resulted in a massive misfire and waste of creative talent.
Green Lantern stalled Ryan Reynolds’ career (until Deadpool), and director Martin Campbell hasn’t made a film in 7 years (until The Foreigner, which opens October 17).
If you’ve ever wondered why Green Lantern was so pitiful, you’ve come to the right place. Here are 15 Things You Never Knew About The Disastrous Green Lantern Movie
15. Ryan Reynolds Signed On Without Reading The Script
Yes, you read that right. In an interview with Yahoo News while promoting Deadpool, Ryan Reynolds admitted he signed up for the role of Hal Jordan without reading a single word of the screenplay for Green Lantern: “nobody auditioning for the role of Green Lantern was given the opportunity to read the script, because the script didn’t exist. I’m not complaining about it — it was an opportunity of a lifetime, and if I were to go back and retrace my steps, I would probably do everything the exact same way.”
We have to wonder if Reynolds is being extremely diplomatic, because he might have tossed his power ring in the trash and ran for the hills if he knew how sub par the storyline for Green Lantern would turn out.
14. Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith almost directed
While Martin Campbell was hired on the strength of his strong directorial work in Casino Royale, he was not Warner Bros.’ first choice to helm the film. In fact, one of the first directors who was approached was Quentin Tarantino.
As unlikely a fit as the man behind Pulp Fiction would have been to shoot a kid-friendly comic book movie (but just imagine the possibilities!), there were other, equally unorthodox candidates, including Kevin Smith. He declined as well, partly due to his involvement with the ill-fated Superman Lives project.
There were also overtures to more conventional choices, including Batman Begins screenwriter David Goyer (who declined to direct an aborted adaptation of The Flash), and Arrow creator Greg Berlanti. The latter would pass on directing, but served as co-producer and co-screenwriter, so he’s still partly responsible for this travesty.
13. Ryan Reynolds Wasn’t The First Choice To Star
While Reynolds will forever be associated with the stink bomb that is Green Lantern, he didn’t have a lock on the part from the beginning. There was an intense casting process for the role of Hal Jordan, with a lot of major players angling for the part of the power ring-wielding hero.
Bradley Cooper, Justin Timberlake, and Jared Leto were all in contention to play the character before Reynolds clinched the role.
Cooper discussed auditioning for the part on Conan: “I couldn’t not do Christian Bale’s Batman when I was doing the audition…I put a mask on and the director was like, ‘Okay Bradley, be regular and talk.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, got it… ” before breaking into a gravelly rasp. After looking back at his audition clip, he realized he blew it: “I was like, ‘Oh, I’m not getting this!”
While Leto dodged the Green Lantern bullet, he didn’t exactly escape unscathed from DC related projects. The world isn’t exactly clamoring for his return as The Joker. Or is it?
12. The Film’s Failure Is Responsible For The DCEU’s Dark Tone
The biggest complaint about the DCEU is that the films are too dark. The MCU is known for its light touch and wisecracks, and its worked to the tune of billions of dollars. So why doesn’t the DCEU just lighten up already?
Well if you’re wondering why Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice were so morose in tone, look no further than Green Lantern, when Warner Bros. did try to make a lighthearted superhero romp, and it bit them in the backside.
The studio adopted a “no jokes” policy in Green Lantern’s wake, afraid that going down the route again would lead to more financial ruin. Of course, the real reason Green Lantern didn’t work was the fact the story was a mess, and the jokes sucked (“I know, right?!“). DC finally seems willing to retry a lighter touch (see Wonder Woman and the upcoming Justice League), but you can’t blame them for being a bit gun-shy.
11. Campbell Lost Control of Production
It became clear early in the production that Martin Campbell was not a director well-suited for superhero movies. While he’s known for his work with practical action, he wasn’t comfortable on such a CGI-heavy production, and things deteriorated quickly.
Campbell was already sour about the casting of Reynolds (he wanted Bradley Cooper), putting him at odds with studio execs. His vision was further hampered by massive studio interference, extensive reshoots, and a rushed deadline. To add insult to injury, he was kicked out of the editing room.
