Electric Ferret -

On Green Lantern and the State of Comic Book Movies

I know who the Green Lantern is as a Comic Book character and, also, I have spent good money for his monthly title (published by D.C. Comics) from time to time in my life.  That probably should have made me a prime candidate for wanting to have seen the Green Lantern film in theaters.  However, I did not.

It also should have made me a candidate for either watching the film on cable Pay-Per-View or purchasing the Green Lantern Blu-Ray, both of which I did not.

No, such were the reviews of the film in both the movie and the comic community for Green Lantern that I could not bring myself to pay currency to see it.  And so my review comes months after the fact after watching it in HD on HBO.

There are a group of comic affectionados which believe that we should simply be grateful for getting a Green Lantern movie, at all.  Like participants in a co-dependent relationship, they make excuses for the poor movies which Hollywood produces.  I can forgive that impulse because I understand that there were long, dry decades where the film studios hardly touched the Comic Book genre except in the most shoddy productions.  Those days are gone, however.  In a world where The Dark Knight exists and has made for film studios a billion dollars while blowing the sox off of both Comic Book fans and laymen alike, that argument no longer flies.  And so, we come to the Green Lantern.

Sitting down to watch it on HBO with a bowl of popcorn I was actually excited about seeing it.  I mean, how bad could it be?  It’s the Green Lantern.  The animation studios have put out some Green Lantern stuff lately which is absolutely great.  If the film just followed that formula it would all work out.  And that’s just the problem.  They didn’t.

What works?  I give Ryan Reynolds a gold star.  He really did give the role everything he could give it within the confines of the awful script and terrible directing.  Nothing else besides some of the excellent special effects is worth noting or remembering.  I really think Ryan Reynolds wanted this to be a franchise and I really think, under different circumstances, he would have made it one.  But you go into the production of a film with the team you have, not the one you wanted – and the rest of the team on Green Lantern was pretty much missing in action.  The scriptwriter did not understand either Green Lantern or what moves a Comic Book movie and the director was clearly uninspired by the subject matter. In the end, I was actually somewhat upset by how bad it was.  From a Comic Fan perspective I was upset because I know the Parallax storyline from the Emerald Twilight run of Green Lantern and that wasn’t it – nor should it have been for the opening film.  And, as a fan of comic book genre films in general, I was saddened by the missed opportunity to properly introduce the character and give it a fan base.

And so this is the part where I put some knowledge to Hollywood on Comic Books and films based on them.

Comic Book stories and characters are, at the end of the day, products.  And many of them like Green Lantern, for example, have long product lives.  Sometime the product is working well and people respond to it.  Other times, the product is not working well and it is criticized.

Lets us look, for a moment, at comic book characters and stories as products.  Using the Windows operating system as an analogy, sometimes Windows is well loved and used  (Windows XP for example) and sometimes it is hated and reviled (Windows ME or Vista).  The same is true with Comic Book characters and their stories.  Sometimes they have a run of stories that become seminal, and sometimes the comics are just rather expensive bird-cage lining.

Hollywood would do well to identify the seminal runs of comic book characters and port them directly into film.  Scene for scene if necessary.  These stories have already been Product Tested.  They have already been proven winners with an audience.  When a studio allows a scriptwriter to produce a custom story they are taking a huge chance that was never required.  And in the case of Green Lantern, that was a very expensive flop for somebody.  It could have been a win simply by identifying an existing wildly popular run of the series within the comic cannon and adapting it directly to film.

There is literally no need for a film studio to take a chance with a multi-million dollar budget on a bad script when a story exists which was already marketed, tested on live readers, analyzed and found of superior quality by the audience.

If they had done that with Green Lantern then I am sure Ryan Reynolds really would have brought that material to life.  As it was, they gave the actor a dead story with a terrible villain selection to try and carry.  I give him credit for carrying the awful burden as well as he did.

There is one other thing which needs to be noted about how Comics and Comic Book films should progress which they completely misunderstood on Green Lantern.  The hero needs a villain which compliments the hero at the hero’s stage of power development and which they can play to on a very personal level.  The Parallax villain as seen in this film – a giant tentacled CGI space monster – was the product of a script produced by a lost and out of touch writer.

More than anything the failure of Green Lantern must be attributed to the script writer.  Film studios make a dangerous gamble when they allow a script writer to produce what comic writers have already fan tested successfully.

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