Anghus Houvouras on how to turn Green Lantern into a mega huge multi-film franchise…
There are a handful of comic book adaptations that make fans of the source material cringe. Like when Joel Schumacher gave us bat-nipples and bat-butt shots in Batman Forever. Or when Zack Snyder transformed the world’s most popular hero into a city murdering machine. However, there are few comic book adaptations that are as universally reviled as Green Lantern.
Green Lantern was atrocious on so many levels. It took one of comic books most interesting worlds and turned it into a senseless by-the-book origin story that crashed and burned like a Ferris Aircraft test drone. Ryan Reynolds felt woefully miscast. The story was predictable tripe. And the main villain was a giant pile of space feces defeated by our old friend gravity.
Green Lantern is terrible, and it’s okay to say it. Everyone involved knows so. Ryan Reynolds has been gladly tap dancing on its grave in his Deadpool costume. At least Reynolds made it out alive. No one has heard from Martin Campbell since the film ceremoniously tanked at the box office in 2011 and became a painful punchline used when someone asks “What’s the worst comic book movie ever made?”.
Warner Bros. has had something of a rough start to their cinematic universe. They’ve had little success with any film that doesn’t feature Batman or Superman. And even those films are starting to show to worldwide audiences that they lack the same kind of cinematic sheen that the Marvel movies have been displaying since Iron Man hit back in 2008. Warner Bros. is late to the party, and when they got there they brought a fruitcake and a six-pack of Zima with two bottles missing. They need to start rethinking their strategy with the DC Characters, and Green Lantern is a perfect place to start.
When Warner Bros. first put Green Lantern into production, they were looking to fill a gaping vacuum created by the end of the Harry Potter series, which at the time was a license to print money. And in spite of having one of the most successful film franchises of all time under their belt, they learned very few lessons from it. With Green Lantern, they had a real opportunity to capitalize on the success of franchises like Harry Potter. They made a major mistake they had also made with Man of Steel and Batman v Superman; They didn’t consider younger audiences. Unless you think kids wanted to watch a wise-cracking Green Lantern fight a giant pile of poop in an airport hanger.
Green Lantern could have been the next Harry Potter and still could if Warner Bros. would take the property in a specific direction. Allow me to play armchair studio head for a few moments as I explain to you…
…How to make Green Lantern into a mega-huge, multi-film franchise.
The blueprint was right there in the source material: you’ve got ancient alien races of powerful beings, magical rings that let users use create things based on their thoughts, and a wide variety of races and creatures that populate this world of space protectors.
1. Oa = Hogwarts
Oa is the planet at the center of the universe where the Guardians train new recruits to become Green Lanterns. It’s a place where beings from all different corners of the galaxy congregate and agree to help protect the universe from evil. This is the natural setting for a new Green Lantern franchise. Get the series off of Earth. We’ve seen it. We don’t need another superhero movie set on Earth. Yes, eventually our hero will have to return to Earth, but you could do an entire movie in space with Earth’s chosen protector learning how to wield his weapon and learn the values of the Green Lantern Corps. He could also pick up some hints at the mystery of the Guardians and the secret they’re harboring about the one who unleashed evil unto the world…
2. Krona = Voldermort
For those of you who don’t know the comics. Krona is a member of the same race as the Guardians. He sought out the origins of the universe in spite of countless warnings of the consequences. When he finally created a machine to show him how the universe was created, the machine shatters and evil energy is unleashed into the universe and transforms the peaceful people who inhabit these planets in to a warring brood. This is just one example of the kind of cool mythology that exists in the Green Lantern world, and it could create a tapestry of intrigue similar to what exists in J.K. Rowling’s best-selling series.
3. Green Lantern’s Ring = Magic Wand
Wizards get magic wands. Green Lanterns get rings. The ring is the most powerful weapon in the galaxy, and each Green Lantern uses it in a different way. There’s a lot of fun to be had with the concept, especially if you give the rings to younger characters who are still capable of using their imaginations to create wonderous creations instead of toy car race tracks and giant swatting hands. Speaking of ‘younger characters’…
4. Make Hal Jordan younger.
Make Hal Jordan a cocky kid who’s just entered the air force. Someone who is still trying to prove himself and still hasn’t been truly tested. Cast someone who could play 19 or 20. Then make sure all of his fellow recruits are around the same age. The new class of Green Lanterns are recruited, and they’re all barely adults. Give Hal Jordan a peer group of recruits who get to go through the initiation of being a Green Lantern together. This gives you the opportunity to see these friendships build over a series of films as they experience the pleasure and pitfalls of protecting the universe as Green Lanterns.
5. Green Lanterns = Griffyndor, Blue Lanterns = Hufflepuff, Yellow Lanterns = Slytherin
Once the first movie establishes the foundation for the series, you begin to pepper in some more mythology. The spectrum of rings is introduced allowing subsequent sequels to indulge in even more intergalactic adventures. Perhaps one of Hal’s friends is seduced to embrace the rage of the Red Lanterns or turns on the group and joins the Sinestro Corps.
I’m not saying they need to crib every play from the Harry Potter playbook, but there’s something instantly attractive about introducing audiences a more expansive universe for a group of younger protagonists to inhabit. Tap into the wonderful mythology and exciting science fiction aspects of the Green Lantern universe and do for space opera adventure what Harry Potter did for magic.
The truth is, Green Lantern could easily be an amazing blend of Harry Potter and Star Wars. An intergalactic adventure featuring a rich mythology of the comic book series with amazing space battles featuring exciting new unexplored worlds. Warner Bros. doesn’t seem to have a place for Green Lantern in their new cinematic universe. Maybe it’s time to carve one out.
If they’re smart, they’d take the same elements that made the Harry Potter such an engaging series of films and transform Green Lantern into the next big comic book film franchise.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker and the co-host of Across the Pondcast. Follow him on Twitter.