When I read the piece over at the LA Times today about “Green Lantern 2” and the direction they’re allegedly heading with it, my first thought is “They learned nothing from the first film.”
I’m aware that some people actually liked the first movie. I’m mystified by it, but I accept that to some people, it was acceptable. I found the entire thing deeply frustrating for reasons I explained at length in my review when the film was released, but I also understand the inevitability of Warner Bros. trying to figure out how to squeeze more life out of the franchise.
I’m not exactly sure how it’s news that Warner Bros. wants to move forward without Martin Campbell attached as director. Campbell made it quite clear, even before the first film opened, that he wasn’t going to return for a sequel. Looking at the article today, though, it seems that Warner Bros. took all the wrong lessons away from the film, and it makes me think that when and if they make a sequel, it’s going to be just as bad if not worse.
“To go forward we need to make it a little edgier and darker with more emphasis on action,” said Jeff Robinov, the president of Warner Bros. Film Group, and right away, I start worrying. The first film does not fail because it isn’t dark or edgy. If anything, the villains in the film were too dark compared to the rest of the film, and that’s one of the big problems. “Green Lantern” is obviously a franchise aimed at a broad family audience, and if you have children and spent any time watching kid-oriented TV in the weeks leading up to the film’s release, the studio was hard-selling that audience the toys and the game and the movie as much as they could. They’re not going to give that money up if they make a sequel… that’s what they depend on. So if anything, they should be pushing the other direction, embracing the fun of the scenario. That’s what Ryan Reynolds is best suited for, playing a guy who enjoys these powers he’s been given and who has no fear about using them. Cocky, funny, wading in for the kick of it. If you want “Green Lantern” to work next time, make it fun. It’s already very close to silly, and the way you defuse that is not to run from it and get even more serious. Embrace the fun of it and then turn your lead actor loose to be himself.
The problem isn’t Oa versus Earth. The problem isn’t that you layered in mythology. The problem was in the way the story was told, not the story itself. In general, the things that worked best worked in the marketing. The first moment the studio introduced the real cosmic scale of the thing, that Wondercon reel, was the most excited I ever got about the movie. It seemed to me that they were making a “Star Wars” styled space opera with superpowers, but that one sequence on Oa is so fast, and so much of the movie is given over to a mopey “refusal of the call” waste of time before Hal finally becomes a hero for the last nine minutes. It’s dour. Don’t push it further in that direction, Warner. Please.
Same thing with The Flash, which is also hinted at again in that article. It’s no secret they’ve been developing a film about the character for a while, and they need to have something ready to shoot for a 2014 release at the very latest if they plan on keeping up their new “one-DC character per year” game plan. “Green Lantern 2” or “The Flash” or even both in one summer could be a big deal for Warner, but they have to get the films right. And so far, they haven’t really cracked the code for this Universe on film. That’s got to be scary. I just hate the thought of them reacting from this position of “Oh, man, we’ve got to course correct” and going further in the wrong direction.
“Edgy” and “dark” are words that almost completely destroyed mainstream comics, in my opinion. I was there, ground zero, when Miller published “The Dark Knight Returns” and I remember how revolutionary it felt compared to much of what happened in comics in general, but after that and “Miracleman” and “Watchmen,” it suddenly became a requirement that all comics about every character suddenly needed to be “edgy” and “dark,” and in superhero films, that’s the default setting ever since Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman.” Frankly, it’s time to try more flavors than chocolate.
There have been so many scripts created to try and figure out what approach to take with Superman and Batman and the Justice League and Wonder Woman and other members of the DC Universe, and it seems like they’ve been way more wrong than right, and the few times the right version of something ended up on the page, that was still no guarantee it got made. I don’t think you’ll ever get a script that’s closer to the George Perez version of Wonder Woman than the script by Laeta Kalogridis, and if that wasn’t what the studio wants to make, then I don’t think I understand their vision for the character at all.
I think it’s fine if Campbell moves on. He wasn’t the right match for this material anyway. Our own Greg Ellwood, a huge fan of the character and the comics, had this to say about the possible future of the series in an article he published recently, and I think he’s right about Strong as Sinestro, even if they did totally screw up with that post-credits sting showing him turning into a Yellow Lantern. That’s the most unmotivated, ridiculous, fan-service moment in any superhero movie so far, and it throws away an entire story arc in a matter of seconds. The idea of Hal Jordan fighting alongside this guy he admires so much and watching his hero’s growing disillusionment swell into sedition… that’s a great story you could play out in a second movie, with another bad guy to keep things chugging along. Instead, you make it this shot to the ribs and expect that’s enough.
Take your time. If you’re in it for the long haul, don’t try to do it all in one or two films. Enjoy what you’re doing. Build it. Let us explore it a little bit and have fun in it and believe in it.
If you just chase marketing buzz words and lob them at fanboys in an attempt to placate, you’re not going to make any better a film the next time around, and i have to assume that you understand that one of the pleasures of the Harry Potter series was seeing the way they got more confident and better over time. I don’t hold one bad film against a studio, but when there’s a repeat pattern of screwing up certain types of opportunities, it starts to feel like it’s a failure of the process and not just a failure of the material.