Ben Reilly Happens While You're Busy Making Other Plans

Monday, November 7, 2011

Why Warner Bros. Should Overcome Great Fear and Build Green Lantern Into a Franchise

I watched Green Lantern for the first time this weekend on Blu-Ray, which begs the question:

Did I see the same movie as the critics?

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Because looking at the 27% rating on rotten tomatoes, I'm increasingly convinced that my PS3 beamed me to an alternate universe where the film didn't suck. It has it share of problems, to be sure, but fortunately being a bad movie isn't one of them. But with such a disappointing box office return, the real question now is why Warner Bros. would risk building a GL franchise? And if so, how will they address the first film's shortcomings?

The first questions is the most difficult. Hollywood studios aren't renowned for taking big risks. And who can blame them for not throwing money down on underdogs when there are plenty of safer bets out there? Even if we see a sequel, it's likely to have a watered down budget that could sink the franchise in a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of way. I'd just assume they leave it alone rather than go that route. But just because I enjoy playing with other people's money, here's why I think WB should go all out the next time around.

First off, I think extenuating circumstances are a legitimate factor. GL is a good comic book movie that went up against several great ones. X:Men First Class, Thor, and Captain America were excellence. If GL had gone up against Iron Man 2, we'd be having a very different conversation. IM2 would have played Apollo Creed to GL's Rocky Balboa, winning the box office but in a lackluster way that would even the playing field for their next match-up.

It also didn't help that First Class, Thor, and Captain America made GL feel like a jack-of-all-trades. FC was all about the hero's learning curve, Thor was more epic, and Cap was more charming. Throw in the Iron Man franchise, and Tony Stark had already cornered the market on the irreverent womanizer with authority issues. Match GL up against any of this films individually and it's probably not that significant, but there's a cumulative effect when you take Summer 2011 as a whole.

I know, I know. Excuses and hind ends, everyone's got one. But keep in mind that I'm not arguing why Green Lantern failed so much as why the franchise can succeed. And I stand by my conviction that it's largely a timing issue. I'm not saying WB should aim for mediocrity and pass off a sequel when there's nothing else good out. They will definitely need to take GL to the next level in scope and quality. I just happen to think all the building blocks are there in such a way that they have more to lose by passing on GL than making a sequel.

Remember the days when Marvel was putting out consistently better comics but DC owned the live action superhero movie market? I'd argue the reverse is true these days. DC needs an answer to the steady stream of Marvel movies coming out in rapid succession: Spider-Man, Daredevil, X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Avengers, as well as SHIELD and several other projects in development.

In other words, it's time WB realized that fan does not live on Superman and Batman alone.

But before DC can expand their live action film line, they need to build on what they've already established.I'm convinced the next Batman film should serve as an unofficial continuation of the Nolan franchise, and I say that as someone looking forward to a lighter aesthetic. Miller's Batman and Morrison's exist in the same universe, after all. I'd like them to build a continuity that could support a JLA movie, and I think it would be rewarding to see Reynolds' Hal Jordan fighting universal threats alongside Caviezel's Superman. Geoff Johns' JLA relaunch has only reinforced my desire to see it happen, and I'll hear Reynolds' voice in my head now whenever I read Hal Jordan's lines.

So on to how the WB could address the first film's shortcomings.

1. Cut Ryan Reynolds loose. No, I'm not talking about letting him go, I'm talking about letting him go wild. It's not as if Reynolds' performance in GL was restrained, but there were some moments where it felt like he was on the verge of a breakout moment only to be held back by the script or the direction. The fight in the bar parking lot comes to mind.  I loved Reynolds' delivery of the line, "Hey, guys, my face was just getting warmed up!" But the fun is cut a little short when Hal accidentally kicks their ass with his GL ring. Maybe our hero crosses the line into being a bully if he enjoys taking advantage of mortals with superpowers, but it felt like Reynolds could have kept the one liners coming. And then there's his training session with Killowog. Once again, I felt like he could have trashed Killowog some more once he mastered the ring. But the moment is cut short when Sinestro interrupts. As far as problems go, untapped potential isn't the worst. Reynolds made the film fun at every possible opportunity, so here's to giving him more.

2. Devote the next film to Sinestro's arc. The post-credits scene where Sinestro donned the yellow ring felt a little off. Why spend all that time building Sinestro up as Hal's unlikely ally only to throw it away at the end? You can--and should--get an entire movie out of Sinestro's slow turn to evil (and Hal's realization). Maybe that's what's intended. Sinestro could covertly use the yellow ring when no one's looking until he's finally discovered.

3. Embrace the film's strengths and go cosmic. Earlier I talked about elements from the GL film that made it seem like a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. But I do think GL succeeded on one level where other superhero films fell short (if they attempted it at all). Hector Hammond and Parallax were genuinely creepy, cosmic level threats. That makes GL a pretty awesome sci-fi monster mashup.

So have it, WB! Sure, you're scared, I get it. But maybe being a studio exec is a lot like being a Green Lantern. Perhaps you've been chosen not because you're fearless, but because you have the ability to overcome great fear.

And that's the kind of heroism that will have fans seeing--and you rolling--in the green.

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