Green Lantern follies…

Man, Warners just cannot get its act together on live-action superhero movies. Other than making EXACTLY the right move (probably luck more than anything else) in getting Christopher Nolan to make the Batman movies, Warners has turned out garbage like the hugely expensive and underwhelming Superman reboot–although they did attempt to slake the mass audience’s immense hunger for a Superman who fathered an illegitimate kid–the Jonah Hex movie, Catwoman, etc. Then there’s the problem they’ve had just getting projects into production. All while watching Marvel make at the very least a string of really good and generally profitable superhero movies revolving around fairly obscure characters like Iron Man and Thor.

Not to mention that gawdawful sounding Wonder Woman pilot. Man, that thing has GOT to leak soon.

Meanwhile, the new Green Lantern movie, which the New York Times figures cost $300 million between production costs and prints & advertising, hits theaters today following a lengthy chain of quite horrible looking TV commercials. Sure enough, the film looks pretty bad, earning so far a flaccid 22% positive rating at Rottentomatoes (26 ‘fresh reviews, 93 rotten ones as of this writing). And here’s a few of their pull quotes from the ‘positive’ reviews:

Faithful to the comics almost to its detriment, “Green Lantern” is a two hour film that would have been much better at ninety minutes.

-It’s unremittingly average, high-caloric and indigestible junk food for the restlessly stupefied. We’ve all been there.

Cornball dialogue and poor characterizations drag down the successes of the incredible visual effects.

–Casino Royale director Martin Campbell makes everything look good and the action scenes are watchable.

And again, those are quotes from the positive reviews.

Given the money involved, this has the chance to be a really big bomb. It might well not be, because it might make a ton overseas, which is where the main market is for superhero movies these days.  Ironically, Warners might profit most vis a vis Marvel; the generally high quality of their films (plus the recent X-Men reboot) might encourage people to check this out, and if it bombs, it may signal the beginning of the end of the superhero boom, which would obviously hurt Marvel a lot more, especially if steam starts going out of the superhero balloon a year before their big Avengers movie comes out.

I guess we’ll have a better idea when we see what Green Lantern does (the worldwide take, if the NYT’s figures are correct, will have to hit about $600 million before the film breaks even), and then how Captain America does.

  • Flangepart

    Makes me wish THIS was the gang doing it…

  • John Campbell

    How do you review a movie that isn’t out.

    And why can’t people simply make up their own minds about a movie.

    I don’t need some self-important twit to create an opinion for me.

  • John Campbell

    And just to be clear I was refering to movie critics as being self-important twits. NOT ken or anyone else here.

    I rather enjoy reading what people here have to say AFTER I’ve seen a movie and made my own decision regarding it’s worth.

    Sometimes I suspend too much belief!

  • John — Many of these critics attended pre-release screenings; some of the bloggers, no doubt, saw the midnight show last night and then ran home to review it.

    I agree with you that critics are pretty worthless, which is why I like Rottentomatoes. Reviews long ago started blowing way too many plot details, so I don’t want to actually read any. Instead, these sites basically create an index of yeas or nays and give us sort of a gestalt reaction.

    Critics are useful in two circumstances; as individuals, when you know enough about their tastes to know when to either ignore them (i.e., Gene Siskel just didn’t like horror movies, or Ebert’s atrocious Thor review), or give them added weight; or when they pretty much all move in one direction or another. I always thought Green Lantern looked bad, but if 92% of critics gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up, I’d have reconsidered. Instead, roughly 80% are giving it a thumbs down. The Wisdom of the Crowds prevails.

    No offense even remotely taken. I’ve never considered myself anything like a ‘critic,’ a title which usually implies a level of authority, as in “My opinion about this film means more than yours because I’m a critic.”

  • Mr. Rational

    22% positive reviews? Ouch. And yet, precisely because of that, I may end up going to see this against my better judgment. That’s about the same number that liked “Sucker Punch,” if I recall, and I ended up enjoying that one (in a “turn your brain off right now and look at the pretty pictures” kind of way).

    On the other hand, what I’ve seen in the trailers makes me think that the visuals for this one won’t be NEARLY as impressive as the ones Zach Snyder came up with.

  • Toby Clark

    It’s up to 25% now, and to be fair it wouldn’t be the first time this year I ignored a bad Tomatometer rating and ended up having a great time. There’s also the slightly more promising IMDb user rating, which is at 6.6.

