Green Lantern fans were on a roll for a while. Geoff Johns’ run on the character put The Corps at the forefront of DC Comics. The comic’s popularity got the attention of Warner Bros. who clearly saw a different shade of green when it came time to put a movie together. They got a big name actor for the lead, an experienced action director and a special effects team that had worked on Lord of the Rings. What could go wrong?
In short: everything. Longer: An original draft of the film written in 2008 would have worked much better, but the studio and a multitude of producers forced the film into a series of rewrites that added in more villains and reduced the substance of the film’s story and characters. The effects, while expensive, often felt rushed and overly cartoonish. While only one part could be called grossly miscast (Blake Lively as Carol Ferris), the rest found ways to stand out and come into their own as the film progressed. Unfortunately, there was no saving the movie from going off the rails. Five drafts and then a full rewrite by a writer who didn’t work on the original concept will do that to a movie. For context, check out the original script.
In any case, with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice upon us and the success of shows like Arrow and the positive buzz around The Flash, it’s time to reconsider Green Lantern and there are five ways to make it work on screen, large or small.
5. Shoot a true sequel, fully embracing the original movie. This isn’t my first choice (hence its placement at #5), but it’s not impossible. Batman Begins, while lauded as a fine Batman film, was somewhat underwhelming in the larger context of fans and critics, but the potential was there. The Dark Knight far surpassed it. Now, Green Lantern was nowhere near the quality of Batman Begins. Far, far from it, in fact. But, if a sequel were to go forward, focusing solely on Sinestro as the primary villain and the development of his Sinestro Corps, building to a betrayal of trust and a massive space battle between two Lantern factions, it could potentially work. This film would need to spend a lot of time away from Earth and establish that Sinestro had become addicted to the yellow energy coming from the yellow ring forged by The Guardians. Of course, The Guardians would realize that willpower had overcome fear on its own and they don’t need to pursue making yellow rings. Sinestro disagrees and finds a group of aliens on the planet Qward who are capable of making the weapon viable. He makes his weapons in secret all the while losing faith in The Guardians’ way of doing things just as Hal Jordan is becoming more and more prominent within the Corps. Sinestro’s turn would be seen coming a mile away, but it could easily put the series back on more secure footing, especially if he were to make it deeply personal between he and Jordan with their ultimate fight taking place on Earth. While not ideal, this scenario could potentially work in the hands of a more focused director and with a different visual and special effects company at the helm. Recasting isn’t really necessary, especially with Mark Strong who really was an excellent on-screen Sinestro. Allowing this version to exist would also skirt the need to introduce a different Amanda Waller into the mix and could potentially meld in with the universe established by Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
4. “Soft” reboot with a new cast, but skip the origin story. We saw this with Marvel a few years back when Ang Lee’s Hulk didn’t impress and Marvel Studios attempted a reboot of sorts with Edward Norton in the lead role. That film embraced more of what fans liked about the Bill Bixby TV show and didn’t outright dismiss the Ang Lee version as it just glazed over the origin in an opening credits sequence and plopped audiences into the middle of the action, letting viewers make up their own minds about what did or didn’t happen before. A soft reboot Green Lantern film could work much in the same way. It could distance itself from the first movie by recasting, using a different director to establish a different tone and drop viewers much later into the story, bypassing the origin all together with only small flashbacks to how it all went down. Sinestro should, again, be the primary villain but instead of showing a slow turn, he’s already well into his villainous role, but sans the Sinestro Corps. He’s gone rogue and wants to hurt Hal in the most personal ways possible, both as a member of the GL Corps and in his life on Earth. Set the tone more in line with Man of Steel and it could fit in with the larger DC Movie Universe, much how The Incredible Hulk is considered cannon with the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, though it’s not really acknowledged that much. This is easier than making a straight sequel because it allows the studio to distance itself from the previous flop, but doesn’t ask fans to retread what they had just seen in 2011. Jumping right into the action and keeping the villains to just one would allow for much more focused storytelling and allow fans to connect with Hal Jordan in ways they just didn’t the first time around. And since none of the previous cast would be back for this one, it’s entirely possible to simply package it as a full reboot if Warner Bros. wanted. Origin stories can be a bit tedious and some characters lend themselves to starting in the middle more so than the beginning. Green Lantern has proven to be such a character thanks to Geoff Johns’ Rebirth which spawned this writer’s Green Lantern fandom without much prior knowledge of the character.
3. Full reboot with a completely different Green Lantern. There are lots of Green Lanterns from Earth to choose from, why should Hal Jordan be the only one getting the spotlight? The DC superhero line is much more diverse than it gets credit for so maybe John Stewart should be the one to get a shot at a movie. He was introduced to TV audiences thanks to the Bruce Timm Justice League animated series and was, for many fans, the only Green Lantern they ever knew (even though Kyle Rayner was introduced in that same universe via Superman: The Animated Series well before JL, but I digress). There were many fans who complained on Twitter and elsewhere that they thought Green Lantern was supposed to be black and that Warner Bros. was white-washing to get a larger audience when Ryan Reynolds got the role. In the case of John Stewart, his origin could be modified slightly to have the ring pass to him during his time as a Marine sniper in the 2003 Iraq War and drop us in on his story in the present day, which would allow a current story and the origin to be largely told in short flashback sequences. John is easily the most recognizable and popular Green Lantern other than Hal Jordan and would serve to open up the DC Universe to a much bigger fan base. Introducing the Manhunters and Legion as villains could serve to show John at his best and maybe even introduce the idea of sector partners early on while segueing into an introduction of another fan-favorite, Guy Gardner as Johns new partner. If one thing would serve the Green Lantern film franchise well, it’s a buddy-cop action/comedy formula and John’s stoic nature with Guy’s brash, bull-headedness would be incredibly fun. Of course, Guy would have to be a much smaller role to John since this should be his movie, primarily and serve to establish him as the guy we’re supposed to connect with. This of course removes Hal Jordan and most characters connected to him from the film universe all together, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing (even though I’d include Sinestro in the characters to be cut).
