Will the Lantern see green? J.W. Ward on why Green Lantern needs to be the next big thing

This weekend, there’s a whole lot riding on the guy with the green ring.

In case you don’t know, this guy:

Green Lantern debuts in theatres Friday and stars Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan, a test pilot who discovers a dying alien that gives him a ring of incredible power and membership in the Green Lantern Corps, a collective of aliens tasked with policing the cosmos. The Corps inform Hal of an extraterrestrial threat to Earth, one that will force him to overcome great fear if he’s to save the world.

Compared to the likes of Superman or Batman, Green Lantern is a B-list character at best. He’s made appearances in pop culture, but hasn’t appeared much beyond the comic books of his birth. He was mentioned in the Donovan song “Sunshine Superman” in 1966, appeared in the Superfriends of the 1970s and 80s, and even got his suit mixed up at the dry cleaners with that of Duck Dodgers in the ‘90s, while alternate versions of the character were popping up in DC’s animated universe via Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League.

Early reviews of Green Lantern (like this and this) haven’t been kind, making the big budget CGI-fest a big gamble for DC Entertainment, Time Warner and the future of the comic book movie. While a fan-favourite property to comic readers, Green Lantern is nobody to the public at large. Moreso than fear, Green Lantern will have to overcome great public ignorance and bad press in the coming weeks to become the summer superhero success story it needs to be. Here’s why:
1) Money – With an estimated cost between $150 and $200 million, (and, as a rule of thumb, an additional $200 million to market), Green Lantern needs to make back its budget to justify continuing the franchise with two more movies, as is the not-too-secret plan. Given that the character is an unknown commodity and the film is already getting poor reviews, making the money it needs to be a success will depend on developing good word-of-mouth credibility beyond its opening weekend. Right now, that doesn’t seem likely;

2) Competition – DC-based superhero movies have been virtually non-existent over the last six years, save for Christopher Nolan’s brilliant Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Bryan Singer’s poorly-received Superman Returns of 2006 and Zack Snyder’s Watchmen of 2009. Meanwhile, Marvel Entertainment has been busy at the box office. They released Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008 and Iron Man 2 in 2010. This year has already seen Thor achieve box office glory, while Captain America: The First Avenger comes out July 22nd. All this culminates with the major characters of these five films joining forces for 2012’s The Avengers, creating a shared universe chock full of possibilities. Oh, and we can’t forget Marvel’s licensed properties, like the recent X-Men: First Class and Sony Entertainment’s reboot of New York’s favourite web-slinger with 2012’s Amazing Spider-Man. Green Lantern is DC Entertainment’s first step towards truly competing with Marvel, and DC has their work cut out for them;

3) The comic relaunch – As has been covered in detail here at Biff Bam Pop, DC Comics has decided to relaunch its entire superhero line in September, with 52 brand new #1 issues featuring modernized versions of its iconic characters. Green Lantern characters will be the focus of three of these books, and the synergistic hope is that Green Lantern the movie will bring new readers to DC’s newly-set table, and;

4) More movies – If Green Lantern does become a success, it opens the doors to more DC characters in film and more comic book movies in general. Currently, Hollywood is bouncing around concepts for the likes of Hawkman, Flash, Shazam and the Nolan-helmed Superman reboot. If Green Lantern tanks, watch Hollywood’s superheroic balls pull so tightly into its body that we’ll be lucky to see anything aside from Nolan’s Superman and Batman flicks for the next five years – and that’s not a good thing.
What DC Comics superhero do you believe deserves the major movie treatment?
JW Ward is a Toronto based writer, media personality and professional cynic. Follow him on Twitter at @jasonwardDOTca, through his website at www.jasonward.ca and every Thursday here at Biff Bam Pop!

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