    That said, unless I hear rave reviews from David and Margaret, it looks like this will be going in the “wait for the DVD” list.

  • JazzyJ

    Hey all. For the views of a comic fan, check out this critic’s review:

    Oh, and put on your asbestos before you click the link — he is pretty hot under the collar…

  • PB210

    “if it bombs, it may signal the beginning of the end of the superhero boom, which would obviously hurt Marvel a lot more, especially if steam starts going out of the superhero balloon a year before their big Avengers movie comes out”.

    One wonders what will replace it for adventure films? Will R-rated adventure films revive? Will police procedurals or Westerns or film noir or private eye films revive?

  • zombiewhacker

    A shame, because Martin Campbell is a great action director. Too bad he only gets great action scripts maybe 50% of the time (e.g., Casino Royale and Mask of Zorro),

  • Plissken79

    This film looked awful from the very first trailer, and I am not surprised in the least critics are so harsh. Most of the DC heroes just do not lend themselves to film for the most part (Aquaman, anyone? Hawkman?)

    Still, I doubt the possible failure of Green Lantern will effect the Marvel films, for every comic book hit there are at least two bombs. Let’s hope Joe Johnston gets it right with Captain America, that film should be a blast

  • PB210

    If this film only does so-so, they may still do a reboot or sequel. After all, Bale’s first turn in the black cape did only modestly well. As Businessweek and others pointed out, it did not come close to Tobe Maguire level success. Yet, they continued on anyway.

    …………Superman Returns made $391 million worldwide. That’s even more than Batman Begins, totaling only $371 million in box office receipts worldwide. Yet Batman Begins is widely considered to be the more successful movie, so successful in fact that it spawned an entire series of even more successful sequels while Superman was abandoned to be completely rebooted years later.

  • monoceros4

    “And just to be clear I was refering to movie critics as being self-important twits. NOT ken or anyone else here.”

    You’re still an idiot for saying it.

  • zombiewhacker

    Superman Returns is regarded as a boondoggle because it grossed $391M but it cost $270M. A movie with that price tag that hefty would need to gross close to $600M worldwide in order to turn a profit.

    By contrast, Batman Begins grossed $372M on a budget of $150M, which means it was a moneymaker.

    Also, while it’s a very watchable superhero pic (I certainly have nothing against it), Superman Returns hardly pushed the envelope. Batman Begins did.

  • PB210

    “Most of the DC heroes just do not lend themselves to film for the most part (Aquaman, anyone? Hawkman?)”

    Plissken79, it remains very hard to determine whether or not a property will work in a film. The adaptation process may remove some of the more objectionable parts. After all, you do not see Christian Bale with a boy in a yellow cape, green shorts, and pixie shoes, do you?

    (The whole conceit of the Adam West show had to do with, to paraphrase Max Allan Collins, look how ridiculous these stories play out when you do them in live action. Despite what some people say, in some ways the Adam West show stands as the closest adaptation, since it even adapted stories from the source.)

    Re, the Brandon Routh film, the article noted that some of the production cost included pay or play deals for people who did not ultimately contribute to the film (just such as Tim Burton).

    Jumping back to GL, I wonder how, if at all, this will impact Ronald Howard’s adaptation of the Lensmen? Some have noted thematic parallels between the two series.

  • zombiewhacker

    Regardless of the reason why the budget was so high, the fact is that Superman Returns lost money in its theatrical run. Batman Begins didn’t.

  • PB210

    Surely, a Superman Returns sequel would not have had the pay or play costs that the first film did.

    Returning to Green Lantenr, they may go easy on Green Lantern, since:

    a Green Lantern newspaper strip did not start in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s and run till 1966

    Green Lantern did not have theatrical cartoons in the 1940’s that ran constantly on television and appeared on cut rate VHS and DVD

    Green Lantern did not have a radio show

  • Foywonder

    Having now seen it and expecting the worst I can say that the movie is…inoffensively forgettable. I know – not exactly a ringing endorsement. It plays like a rejected script for a 20-year old Green Lantern TV pilot that got produced with a $200 million budget. Factor in the $100 million for marketing and you have to wonder what Warner Brothers was thinking sinking that much money into a second-tier (bordering on third-tier) comic book superhero. I’m sure quite a few people will come out saying they enjoyed it. I’d also be willing to bet they’ll never give it a second thought. $300 million dollars worth of over-CGI’d mindless Hollywood piffle.

