Comics / Cult Favorite

Green Lantern: Coming Soon?


By Philip Schweier
May 25, 2008 - 07:55

The invincible Iron Man movie has been out for less than a month, and it shows no sign of fading. Speed Racer, another major summer release, has crashed and burned. The first of the summer blockbusters, Iron Man's polish may have begun to fade, however slightly, with the release of Prince Caspian and Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Creating successful franchises using first-tier characters such as Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Fantastic Four is relatively easy. There is something of a built-in audience for characters whose popularity as been pretty consistent over the past 40+ years. Second-level characters such as Daredevil and Ghost Rider have proven more challenging.

Iron Man may break that trend. At least, Marvel Entertainment hopes so, given that it has announced an Iron Man sequel is already in development, along with big-screen adaptations of Thor and Captain America. And the Incredible Hulk is set to smash into theaters later this summer.

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Meanwhile, over at DC Comics, filmmakers are still finding their way with the Superman and Batman franchises. The Dark Knight is another eagerly anticipated summer film, and likely to garner high praise. Being the second in the reinvigorated series, it remains to be seen how long the success can be maintained. And while Superman Returns in 2006 opened to enthusiastic audiences, interest in a follow-up feature seems to have leveled off somewhat.

So what is about the major comic book publishers that gives one an edge over the other at the box office? Well, for one, DC Comics is owned by Time/Warner. Corporate bean counters might be looking over the proverbial shoulder to an uncomfortable degree.

Having a corporate sibling in the movie business, one would think that would streamline the often bumpy road to the big screen, but in fact, it eliminates the often lucrative licensing fees associated with film adaptations. With less money to be had, interest in investing in a film decreases. In other words, love goes out the door when money becomes innuendo.

Regardless of the success of the Superman and Batman films, it is inevitable that DC Comics and Time/Warner will look for the next character to turn into a (hopefully) hit film franchise. Perhaps the DC Comics counterpart to Iron Man would be Green Lantern.

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While a logical choice,  the concept of alien beings all wearing rings powered by an immense green battery might be hard to swallow. A broader interpretation might be required. Each has a talisman that is the source of their power, the common factor based on green energy.

In the history of both titles, sales have had highs and lows, the main characters have gone through tough times. At one point, Tony Stark's alcoholism was such that he gave up the armor, while Green Lantern evolved into the villainous Parallax. Both have returned from their respective mental/emotional brinks – and in the case of Green Lantern, death itself.

But let's look at the basic concepts of both.

In Iron Man, an ego-maniacal weapons manufacturer is captured by the enemy, and uses his technological genius to fabricate a high-tech suit of armor to facilitate his escape. In the aftermath of his ordeal, he develops a conscience and puts his new toy to use in an effort to make up for his war-mongering past.

In Green Lantern, an extraterrestrial bequeaths a fearless test pilot a powerful ring, ushering him into an elite corps of intergalactic peacekeepers.

So, what's the difference? Well, obviously Iron Man isn't just about becoming a super-hero; it's about atonement and recognizing responsibility. Human failings often lead individuals on a mental/spiritual journey, resulting in character development.

Whether or not a Green Lantern film would feature the same kind of character development remains to be seen, but certainly the potential is there. Hal Jordan was chosen to become a Green Lantern due to his fearlessness, and that could be the linchpin to his character in so many different ways. Such a lack of fear could border on reckless behavior, or the journey could be all about overcoming fear and not allowing it to hold us back.

Such depth of character would come from, initially, the hands of the screenwriters. They would have to craft a likable Jordan who in the course of the film becomes a better man, but not so much so that he is by any means perfect – merely worthy of being Green Lantern. Comics and film scribe Kevin Smith is a favored candidate, and fans are eager to see his take on the super-hero film genre.

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Next, the responsibility falls to the actor cast for the roll to make the character work, and come off the script and onto the screen. Who would be most suitable is a subject for debate, though the consensus is that it is not Jack Black, who at one time was rumored to be tapped for the roll (unless he plays G'nortt, an alien Green Lantern). One suggestion I read on a message board is Joe Flanigan, who currently stars on Stargate: Atlantis for the SciFi Channel. An agreeable choice, but the powers-that-be might prefer more star power.

There once was what was known as the George Reeves curse, which suggested that once an actor has played a famous hero, he becomes so identified with that roll his career stagnates. It seemed to be the case with Reeves, who played Superman in the 1950s. Adam West followed suit as Batman in the '60s, and it took many years for Sean Connery to step out of the shadow of his on-screen alter-ego, James Bond.

Today, however, the curse seems to have been lifted, as A-list actors seem to be lining up for a guaranteed multi-million dollar payoff playing a famous hero in a multi-picture franchise. Maybe it's a childhood wish come true, maybe it's the means to meet alimony obligations.

In any event, it widens the field for bigger stars, bigger budgets and bigger financial rewards, making the concept of an intergalactic police force a greater likelihood.

Praise and adulation? Scorn and ridicule? E-mail me at philip@comicbookbin.com


Last Updated: September 6, 2021 - 08:15

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