Given the financial success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe, it’s odd to think that that only six years ago, DC released an ill-fated movie starring Ryan Reynolds called GREEN LANTERN. Before Zack Snyder began the DCEU with MAN OF STEEL, Warner Bros. intended to start their DC cinematic universe with this 2011 film.

The studio hoped to start filming a Flash movie set in the same universe shortly after GREEN LANTERN was released. As soon as Warner Bros. released GREEN LANTERN to negative reviews and failing box office returns, DC scrapped any future plans set in the movie’s universe.

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Poster For GREEN LANTERN. Image Courtesy of Warner Bros. Studios

The weird thing is that everything about GREEN LANTERN on paper should have made the film successful. The film had a terrific director in Martin Campbell (CASINO ROYALE and GOLDENEYE), a writing team well-versed in the material (Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim work on the CW superhero shows), fantastic actors (Tim Robbins and Angela Basset for God’s sake), and an interesting and beloved character in Hal Jordan. What went wrong?

Hal Jordan: The Overly Reluctant Hero

Before he found his calling as DEADPOOL, you had to feel bad for Ryan Reynolds. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, BLADE TRINITY, and R.I.P.D. were all colossally bad comic book films that he appeared in. He probably hoped that GREEN LANTERN would end his comic book curse.

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Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan trying to save a horrible script. Image Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

In the film, Reynolds plays Hal Jordan, a reckless, selfish, and cocky test pilot. It’s likely that DC noticed the appeal of Robert Downey Jr. playing an arrogant character with a heart of gold. Perhaps they tried to recreate this appeal with Hal. However, though Ryan Reynolds tried his hardest to make the character likable, the writing for this character made Hal a weak protagonist.

READ: Finally, in 2016, a film saved Ryan Reynolds from comic book movie prison. Click here to find out our thoughts about DEADPOOL!

This is because Hal is a passive protagonist. Throughout the film, the audience sees Hal shirk from responsibility after responsibility; he directly avoids taking any action for 90% of the film. He is the definition of a backseat driver in his own film. What makes characters like Steve Rogers, Bruce Wayne, and Peter Parker appealing is how they make it their own prerogative to help other people. Hal requires an hour and a half of people telling him to take on responsibility before he decides to listen to them.

I understand the writers meant for Hal’s character arc to be about him learning to have the courage to stand up for what he believes. The problem is it takes him ninety minutes to ponder about whether he should become a Green Lantern. Imagine if after Uncle Ben was shot in SPIDER-MAN that Peter Parker spent the movie considering whether he should save New York. After a certain point, you would stop caring whether Peter decided to become Spider-Man or not. This is why the audience just does not care about Hal Jordan.

Wasted Supporting Characters

While Ryan Reynold’s Hal Jordan is tolerable, GREEN LANTERN terribly portrays most of its supporting characters. For the most part, the problem is not in the actors but the writing, once again. That is unless you’re talking about Blake Lively’s Carol Ferris.

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Blair Lively and Ryan Reynolds as the romantic leads. Image Courtesy of Warner Bros. Studios

Carol Ferris is Hal Jordan’s, Lois Lane. She was a tough, independent woman in comics long before strong women in comics became more common. Blake Lively isn’t able to convey strength at all in Carol. She also has no chemistry with Ryan Reynolds in this movie (which is especially odd since the two fell in love on the set of this film). If the filmmakers had added some spunk and drive into Carol’s character, she would be a far stronger character. Instead, Carol is one of the worst comic book movie love interests ever to appear on-screen.

The remaining cast does their best job with the incredibly shallow material. Taika Watiti, the director of WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS and THOR: RAGNAROK, plays Hal’s best friend, Tom Kalmaku. GREEN LANTERN relegates Watiti’s fantastic comedic presence to stupid one-liners and has him be absent for most of the film.

READ: Need proof of Taika Watiti’s genius? Check out our thoughts on his amazing THOR: RAGNAROK trailer

Then there is Oscar-winning actor Tim Robbins, who plays a cartoonishly corrupt senator whose only point is to chastise his son, Hector Hammond (Peter Skarsgaard). Legendary actor Angela Bassett, another Academy Award winner, plays Amanda Waller. At risk of repeating myself, the problem is not Angela Bassett’s performance; it’s just that she has nothing to do but appear cold and stern and then disappear from the movie. The only reason that Waller was in the film was because she was supposed to appear in several future films in this DC cinematic universe to unite the heroes (much like Nick Fury). But, in GREEN LANTERN, Waller’s presence made no sense since her storyline has nothing to do with the Green Lanterns. With all these fantastic actors, Martin Campbell should have been able to get some great performances from this movie. Instead, what we get are Oscar-caliber actors with nothing to do.

A Redeeming Quality: The Green Lantern Corps

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Oa as displayed to you earthlings in a disappointing adaptation

By far the greatest part of GREEN LANTERN is (shocker) the parts actually about the Green Lanterns. The quick glimpses we get of the Green Lantern homeworld of Oa and at the Guardians of the Universe are easily some of the best scenes in the entire movie. These scenes add depth and lore to an otherwise shallow storyline about a superhero having to overcome his own fears (how many times have we seen that before?).

READ: Oa is such a cool place in DC Comics. Schedule your vacation to the planet here!

