As DC Comics fans let their anticipation grow to finally see the company's greatest heroes assemble for Justice League, the gigantic, green elephant glowing in the corner of the room gets harder and harder to ignore. Green Lantern may have been a founding member of the DC superteam, but he's nowhere to be found on film. And even worse, fans don't need to ask why. After the failed launch of a Green Lantern series starring Ryan Reynolds, the studio seems in no hurry at all to call on that bad luck once more. At least, that used to be the assumption.
First came hints from Geoff Johns directly that, while the story wasn't ready to be revealed, the characters of the Green Lantern Corps would play a role in DC's Justice League films. Later came rumors that the announced Green Lantern Corps movie would follow not one, not two, but three human Lanterns. Yet even more recently, assumptions that Zack Snyder's Justice League would feature a Lantern cameo to kick off discussion of his film future received yet another wrinkle. A Green Lantern would appear... but it's not Hal Jordan.
That's unexpected, but not too shocking, since it allows DC Films to postpone their final decision on whether to bring Ryan Reynolds back with new leadership, recast the part, or go with a completely different Lantern as their solo hero. With more and more rumors sure to come out in the months up to release, we're breaking down the possible candidates. What each choice would offer, what it could mean for the studio's overall plan going forward, and what challenges they would need to overcome to make it happen.
Let's get this one out of the way immediately, setting aside the stigma of the first Green Lantern, the question of whether Ryan Reynolds would return to the role, and whether or not most casual fans will even remember that they've already met Hal Jordan. The bottom line is that if DC and WB aim to increase interest, anticipation, curiosity, and online discussion surrounding the Green Lantern who will join the Justice League, then the longer they can keep people asking the question, the better.
Even if they did what blogs and rumor-factories will suggest, and cast a leading man in total secrecy, and reveal the arrival of the NEW Hal Jordan in a Justice League cameo... the anticipation is gone. Audiences will be able to make up their own minds, based on a small sample, of whether or not the studio has succeeded or failed in their move. Considering how many outspoken critics they're already looking to address, adding a challenge, or an opportunity for negativity that they don't have to seems folly.
Introduce a new actor revealed to be "Hal Jordan" - specifically in the costume and ring - and it's guaranteed to pull some out of the story being told. Acknowledge the Green Lanterns in almost any other way, and keep those fans and moviegoers asking the question, and eager for every bit of news in the meantime. Even if the casting is a home run, the recent onslaught of press questioning Ben Affleck endured reveals the added headaches of announcing a major development months out from anything substantial to discuss. If Justice League succeeds on its own, unhampered by more character set-ups, it's better for everyone involved - fictional or otherwise.
As we hinted at above, the problems, risks, or uncertainty in debuting a new Hal Jordan as a powered Green Lantern on screen may not carry over to the appearance of the hero earlier in his own career. We would wager a guess that the number of fans wanting to see Hal Jordan's origin story retold is only slightly smaller than those willing to give Ryan Reynolds a second chance. That being said, including the Green Lantern who crashlanded on Earth before passing his ring onto Hal is a more intriguing proposition.
Abin Sur is as well known as Jordan among comic diehards, so including a cameo, button, or post-credits scene in which his ship crashes to Earth would get fans jumping out of their seats as much as Jordan himself. They know what comes next, after all, and a confirmation that Hal Jordan is going to be 'done justice' this time around would carry a great distance. Yet it still leaves the studio with a few options. Namely, do they actually show the new Hal Jordan, or not?
We'll leave that opinion for fans to decide, but each decision has its benefits and drawbacks. If only Abin Sur appears, with the suggestion of a man approaching the crash site, ring or no, it builds on the reveal while allowing time for the role to be properly cast. If the actor is shown for a matter of seconds in street clothes, then the question of what this new Hal Jordan will look like, and whether the actor is right for the part becomes the conversation topic. It's hard to say that an unknown hand, leg, foot, or silhouette arriving to take the ring wouldn't trigger the same amount of attention, while almost certainly inviting fewer overtly negative predictions.
Now, Justice League ending with Abin Sur's ship crashing, and Ryan Reynolds appearing to take the ring... well, it's likely that sentence alone split fans down the middle between revulsion and excitement.
If the film truly does avoid the existence or mention of Hal Jordan at all, it may not be proof of the studio's larger plans for that character. But it would suggest that the Lantern in question is bound for membership on the League itself. The push for that role to be filled by John Stewart began years ago, largely from fans of the animated Justice League who fell in love with the hero's no-nonsense demeanor, never knowing who this 'Hal Jordan' was that other people claimed was destined for the movies.
