More finger-pointing emerges in Green Lantern fail

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Comics-savvy (aren’t they all?) movie beat reporter Borys Kit has a succinct wrap-up, of lessons to be learned from the GREEN LANTERN experience — one that seems to have been a harsh one for DC execs. Barely a word about the movie has been tweeted or blogged since the opening — an exception being Jim Lee who tweeted a contest to win this sweet Kilowog sketch — And they are many; a sequel–already in the writing stages — was supposed to have been greenlit if the film did over $60 million, but the $53 million opening and bad word of mouth may have stopped that.

Kit suggests that comic book movies based on a singular vision tend to do better — something GL did not have:

In contrast, critics pounced on the generic, paint-by-numbers feel of the Lantern movie, which played like dozens of people were in control. And they were. In addition to director Martin Campbell, producer Donald De Line and DC executive Johns, four separate screenwriters were credited, and insiders say that even Warners execs Jeff Robinov, Greg Silverman and Lynn Harris were heavily involved, especially in the editing stage.


Another problem for the movie was the decision to put in more special effects:

Plus, Warners underestimated the scope of the special effects, whose costs began to skyrocket when it was decided that the Green Lantern suit would be created digitally. The complex effects work, combined with the decision to convert the film to 3D, added months to the production schedule, preventing early marketing and test screenings, which could have helped to hone the film. 


There’s also the entire Warners culture as it related to DC movies:

At Warners, it’s the studio division that says yes or no to DC projects, and it can change them up however it sees fit. Last summer’s Jonah Hex was a box-office disaster, and even Warners’ quasi-DC movies Watchmen and V for Vendetta failed to lure more than hard-core fanboys. You don’t have to be a geek to make these movies, but you need to know what geeks like and, more importantly, how to translate that into accessible themes.


While the Christopher Nolan Batman movies remain one of Warner’s biggest triumphs, they’re still casting around for a way to expand that franchise. Luckily, the Bruce Timm empire in animation has been quietly keeping these characters alive on the small screen for decades. With that still going strong, there’s hope for the DC heroes yet.

Comments

  1. I’m not sure what the big deal is about Green Lantern. It was a kind of middle ground movie. Yes, it did feel like a movie by committee. Yes, it was pretty mediocre. But I don’t know where all the hate for the movie is coming from. People saying it was ruined and is the worst movie ever made. It just seems like this decent enough movie became the victim of some infinite feedback loop where all the film critics’ clever little built upon each other as they tried to be more clever than the last guy.

    All very silly to me.

  2. It is my understanding that Nolan has a deal that exempts him from getting studio notes. If it’s true, it explains everything in one sentence.

  3. Stuart T says:

    XMFC credited 4-5 screenwriters as well. Maybe Vaughn simply benefited from the short production time limiting studio interference.

  4. Shawn Kane says:

    I saw the movie Monday night and enjoyed it. At the end of the day, isn’t that what a movie is supposed to do?

  5. @Stuart T, yes, but one of those screenwriters was the director, and another was his usual writing partner, so there was more cohesion of vision.

  6. Joseph says:

    XMFC had 4-5 credited screenwriters, but Vaughn/Goldman have said they basically reworked the entire screenplay from scratch when they came on. Nolan obviously has his own WB fiefdom, I can’t imagine any execs are sticking their hands in his films.

    I agree GL was a perfectly serviceable superhero film, nowhere near as good as the first X-Men but, like that film, had enough promise to indicate a sequel could be significantly better and more successful. I haven’t seen anyone calling it “the worst movie ever made”, or anything close to that. I do believe the filmmakers and DC people have made a mistake by apparently disowning the film so quickly, giving the impression it’s a Catwoman-level disaster when it clearly isn’t.

  7. Michael boyce says:

    I liked it better than Thor by a mile.

  8. The Beat says:

    Re XMFC: Vaughn and Goldman were clearly engaged with the source material and Vaughn’s many intelligent comments on the film show that it was a movie he wanted to make.

    OTOH, Martin Campbell’s comments are almost laughably vague: Yes i made a movie! Ryan Reynolds played Green Lantern!

    He’s a fine craftsman but this was not his boyhood vision.

    ALSO, I’ll tell you where it went off the rails. When the first trailer with Reynolds playing the hot guy with his shirt off, the fanboys cried foul and oh no this is not our Hal!