  • Rock Baker

    From what I could gather from the minimal ads I’ve seen for the film, the problem seems to be the setting. Hal Jordon was a test pilot, and you can build a pretty good story around a test pilot who becomes owner of a powerful ring that lets him battle crime. I would have kept the action on earth, rather than the souped-up Star Wars universe displayed in the ads. I always liked Green Lantern, but the version I think of first is the Filmation one voiced by Gerald Mohr. He had such a commanding and virile voice (Mohr also voiced Reed Richards on Hanna-Barbara’s Fantastic Four series) that it sold the whole concept. There, I think, is the problem with making a modern Green Lantern property based on the Hal Jordon character, is that it requires a rugged and powerful man in the lead and Hollywood doesn’t grow men like that anymore. I don’t think it’s that a Green Lantern movie is such a bad idea (or at least a misfire), as the timing of it is. It would have worked much better in the late 70s in the wake of Star Wars and Superman.

  • Plissken79

    Points taken PB 210, although I have a few of my own:

    1. Often a comic book adaption will fail unless they find the perfect choice of director and star. The recent Thor movie is a great example of this, any other director than Kenneth Branagh and it might have bombed commercially and critically. I was surpised with the success of that film, as I thought Thor was next to impossible to adopt successfully.

    2. Aquaman would never work as a film, just look at Dave Chapelle’s rant on Dr. Katz. Marvel heroes just seem more “real” and human than their DC counterparts, for the most part.

    3. As for the Adam West Batman show, fans have debated endlessly whether the show made the comic books campier or vice versa. At least when the Joker is a silly goofball rather than a vile mass murderer, Batman’s “no-kill” looks less ludicrous. Rethinking the Boy Wonder is kind of no-brainer, hard to see how any portrayal of Robin in his short shorts would not come across as ridiculous, or as the Ambiguously Gay Duo……

  • Toby Clark

    Rock – I haven’t seen it yet either, but I don’t agree that the setting would be such a problem, if only because it did work pretty well in the Green Lantern: First Flight movie. (If you haven’t seen it, it was basically Training Day with Sinestro in the Denzel Washington role).

  • Marsden

    Are people really sheep that just because one of a type of movie doesn’t do well that any other kind will be bad? I’d like to think each movie would stand on it’s own and Captain America can do well no matter what Green Lantern does, but I’m sure Ken is right and I hope Cap doesn’t suffer because of it.

    I was in the party store over the weekend buying cards (sympathy) and saw the Captain America party favors, again they have change Captain America’s outfit, but it looks like a good change, and if he’s is going to be in WW2 it really helps how they made him look for this. I especially like the integrated helmet, I hope it’s good, it’s about the only movie I’m looking forward to this year, along with Avengers next year.

  • Marsden — I don’t think it’s a matter of being sheeplike (although by their nature block busters require a mass audience), but rather that inevitably genre fatigue sets in no matter what kind of movie predominates at a given time. Generally things start heading downhill faster when the movies aren’t as good, because a person who is burned by one movie might decide to give another of the same type of movie a pass. Indeed, it’s just the flip side of why you get imitations after something does really well. Eventually that appetite gets sated, though, and when you’re spending that kind of money, it’s fatal if even 10 or 15% of the audience decides to skip your film.

  • Rock Baker

    I saw the First Flight animated film, yes. While it wasn’t bad, I felt they didn’t do very much to develop Hal’s character. I would liked to have seen more earth-based action prior to blasting off into unknown worlds, myself. It was like having too much stuff thrown at you at once to really be able to take everything in.

  • I guess this is like how some prefer (including me, actually; that was the era I started watching the show) Doctor Who’s earthbound adventures over his space-faring ones.

  • PB210

    3. As for the Adam West Batman show, fans have debated endlessly whether the show made the comic books campier or vice versa.

    Plissken79 said this on June 19th, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Go check the dates of issues of Batman and Detective at the time right before the tv show came out. It was full of silly crap, the same stuff that was going on in the show.