2. Introduce a new cast and/or recast Green Lantern in a Justice League movie. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is kind of crowded as it is, even though the only fully confirmed heroes to make appearances are Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. It’s still only rumor that we’re getting an Aquaman cameo (see also, maybe 30 seconds of screen time) and possibly Victor Stone (likely won’t become Cyborg until a Justice League movie), but there’s been no mention outside of flagrant rumors that Flash or Green Lantern are in the film at all. We don’t know who is going to bring the Justice League together, but if the popular rumor of Darkseid is true, then that’s all the cosmic attachment you need to involve the universal space cops in the proceedings. In this context, Green Lantern could be any one of the five Earth Green Lanterns (Hal, John, Kyle, Guy, Simon Baz). The idea of this GL could be that *insert your favorite GL here* has been missing for some time along with many other people from across the planet. There are also rumors of mysterious creatures (aka, Parademons) appearing in their place. While no creature replaced *GL character* when he vanished, his disappearance is presumed to be connected to these creatures. Off on Oa, it turns out he’s been selected to become the new GL of sector 2814 as the appearance of these creatures and the presence of the last Kryptonian means Earth has just joined a larger stage and the GL Corps must have a presence there. It only makes sense that, in order to gain Earth’s full cooperation in investigating these matters, the GL of that sector be from the most populated and emotionally diverse planet. While this new GL undergoes training, The Guardians are monitoring the situation on Earth closely and wondering what might be causing this disturbance. Two of them should at least have suspicions, but not want to alarm the others. Essentially, Justice League would serve as a kind of backdoor origin story for both Cyborg and Green Lantern, who would both be directly connected to Darkseid. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the others wouldn’t exactly be just supporting roles, but their stories wouldn’t be as prominent. Seeing Green Lantern in the larger context of the team would be a great way to help him stand out. While no GL villains should be touched on in this version of his story, it does open up the possibility of a future solo outing that fans may be more receptive to, if he’s coordinated correctly within the group. As there’s not much levity coming to the current team, a young, brash Hal Jordan or Guy Gardner would fit this bill nicely.
1. Forget the film universe all together and put Hal Jordan in The Flash/Arrow CW-verse. Maybe the movies aren’t the place for Green Lantern, but he’s definitely ready for prime time. Ferris Aircraft (a staple of the GL line) has been mentioned and shown several times in the CW’s hit show, Arrow and will feature prominently in The Flash pilot episode, possibly in future episodes, too. With so many other major DC heroes and villains coming to both of those shows, why couldn’t there be room for some Hal Jordan? In fact, there’s a perfect CW veteran who’d be ready, willing and able to play him: Jensen Ackles of CW’s other hit, Supernatural. Hal was indirectly mentioned in a scene of The Flash pilot episode and the Green Lantern/Flash team-up stories from years past are some of the best in all of comics. Not to mention the potential for a Green Lantern/Arrow team-up that would have a more stoic Arrow to a cocky, quick-witted GL (Denny O’Neil needs to be on the CW’s speed-dial for that episode). You could pretty much use the same origin story from Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern: Secret Origin, even setting up villains like Black Hand and Hector Hammond with a Sinestro tease. Of course, effects budgets being what they are, his training sequences will have to be somewhat subdued and/or few and far between while Hal spends most of his time being a superhero on Earth. Connect his receiving of the GL ring with the interdimensional riff that gave Barry Allen speed powers and you have a solid connection to build from. This is easily the most fun idea and allows Hal Jordan to have a place on at least one version of the Justice League. And maybe leaving Green Lantern out of the film universe all together would serve both ends better. Green Lantern could build some trust with TV audiences through a hit show and the movies could spend more time concentrating on viable properties like Superman, Batman and especially Wonder Woman. Sure, GL fans will be disappointed by the absence of a Green Lantern in the film universe, but you can understand why Warner Bros. would be hesitant, right? Sure, cosmic heroes are now viable again (thanks Guardians of the Galaxy), but the Green Lantern name is still synonymous with something that turned a lot of potential fans off. But since DC Comics is built largely on the concept of a multiverse (multiple, similar parallel universes existing all at once with different version of the same heroes on parallel Earths), who’s to say you couldn’t have John Stewart and/or Guy Gardner in the movie universe and Hal Jordan on TV? The biggest hurdle for the CW would be finding the right visual effects group and getting a big enough budget to handle the effects that would naturally come along with bringing a Green Lantern to any screen. But, given the success of Smallville and how impressive Flash looks this early in its run (pun!), it’s not impossible.