    Warners reacted and started slanting all their materials to the fanboy audience, not realizing that the ONE audience that would go opening weekend was the hardcore, thus shutting out the outliers who might have edged it over the $60 million mark.

    None of this is Hollywood rocket science. It’s all a known outlier. Aim for the broad target and the hardcore will follow.

    Warners execs continue to confound me. Perhaps they need to hire away someone from Marvel Studios!

  9. Wesley Smith says:

    @Shawn Kane:
    “At the end of the day, isn’t that what a movie is supposed to do?”

    Nope. At the end of the day, movies are there to make money for it’s producers. No matter how popular or even how good a movie is, if it doesn’t record a profit after marketing, it’s still considered a flop.

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, so I can’t comment on it’s quality, but I will say that I decided that this probably wouldn’t be my cup of tea the first time I saw Ryan Reynolds in the CGI golf ball suit. And that’s too bad, because I’ve been a fan of Reynolds since his TV days.

    Movies created by committe–especially licensed movies like this–are almost uniformly bad. Even if a movie is a big budget paint-by-numbers set like Avatar or a mess like the Star Wars prequels, at least Cameron and Lucas were following their visions for those movies and they had character.

    The result is that these DC-based movies often end up being neither fish nor fowl, not following the formula that made these characters succeed to begin with, and not having a single strong hand to guide them. They smack of a bunch of suits in a conference room dictating what the audience will want.
    It almost never works. In fact, it usually fails quite spectacularly.

    Now that I think about it, this is the same sort of misgiving I have of DCnU (ugh, I hate that nickname). Some of the lines have been virtually untouched, while the changes to most all of the others feel like they were tacked together with canvas and baling wire by Didio, Johns and Lee in a secluded cabin in the Appalachian Mountains.

    (Sorry if I veered off topic there at the end. It just occurred to me.)

  10. alistair says:

    I think the fact that Marvel have a deal of control over their movies, after many false starts ( Corman’s FF, The original Captain America and the ill conceived Spider-Man TV series anyone?), even those that are still in the hands of other studios like Fox and Sony, has a great deal to do with it. What happened with the DC characters was that Warners suddenly realised-too late perhaps- that they had this nerdy little company that was generating a decent profit with its comic-books and animation, and then jumped in with their collective corporate feet together. Lack of singular vision is the key here, as Kit so ably pointed out.

  11. @Joseph

    Actually, Mark Millar said, and I quote, “I hereby declare Green Lantern the worst superhero movie ever made. And yes I count The Phantom and The Shadow as superhero movies.”

    He then went on to say he would see it again because it was only 8 quid…

  12. Deaf65 says:

    I watched the movie and I enjoyed it. Gave it a 7.5 out of 10 but felt that it was a little shallow and could have focused on more character depth of Hal Jordan and more training scenes between Hal and Kilwog. Hopefully, that would be expanded in the 2nd movie if they decide to make one.

  13. Ron Thibodeau says:

    The Beat says:

    ‘ALSO, I’ll tell you where it went off the rails. When the first trailer with Reynolds playing the hot guy with his shirt off, the fanboys cried foul and oh no this is not our Hal! ”

    I thought the ‘shirtless’ Thor was a great selling point in the trailer. You already have the comic geek audience, so show a little skin to get the girls and the gays.

    Thor turned me on. Green Lantern, not so much.

  14. If they wanted Green Lantern to make money, they should have made it five years ago with Will Smith as the lead.

  15. Wesley Smith says:

    I don’t think that a shirtless Ryan Reynolds was bad, necessarily. Hal is the kind of guy who would go around with his shirt off more often if he could. I just couldn’t (and can’t) see Reynolds as Hal. I could see him as Flash (Wally, specifically) a lot more easily.

    I wish they could have found a way to bring Guy and John in. Cuba Gooding Jr. as John and Justin Timberlake as Guy… that I would have paid money for.

  16. So Millar thinks Green Lantern is the worst superhero movie ever made? Guess he doesn’t consider Kick-Ass or Wanted to be superhero movies.

  17. Joseph says:

    Yeah, with Millar everything is either the “best” (anything he does) or “worst” (everything else) so I was discounting his opinion. No one else has suggested GL is the worst movie (superhero or otherwise) ever.