President of DC Entertainment Geoff Johns and Warners executive Jeff Robinov were just two of many who had their hand in the editing bay, and the “too many cooks in the kitchen” approach resulted in a film with no narrative cohesion. Campbell seemed exhausted from the ordeal.
10. Green Lantern Was Originally Planned As An Action Comedy Starring Jack Black
Yes. At one point Green Lantern was pitched as a comedy vehicle with Black playing the title character, but once word of the project hit the internet, comic fan outrage scared Warner Bros. into dropping the project.
Screenwriter Robert Smigel defended his script in a 2011 interview with Vanity Fair: “I immersed myself in Green Lantern comics from every era—partly because I wanted to take the world seriously. It wouldn’t be funny unless the actual legend and the world of Green Lantern were accurate.”
Smigel’s script centered around Black’s character (a reality television star named Jud Plato) moving Earth out of the path of a giant meteor: “people are trying to tell him not to do it, but he had gotten really cocky at that moment and he does it and then, of course, there are natural disasters all over the planet.”
9. Superman Was Going To Be In It
Perhaps the craziest element of Smigel’s script was the inclusion of the Man of Steel, but in a very odd and original context.
Smigel stated that after Black’s Green Lantern knocked the Earth off its axis, he realized “he can only fix by reversing time so I thought, ‘Oh, yeah, he could just conjure up Superman, because he’s seen that movie!’ You’ve run out of abilities, so you conjure up the best superhero that exists and let him solve the problem… the laziest Green Lantern in history.”
Superman was also featured in the 2008 script by Greg Berlanti, Mark Guggenheim, and Michael Green, in the form of a Clark Kent cameo, but it didn’t make the finished production. As we’ll soon discuss, it wasn’t the only thing from that script that didn’t make the cut.
8. The 2008 Script Was Nothing Like The Finished Film
One of the most criticized elements of Green Lantern is obviously the writing. It’s a hodgepodge of anti-climactic fights and an unconvincing transformation of Hal Jordan from being the reluctant (and very annoying) hero to accepting his destiny as Green Lantern.
The 2008 script had a much more well-rounded narrative with lots of Easter eggs for fans, and if you check the internet for fans reactions to the script, they’re generally positive. This makes the finished product (Berlanti, Guggenheim, and Green contributed three drafts in full) all the more frustrating.
In addition to a more thrilling final fight scene with Hector Hammond (which ends with Hammond destroying himself by trying to wield Jordan’s ring), the script differentiates in many other aspects, including cameos from other notable Green Lanterns (including Guy Gardner, and two more we’ll get to in a bit) and a different villain than Parallax, which we’ll discuss next.
7. Legion Was Supposed To Be The Villain
Another element from the 2008 script that didn’t make the film was the choice of villain. While Hector Hammond was still the big baddie, he didn’t gain his evil powers from Parallax. In the original screenplay, Hammond is infected by a shard of glowing shrapnel that the screenplay describes as “a friggin’ piece of Legion.” Yes, it said that.
Jordan flies to Oa to confront the Guardians about the evil Legion is unleashing on Earth through Hammond, but but his pleas fall on deaf ears. Shortly afterwards, the full embodiment of Legion is unleashed on Oa, but Jordan kills it with a supersized blast from the Guardians’ central battery (which somehow grays his temples in the process). After this climactic moment, the script says “Fanboys orgasm appropriately.”
6. The original Green Lantern Almost Made An Appearance
Another difference in the 2008 script was the addition of Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, whose character would inhabit the shadowy government operative role that Angela Bassett’s Amanda Waller played in the 2011 film. Scott would also provide the film’s opening monologue, providing a truncated explanation of the Green Lantern Corps before the film kicks into action.
In the film’s conclusion, Scott (who goes under the alias of “Pipe“) meets with Jordan, and reveals that he’s indeed the first Green Lantern of Earth, and wishes Jordan well on his heroic journey as our galaxy’s protector.
As far as explaining how Scott’s lantern power works on a completely different level than Jordan’s? The script didn’t delve into such geeky details (like the underwhelming fact that his primary weakness is wood).