In fact, the announcement of Ryan Reynolds for the part - when portrayed as African-American in animation - saw accusations of white-washing, showing just how far apart comic fans had grown from DC's multimedia empire. And, should John Stewart be selected as the film incarnation, a similar wave of equally ignorant (willful or not) accusations are inevitable. But the fact remains that John Stewart has a massive fan base beyond DC Comics, and while a military man like Hal Jordan, would bring an entirely different personality and set of skills to the table.
Where Hal Jordan was the flashy, cocky pilot, John (in the modern versions of his story) is a former Marine, a soldier eager to follow orders in pursuit of the greater good, and who performs his duty with unparalleled discipline. Since the footage of Justice League shows the members in disarray early on, the presence of a man like John would go a long way in uniting the team into a force to be reckoned with. While also ensuring DC's movie version of the Justice League is as diverse as all other instances.
If you need to be sold on Guy Gardner joining the DCEU, then you're probably not a fan. And if you're simply waiting for a chance to see the successor to Hal and John get his time in the spotlight, no convincing is necessary. Jokes aside, Guy is an easy character to dismiss as a relic of the 1990s, when a superhero's attitude, or smirky over-confidence were considered virtues. Those who've seen him develop over time know that he's much more. Put simply: he's the kind of soldier you absolutely never want to deal with... but would give anything to have on your side.
Which of the Green Lanterns are likely to be tortured without breaking? All of them. But only Guy is guaranteed to take the beating with a smartass line to answer every wound, right up until his dying breath. Batman may find him the antithesis of everything a hero should be, but what does it mean, then, when Guy stands right beside him against impossible odds? He's the only Green Lantern whose ring sparks when not in use; a sign that Guy's willpower is constantly begging to be let loose on a worthy opponent. And if WB and DC Films chose to, he's the makings of a certified action hero in the vein of John McClane, Snake Plissken, or Han Solo himself.
If the sentiment among executives and producers is that some levity is needed in the DCEU, without sacrificing any of its edge, or straying too far into family-friendly territory, Guy is a good solution. It might demand a line of dialogue explaining how he became Earth's Lantern, but coming from Guy's lips, simply saying that the story of 'the other guy who couldn't measure up' isn't worth telling would probably do the job.
Time to go nuclear, and eradicate every scrap of Hal Jordan from what "Green Lantern" means in the DCEU. It's time to introduce a Lantern named "Kyle" - thereby telling every knowledgeable comic fan in the audience that what came before, well, came before. No matter which human Lantern may be your favorite, most will agree that the wisest move for DC and Warner Bros. is simply to move forward, begin anew, and start telling a new Green Lantern story that fits the new reality of the Justice League universe. And that was exactly the same drive that brought Kyle Rayner into existence in the first place.
It's easier to skip past questions of Hal Jordan's fate, where John Stewart or Guy Gardner have gone, if they've been adapted at all, and what this version of Oa, the Gurdians of the Universe, or the Green Lantern Corps look like when the hero can't answer the questions himself. Kyle was simply given the ring by the last surviving Guardian, knowing only that he was to use it for good. Again, these questions are obviously the ones to be answered in the planned Green Lantern Corps movie, when a writer and director is chosen to guide that corner of the DC Universe as they see fit.
But in the meantime, revealing that the DCEU may be adapting every human Lantern up to Kyle gets the right kind of speculation in motion. In fact, many would take it as a sign of just how extensive DC's plan for the Green Lantern Corps actually is, before they have to lock any of the pieces into place. Kyle was also mentioned as one of three humans rumored to anchor the Corps movie, so there could be something to this approach, if you believe the gossip. And from a storytelling standpoint, seeing Hal and John explain the mythology of the Corps to its newest recruit is likely to be infinitely more thrilling than an exposition dump in a brand new origin.
There's a case to be made that Kyle might actually be the best solution, sending a message to the skeptics and naysayers that the mistakes have been noted, and lessons learned. At the same time, doors would be left wide open for the other side of the audience to get their wishes too, introducing experienced, older versions of Hal and John at their own pace. Later Lanterns like Simon Baz or Jessica Cruz depend on existing Lanterns to stand apart from, and to offer context for their struggles, but Kyle Rayner... he's a blank slate, should the studio choose to use it.
So, Green Lantern fans, which of these paths forward seem wisest to you? Would mass audiences and fans be willing to give Hal Jordan (and perhaps Ryan Reynolds) a shot at redemption? Or would sticking with Hal be a missed opportunity to make Green Lantern more than just one man?
- Justice League (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017
- Green Lantern Corps. (2020) release date: Jul 24, 2020