  18. Chris Hero says:

    I didn’t see GL and won’t because it just looks like a bad movie from the commercials. Maybe it’s not bad and I just have extreme superhero movie fatigue.

    I don’t think there was any way a trailer could have been made to really turn people out in the numbers the budget needed. Why was the budget so high?

  19. Wesley Smith says:

    @Chris Hero:

    Special effects. Evidently every uniform in the movie is completely CGI. That was one of the things that turned me off.

  20. R. Maheras says:

    If GL had a budget in the $125 million range, which is where it should have been for a second-tier character (or arguable a third-tier character), we wouldn’t be having this conversation. It would be meeting, or exceeding, realistic box-office expectations.

    Back in 2000, when I was a PR manager for a major appliance manufacturer, I approached a major film studio to ask about licensing a minor cartoon character of theirs that had not been seen in the public eye for decades. It was basically a dead brand. Well, they demanded $10,000 up front, and $1 a unit for each appliance the character appeared on — and they would not negotiate one iota. So, my leadership rejected the licensing option, and we later opted to use a generic tie-in character. The studio character, rather than having new life, continues to languish in obscurity — generating zero revenue for the studio.

    What’s my point? Simple: Sometimes a character’s owner thinks a brand has much more value than it actually does.

  21. Did Millar never see Catwoman?

  22. Chris Hero says:

    @Wesley Smith It was a failed rhetorical question. I meant, like, why was the budget so high that only a *huge* opening weekend could justify it? R. Maheras hit the nail on the head.

  23. I never saw the movie and never will (of my free will) but I knew from the start that it was gonna be a flop in many senses.
    When you have to rely on SFX for your plot, you always lose artistically. Also backstory is what is needed for the makers not the audience.

  24. I haven’t seen it and don’t plan to. But the problem for the movie’s defenders is that it DID open well on the first couple of days before tailing off atrociously. That strongly suggests that the word of mouth was bad. The idea that it’s a good film that got hit by a critical backlash won’t fly. Badly reviewed films do well all the time.

  25. Worth a read, especially when it comes to the discussion of A- & B-character movies. http://boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=3188&p=.htm

  26. LobsterBait says:

    It’s sorta funny that Warner Bros didn’t treat GL like they did the recent Batman movies. Not to say that Martin Campbell is in the same league as Chris Nolan, but he made two both Mask of Zorro and Goldeneye, which were successful takes on existing characters. Warner has obviously seen the success that can come from letting an experienced director call the shots, why jump up Campbell’s butthole?

  27. Ron Catapano says:

    While Green Lantern could have been better, it wasn’t a bad movie and I would still recommend it.

    The movies bigest flaw was in its marketing.

    First we got a bad picture of G.L. on the cover of Time magazine (I think it was Time).

    Then we got a trailer with what looked like unfinished special effects and a collection of the few funny bits from the movie. This gave the impression that the movie had bad special effects and was going to have Hal throwing out one liners.

    With the talk a few years ago about Jack Black doing G.L., you realy didn’t want to remind people about that.

    The later trailers got better, but the damage had already been done.

    Two other WB movies that got screwed with bad marketing were “Iron Giant” a truly great animated movie and “Watchmen” by far one of the greatest comic related movies and just a damn good movie but marketed as just another superhero movie.

    BTW, Mark Millar can kiss my pasty white a$$.
    As a writer, he’s a good pitchman.

  28. LobsterBait says:

    I gotta disagree with Ron. The movie had bad marketing, but it pretty accurately portrayed the movie for what it was (bad but not terrible).

  29. Marketing was not the problem. Poor story-telling, bad special effects, and plot holes make what should have been an amazing movie merely a mediocre one.

  30. Well, I enjoyed the hell out of GREEN LANTERN. This despite the fact that I never read the character, even though I’m a comics fan from way back (my favorite growing up was XMEN).

    Anybody who says a movie that made 50 million the first weekend is a FAILURE… is off their rocker. I call it success. So what if other movies have made more on their opening weekends? Those other movies didn’t have to deal with the crappy economy audiences today to.

    Half the battle for movies today are ‘perceptions’. Somewhere, somehow… some internet (or Hollywood) bonehead decided GL was not cool, and that it was cool to say it wasn’t cool…. and everybody started riding the coattails.