The Green Lantern Corps is one of the most creative concepts in comics. To harvest emotions and utilize them as power is such a fascinating idea. The filmmakers make the Green Lanterns on Oa an afterthought. More than seventy-five percent of the movie takes place on Earth. Why is that? Were the filmmakers afraid to deal with odd cosmic ideas? I’m sure that DC is kicking themselves after the success of the comic space opera GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

Another great thing this movie wastes are the performances of some of the Green Lanterns. Another Oscar winner, Geoffrey Rush, voices the character of wise Tomar-Re whereas the late actor Michael Clarke Duncan (THE GREEN MILE) acts as the brawny Kilowog. Both actors bring a charm and gravitas to their very limited roles as mentors to Hal.

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Mark Strong is fantastic as Sinestro. Image Courtesy of Warner Bros. Studios

The performance that nearly makes GREEN LANTERN watchable is Mark Strong’s Sinestro. The actor plays the character with such poise and power that he simply becomes magnetic to watch. Truly, Strong captured all of the potential Sinestro has as a comic character. The actor delivers an incredibly nuanced performance through heavy makeup and prosthetics and insufficient screen time. It’s a real shame that we probably won’t see Mark Strong play the famous Yellow Lantern on the big screen again. Perhaps if Strong had played the big bad of this film, he alone could have saved the film.

Lackluster Villains

I think the fascinating thing about GREEN LANTERN is that half of the film seems to want to play it safe and run with all the classic superhero movie clichés. This is the part of the movie that focuses on  Hal Jordan’s “destiny” and his great “responsibility as a Green Lantern. However, there is another half of GREEN LANTERN which tried something new and interesting but was ruined by bad writing.

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Parallax appears as a giant yellow cloud monster. Image Courtesy of Warner Bros. Studios

A great example of this is the two villains in the film. The main antagonist, Parallax, follows all superhero villains checklist. He’s a nearly indestructible force bent on the destruction of the world because of… reasons. Parallax appears as a giant cloud monster absorbing living beings’ life force and powering himself. There’s entirely zero depth to Parallax, but he does serve as a formidable foe to Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps.

Then there’s the villain Hector Hammond played by Peter Skarsgaard. While Hammond serves as a lackey of Parallax, he takes up much more screen time than his master on screen. Hammond is a meek university professor who is exposed to Parallax’s DNA, which turns him into some fear monster. He is then motivated by fear to destroy those around him.

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Giant bobblehead Hector Hammond played by Peter Skarsgaard. Image Courtesy of Warner Bros. Studio

Again the writing destroys a possibly great character. Hammond’s character in the film is over the top and random. In fact, it takes at least thirty minutes for Hammond to show up in the movie at all. For the most part, his storyline feels separated from Hal’s. Then his powers and his dialogue are so ridiculous that it destroys any menace that Hammond could have had. In the end, Hammond is such a forgettable, disposable villain that his role in the movie seems pointless.

A Studio Failure

It’s shocking to find out that the budget for this film was 200 million dollars. This number is simply confounding as the CGI is horrible throughout this movie. Everything in this film is overly-digitized and said digitization does not look well. While the STAR WARS prequels were criticized for an over-abundance of CGI, at least those films’ graphics looked competent at the time.

GREEN LANTERN’s CGI is laughable throughout which makes me wonder where the studio wasted their 200 million dollars. Add that to the fact that Warner Bros. spent over 100 million dollars on marketing campaign which ultimately failed since the movie only made 200 million dollars. The movie had to earn over 500 million dollars for the studio to make a profit.

READ: A recent box office failure was THE DARK TOWER. Check out why this film did not start a cinematic universe

This film had all the money, acting, and directorial prowess behind it. So what went wrong? Ultimately the criticism has to fall on Warner Bros.The studio wanted a more conventional tone for the film. They kicked Greg Berlanti and his team off the movie.

Even though they hired Martin Campbell, they supposedly clashed with the director from day one. Ultimately Warner Bros. ended up kicking Martin Campbell out of the editing room, and they tried to piece together a somewhat competent film. They obviously weren’t able to salvage the film, and since the film was a box office bomb, Warner Bros. was forced to cancel this cinematic universe.

How To Set Things Right

From Universal’s DARK UNIVERSE to Sony’s GHOSTBUSTERS, so many studios have tried to make their cinematic universes take off. Only the Marvel Cinematic Universe has received near-universal acclaim and overwhelmingly strong box office receipts. However, Hollywood Studios forget that the MCU started with IRON MAN, a single film. IRON MAN took chances like hiring Robert Downey Jr. Marvel was unsure about this decision, but they trusted in Jon Favreau’s vision, and this confidence paid off tenfold.

Warner Bros. was so determined to create a large-scale cinematic universe with GREEN LANTERN that they didn’t allow auteurs like Greg Berlanti or Martin Campbell to make their GREEN LANTERN. Instead, they made the odd mess that the film is today. Films like IRON MAN prove that you need to let creators be creative for their films to work. I dearly hope that Warner Bros. has learned this lesson. Although it appears they haven’t, given that last year’s SUICIDE SQUAD seemed to have made all the same mistakes that GREEN LANTERN did.

Warner Bros. owns a beloved set of characters that fans are dying to see. The ball has always been in their court, just don’t make such egregious fails like GREEN LANTERN and you’re bound to score.

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