5. The CGI Was A Rush Job
Green Lantern is notorious for featuring some of the worst CGI for any big-budget film in recent memory. And the biggest reason the effects look so half-baked amounts to a rush job. Which feels completely offensive on a movie with a $200 million budget. It should not look like a SYFY original film. Where did all the money go?
There was an extra $9 million allotted for effects work that was made just two months prior to release. And it looks like it.
From the lame animated suit, to the lousy power ring constructs, to a goofy Parallax (who looks like a glob of congealed oatmeal), the special effects in Green Lantern are decidedly not very special, made even worse by a last-minute 3-D conversion. It proves you can’t polish a turd, not even one of the luminous green variety.
4. Geoff Johns Was Told To Make A Green Lantern Movie… Without The Ring
Perhaps Geoff Johns felt a sense of doomed resignation while trying to salvage the 2011 Green Lantern film in the editing room, because he’s had an ill-fated relationship to the Emerald Knight in Hollywood.
Johns had originally tried to bring the project to fruition all the way back in 2000. His enthusiasm plummeted however, after Warner Bros. suggested he make a movie without the ring. How the hell would that have worked, you ask?
We have no clue, but perhaps that’s why he walked away from the project, rather than make some bastardized version that would have angered fans and confused audiences. Johns wouldn’t garner the enthusiasm to try again until Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight hit the billion mark at the box office.
Perhaps that 2000 meeting should have been an omen that Green Lantern was doomed from the start. We’re hoping the 2020 Green Lantern Corps movie will finally get things right.
3. One Script Had John Stewart As The Main Character
One of the earliest, and most intriguing pitches for a Green Lantern film came from actor Corey Reynolds. The actor had pitched a script to Warner Bros. back in 2007, saying in an interview that “It’s three films, and the first one is titled “Green Lantern: Birth of a Hero.” Reynolds was angling to play John Stewart, a fan-favorite Green Lantern who would have also allowed for some diversity in the DCEU.
Reynold’s trilogy would have introduced Hal Jordan in the second installment, followed by the Justice League in the third film. His plans were squashed however, when he learned that another script (the aforementioned 2008 draft) was also in development. The actor began discussions with Berlanti and Warner Bros. about including Stewart in the film, but sadly, it was not to be. Luckily, Stewart will show up in the DCEU, but no word on who will play him yet.
2. Green Lantern: The Animated Series Was Built Around The Film’s Presumed Success
Remember this show? You’re forgiven if you don’t. Green Lantern: The Animated Series was an ambitious computer animated series from Batman: The Animated Series creator Bruce Timm. Its sleek look differentiated it from Timm’s traditional animated style, and it was a well-received and reverent take on the character. Unfortunately good reviews couldn’t save the project.
Green Lantern: The Animated Series was designed to launch in tandem with the theatrical Green Lantern movie, in the hopes that the expected blockbuster would drive children en masse to watch the show and buy the related merchandise. Things obviously didn’t work out: the movie tanked, kids lost interest, and the toy line tie-in didn’t sell. The series lasted just one season with a total of 26 episodes.
1. It Was Supposed To Kick Off The DCEU
The DCEU got a late start for a variety of reasons, primarily Christopher Nolan wanting to keep his Bat-films free of super-powered characters and the fact that Superman Returns flopped. Green Lantern would be the third strike.
Yes, Green Lantern was Warner Bros.’ first earnest attempt at creating a shared cinematic universe, introducing ancillary characters like Amanda Waller, and setting up a grand cosmic scale that could allow for any number of DC characters to inhabit future sequels and spinoffs.
The problem of course, is the foundation was beyond shaky. Reynolds played a poor-man’s Tony Stark, the supporting characters were mere window dressing, and no one cared to see where things could go next.
Perhaps Corey Reynolds’ Green Lantern trilogy pitch would’ve been the way to go, and we could have already had a Justice League film by now? “I know, right?”
That wraps up our list! Do you have any other behind-the-scenes facts about Green Lantern? Do you feel the film is better than reviews suggested? Let us know in the comments.
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