    I thought the marketing campaign for GL was amazing. Everywhere I went I saw ads… my town was BLANKETED with GL reminders. This is what I called getting the word out.

    I thought the movie had a good establishing story, that it was fun to watch, and that it had some amazing effects. I watched it with my family and we had a great time. I thought the movie had a lot of heart, and I kept wondering how it was a MIRACLE that this movie actually got made. Somebody somewhere in Hollywood had the BALLS to greenlight this. And to see that same Hollywood trying to point the finger afterwards is sad. This whole “GL movie sucks” campaign smells like a political maneuver to me.

  31. GREEN LANTERN did not make $50 million. With production & marketing costs, it is $250 million in the red. (See Wesley Smith’s comment.)

  32. I think GL was a fun film. Not a great film, but a fun one. It is closer to the comics than I ever dreamed a GL film could be. I think it suffers coming after Thor and XMFC, but I enjoyed it more than Thor save for perhaps in the love interest department. (Yay Natalie Portman!)

    It’s not the greatest Superhero film, but it does not deserve the negative flack. It’s just a fun popcorn summer movie. Not everything can be The Dark Knight, and if we are expecting every comic movie to be of the same caliber we are going to be sorely disappointed.

  33. LobsterBait says:

    We can’t expect everything to be Dark Knight, but I think it’s fair to want everything to beat least as good as like, Spider-Man 2.

  34. So, Green Lantern failed because fanboys were jealous of a shirtless Ryan Reynolds? Doubtful and even pretty laughable. Maybe it’s because to anyone not a hardcore GL or even superhero fan the movie just looked dull and uninspired- TWO shots of GL using his ring to make a gun in the same trailer? Is that all you come up with a magic ring that can make ANY thing?? Nothing in the trailer really gave you a sense besides “they sure worked the animators hard for this one.” With other movies in the same summer of the same level of spectacle with but with more reliable records (Harry Potter, Transformers, etc.) it was an easy decision for enough people to sit this one out that the movie failed to perform. Frankly, GL is a ridiculous premise (people don’t even USE lanterns any more!) and I think they needed to make it just a bit campier but the geeks would definitely have boycotted it then.

    I happen to think the biggest reason for the failure is that the CGI costume looked weak and the mask was especially dreadful- looking like the Batman eyehole style mask with dark paint underneath which didn’t even seem to fit the star’s face rather than the Gil Kane style simple and clean mask I’d have preferred to see. If you can’t look at the main character seriously chances are you aren’t going to take the film seriously and it wasn’t sold with a sense of much fun. It’s a marketing mistake to try to sell a movie as serious when the trailer-viewing audience isn’t taking it seriously.

  35. Had a good time, gonna see it again. It skips around weirdly in the second half, and didn’t delve as deeply into the characters as I’d have liked, but it isn’t a disaster by any means. Better than the just-okay First Class, by a lot, and no amount of fanboy hyperbole will ever convince me otherwise.

    It’s way closer to the best possible Green Lantern movie than FC is to the best possible X-Men movie.

  36. Keyser says:

    Green Lantern is getting a sequel! WB is behind it and isn’t listening to the lame critics and pissy fanboys.

    http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/warner-bros-pursue-green-lantern-205703

  37. The studio is merely putting up a good publicity front to the fact that they already had committed writers to penning a sequel. That doesn’t mean that the next few weeks could still kill the franchise. So brown-nosing fanboys who are still in denial of box office reality may want to cool their heels for a awhile; Green Lantern’s fortunes most likely rest on foreign sales, and at the moment, they don’t appear to be very good.

  38. “Green Lantern is getting a sequel!”

    Shouldn’t last weekend’s lousy box office take ($18M, down 66% from previous weekend), coupled with awful foreign grosses, indicate low demand for a sequel? I don’t want a second helping of what we got, and I’m inclined to like these things.

    I’m afraid that my goodwill for the GL film franchise is spent.

  39. comic book movies based on a singular vision tend to do better ” I think that is absolutely the point. Comic book movies are a dime a dozen and if you want your film to stand out and demand that the audience notice, love and relate to your character, then you have to make sure it isn’t generic. One single vision, with one single person caring enough abou bringing this character to the big screen is what sets the successes apart from the failures.

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