    Batman #158 (1963) – Ace (the fire-breathing) Super Bat Hound
    Batman #160 (1963) – Mystery of Madcap Island (complete with giant shoe houses, giant tennis rackets, and a villain riding a giant squirt gun!)
    Batman #161 (1964) – Bat-Mite. Nuff’ said!
    Batman #162 (1964) – Bat-Creature. Again, Nuff’ said!
    Batman #170 (1965) – Getaway Gimmicks
    Batman #174 (1965) – Batman, Human Punching Bag
    Batman #176 (1965) – (r) – Calendar Man, the Fox, Vulture, and Shark, Joker’s Utility Belt

    In Batman #160, he fought the Green Hood Gang, led by an alien, and he fights them on Madcap Island, which features giant tennis rackets, houses shaped like giant baseballs, giant shoes, and giant dogs, while on the very first page he is attacked by a villain driving a giant water pistol!

    He’d been turned into a rainbow costume, a giant, a zebra striped costume, a phantom, an old man, an alien, a merman, an Indian chief, a costume with a kilt, and all sorts of oddities and absurdities.

    Did we ever see a Caveman Green Hornet or a Green Hornet in a rainbox/zebra/dayglo red suit? Did we ever see Green Hornet being drowned in a giant gravy boat or being chased by aliens and dinosaurs? Was there ever an Ace the Green Hornet Dog? How about a Hornet-Mite?

  • Plissken79

    Hey, leave Ace the Bat-Hound alone! (I have a special sympathy for all of the super-dogs, from Ace to Krypto to Underdog)

    Come to think of it, I remember reading about a Batman issue at the height of the 1960s silliness where even the writers made fun of it, as Batman said something along the lines of “not another mad scientist with a group of green aliens!” or something like that.

    That being said, I think it is hard to claim the cruel nihilism of most comics today is much of an improvement

  • Rock Baker

    My brother just bought some comic books. One is about the Marvel heroes being flesh-eating zombies, the other was a Howard the Duck miniseries that requires a parental warning tag. It troubles me. (I think I’ll stick with back-issues of Millie the Model, Tim Holt, etc.) It also bothers me that there might be a bigger market for stuff like that, and I’d rather stay out of it! The work I do is on comedy and light adventure cheesecake strips like Rowena, Betsy the Bookwriter, and Dinosaur Girl. You’d think that would have a bigger audience than stories that defile childhood heroes by turning them into gory monsters

  • Rock Baker

    , wouldn’t you?

  • Grumpy

    Plissken79: “2. Aquaman would never work as a film…”

    Forget he’s a superhero and tell a sword-and-sorcery story… underwater. Boom. Done. Producer credit, please.

  • Plissken79

    Sorry Grumpy, but if that idea would have worked, Hollywood would have done it a long time ago. Audiences are not going to go for a “hero” whose power is that he can persuade shrimp to attack Lex Luthor. Aquaman has made for many great jokes, however, so he has some worth for that

  • Petoht

    Yeah, you all laugh… just wait until Aquaman snaps as raises Great Cthulhu.

  • The Rev.

    Cthulhu’d just eat him first when he got sick of listening to him. “Shut up SHUT UP SHUT UP!!!” *gulp*

  • Rock Baker

    Aquaman-ish properties have been tried to varrying levels of success. The Amphibian Man was a feature film, there was The Man From Atlantis, even Waterworld was sort of a post-apocalypse Aquaman. Aquaman himself enjoyed a series of cartoons from Filmation. Too bad he wasn’t around during the heyday of serials, because that seems the best format for him.

  • Grumpy

    Don’t want to get into an argument, but…

    “… if that idea would have worked, Hollywood would have done it a long time ago.”

    …sounds like the Fermi Paradox as applied to movie pitches.

  • The Amphibian Man was a thoughtful Soviet-era science-fiction movie in which the titular characcter tries to fit into human life. Like most Soviet-era science-fiction films, I find it somewhat tedious.

  • I showed you East Side Story, correct, Sandy? If so, then you know Soviet films were often tedious by design, since the Soviet censors (who obviously had a LOT more control over filmmakers’ life than the Hays Office ever did) found entertainment value suspiciously bourgeois and potentially counterrevolutionary.

    By the way, anyone who can find a copy of East Side Story should give it a look. Fascinating history of Iron Curtain musicals during the Cold War era. And it’s a great double bill with Hot Summer, a rather marvelous East German musical available on DVD and heavily featured in EST.

