So I think it is official that Green Lantern was a bomb. The question is why? I knew GL would be a tough sell but based on trailers alone, of the super hero movies this summer so far, Thor looked to be the weakest. Surprisingly to me, Thor was a lot of fun and GL was pretty meh.
I’ve always been of the opinion that Comic Books are a separate medium for a reason and often things that work on a drawn page look silly on screen. Was GL a victim of this? Was the look, the story and just the general milieu, which works fine in a Comic Book or cartoon, just too…comic book for the movies? Or was the problem the movie itself and had they done something different, the movie would have been more successful?
I was never a superhero comic guy, except for Hulk. (When I was a kid, it was all about EC horror comics, until was all about Heavy Metal.)
That said, I’d line up for a good superhero movie. I think I’m probably reasonably representative of the average moviegoer, so I will presume to answer with authority the answer the question “Why did Green Lantern fail? (at the box office)” Here it comes:
When I learned of the announcements for Thor, Captain America, and Green Lantern, my visceral reaction was “Ho ho - the success of Spiderman, Iron Man et all has emboldened producers to trot out the lame super heros!” - because these really are characters that you have to be a lover of the comic superhero genre to love. You can sell Superman to anyone. Iron Man, too. Spidey? What’s not to like? They’re charming, or bad-ass, or nostalgic, or some combination… Yeah, they’re superheros, but either you’ve got some familiarity because they’re up near the top of the pop culture canon, or you can glance at the character and come away with a positive impression.
But unless you’re intimate with them, characters like Green Lantern, Thor, and Captain America are just so ludicrous that there’s not really a lot of compulsion to look closer. (When the trailer for Captain America came out, I was surprised to find that it looks very promising, because for me, the main association is the '60s cartoon.) All that I knew about Green Lantern was what I saw on the covers in on the comic rack, which has never really looked very interesting. He’s just too damned silly looking. Like, ridiculously silly looking What is that?
It doesn’t help that the only recent references to Green Lantern I am aware of underscore twice that the Green Lantern is the sort of character that someone like Sheldon Cooper might find exciting.
…and then the trailer came along, and… well… you probably saw it. I am a nerd (a gigantic dork, by my own estimation,) but I will never be nerd enough to decide to splash out 30 bucks to see a movie like Green Lantern, because it looks dismally lame. There can’t be any way to reconcile the gravitas they’re apparently trying for with something so over-the-top silly-ass-looking. You can sell me smart-ass teens with spider powers, you can sell me the invulnerable altruist, I will eat up the smug, cocky millionaire with an rocket-powered, heavilly-armed suit of armour, and it turns out if you know what you’re doing you can even pitch the idealistic American super-soldier in a way that I’ll pick it up. But Green Lantern? With Ryan *Reynolds? *
I may someday get around to watching Green Lantern on the small screen, if it happens to be there and nobody’s looking. But when I look at the current listings, there are something like nine movies I would personally rather see, even before adjusting for my wife’s tastes. Green Lantern never had a chance.
Green Lantern wasn’t comic book-y enough IMO. There was no sense of fun, or light-heartedness about it. It tried too hard to be a serious, ponderous work. Super-hero comic books (especially silver age comic books, which is the age this character is most closely associated with) have a gleeful, unabashed bravura about them that the original Superman movies with Christopher Reeves captured, and even the Spider-Man, X-Men and Thor movies managed to emulate. There was no sense of ‘fun’ in this.
As mentioned above, the storytelling was weak. Hackneyed father issues tacked on in place of real character development, lots of puzzling scenes that go nowhere and add nothing to the precedings (did we really need to see the ten minute stretch with the relatives and then the kid, even though we’ve already been through the same situation with his g.f. character?); no-dimensional secondary characters; a host of villians with murky, unclear motivations; and sloppy pacing that bogs the movie down. The story simply never builds any momentum.
It was quite obvious that the director / producers spent a vast amount of time & money on the CGI effects for a couple of “tent-pole” scenes, and pretty much cobbled a script around those key scenes. To be fair, the outer space / alien worlds were done spectacularly well. But it seems that they ran out of money and had nothing left over to show Hal operating on Earth as the GL. So, in place of scenes depicting Hal learning how to use his powers, establishing himself as an Earth superhero, we get lots of talky scenes that repeat the same basic information again and again and again.
Thor worked because the characters had clear motivations, and there was a central conflict that escalated over the course of the movie, AND it kept the sense of comic book grandeur. GL had none of that.
The trailer just looked dumb & silly. I like super hero movies if they are done well. I am looking forward to Captain America because the trailer looked really awesome. But Green Lantern… rubbery purple-faced aliens, talking rhino aliens and Ryan Reynolds in a fake looking green bodysuit? The CGI in the trailers had that fake shiny look to it, it just looked bad. And being that all I know about the comic is that it’s something The Big Bang Theory guys love, there was nothing else there to make me want to pay to see it.
I’ve never been much of a comics fan. But I think I can speak for a lot of people out there when I say that I know next to nothing about the Green Lantern. (I always confused the Lantern with the Hornet, even though they are nothing alike.)
Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Hulk, X-Men… I was already well acquainted with these properties before they hit the big screen. But I had literally never laid eyes on a single page of Green Lantern, or a minute of any previous TV show. The familiarity just wasn’t there.
I’d say that - for us outside of the US - the exact same thing could have been said about Iron Man. When the film came out I - as the sole comic book reader - was the only one in my peer group that had heard of the guy before. The difference was, Iron Man was also a good film and now everyone knows who Iron Man is.
Another person here who knows Batman, Spiderman, Superman, Iron Man and who couldn’t pick the Green Lantern out of a line-up if he mugged me. If pressed, I could say he’s a… guy… who… has a magic ring? Something about being able to make green stuff? Anyway, he sounds very silly even compared to the innate silliness of irradiated spider-teens and wealthy high-tech super-ninjas. Even a guy like Thor, who I have no idea how he fits into the comics world, I at least can assume he’s a big dude with a hammer which is an easier starting point than this green magic ring crap.
Put it this way: I’d have actually been more interested in an Aqua Man movie since I at least have a frame of reference for who and what Aqua Man is.
From the trailers, it looked like they concentrated too much on the GL Corps. Comic writers went to the Corps when they ran out of ideas for GL interacting with more terrestrial characters. The film would have had more appeal, IMHO, if this film would have concentrated on the hero “finding his way” on Earth (as *Iron Man *did) and saved the Corps material for the sequels.
I put Iron Man in the same category as Green Lantern. A lot of people who weren’t really fans of comic books might know who Iron Man is, but they didn’t know a whole lot about him and I think the same is true of Green Lantern… I wouldn’t have pegged Iron Man to be one of the more successful movie adaptations but it was. Heck, I liked the first Iron Man movie a lot. So, for whatever reason, people genuinely seemed to like Iron Man more than they liked Green Lantern. I haven’t seen Green Lantern so I don’t know why audiences haven’t liked it as much. I like Ryan Reynolds though.
You don’t need to know much about him though. He’s a guy in a suit who kicks ass. There’s no question really about his powers or special weaknesses or how it works; it’s a big metal battle suit and you don’t even have to care about the “tech” behind the repulser beams to accept that he has a battle suit with hand lasers. Once you saw him kicking ass in the trailer and commercials, it was all golden.
Also, of course, Robert Downey Jr did a kick ass job with the role which helped a lot. I don’t think Iron Man would have done so well with someone else.