  • Rock Baker

    I’m sure you find soviet science fiction films tedious. I mean, why should you be any different from the rest of humanity?

  • Plissken79

    I second your recommendation on East Side Story, Ken, I love that documentary, I hope to use it in one of my future history classes.

    As for Soviet sci-fi, the original Solaris is not bad at all

  • Rock Baker

    I’ve heard that about Solaris, although I must admit I turned back within the first ten minutes when what felt like seven of them was a static shot of water plants or something of that nature. It had “art house fare, turn back now” written all over it. I took off and found something less pretentious to watch.

  • PB210

    Factor in the $100 million for marketing and you have to wonder what Warner Brothers was thinking sinking that much money into a second-tier (bordering on third-tier) comic book superhero.

    ——-Foywonder, Blade has never had a comic book series of his own last more than about thirty issues, yet he had three live action films and a live action TV show. (The original Tomb of Dracula only lasted fifty issues.)

    Before the Downey, Jr. film, Iron Man had only had one cartoon series of his own about ten years previous.

    It actually makes sense for Warner Bros. to attempt to improve the value of one of their assets. Think of it as an attempt to put more eggs in the basket.

    After all, MGM ran into serious money problems recently, and they serve as the home of one of the film series listed as the most profitable film series of all-yet they have little other than that to fall back upon (they have Shaft and Robocop, but have not actually made a Robocop film, and have not made a Shaft film in recent years). Warner Bros. does not want to have to rely on one property too much.

    If Warner Bros. does not want to rely on just one property, it also should not rely on just two properties. If it does not want to rely upon just two properties, then it could also not want to rely upon just three properties. Therefore, it wants to enhance the properties that it has. Otherwise, it has to rely on the whims of people such as J.K. Rowling, the creator of the profitable for Warner Bros. Harry Potter series, but a property that they do not control.


    By the way, if you want to get into first tier or second tier or what have you, someone once tried to list the most famous comic book heroes. Aside from the ones included on the list from USA Today of most successful film franchises, this list included:

    Superman: radio, television, long-running newspaper comic strip, perhaps video games, motion picture (including theatrical animated cartoons frequently seen on television reruns since the 1950’s and widely available on cut rate DVD or VHS, as well as serials)

    Wonder Woman: television, short-lived newspaper comic strip

    The Hulk: television, short-lived newspaper comic strip, motion picture

    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: television, motion picture

    Captain America: sometimes referred to in country music or patriotic songs

    Iron Man: cartoons (as noted above), but mostly on the list due to the recent films

    Wolverine/X-Men: cartoons, motion picture

    Many of these properties have also had video games.

    The Fantastic Four have started to climb up there. I would hesitate to put the Swamp Thing on this list. (I would have included the Phantom – Internationally better known that many would think, published in more countries than any other, syndicated in national newspapers in most of these ( there was a reason that the Phantom Movie was made b4 many others, it could have gone straight to DVD and made a decent profit) with a theme park ride in one of the Scandinavian countries-but the Phantom started as a newspaper strip and remains so today.)

    You will notice that some of these properties gained fame through avenues other than motion picture now closed off. Want to know where kryptonite, Jimmy Olsen, etc. came from? The Superman radio show. However, by and large we no longer have radio play series.
    By and large, we no longer have serialized adventure comic strips. Remember how NBC turned down the Wonder Woman pilot? Live action television has also started to recede as an option.

    So, Warner Bros. could have just stuck to relying on a small number of properties that gained fame years ago or tried to enhance other properties.

  • Reed

    There is nothing wrong with the concept of the Green Lantern as a movie property. I have always been a Scott Allen (Allen Scott? Alan Scot?) man myself, but even the Hal Jordan Green Lantern is a decent place to start a movie. His power set is way more visually interesting than, say, Superman. I don’t even have a problem with Ryan Reynolds. He can act, although he has a fairly narrow range. I generally find him to be likeable, except as Hannibal King where he was too much of a smartass.

    Once you have an interesting visual element in place, though, you still need a good movie to feature it. I have seen Green Lantern and will probably wait until it comes out on video to see it, but from the local reviews and comments from friends the story just didn’t grab them.

  • PB210

    Of course, Warner Bros. also stands to gain from encouarging its own properties, since they have a greater cut of the profit from merchandise for properties that they own.