‘Green Lantern’ in ‘Justice League’: Reboot, Recast, or Reform?

By April 2, 2014

While it’s pretty easy to get the impression that we live in something of a “golden age” of comic book movies, it’s just as easy to see that they’re not all particularly well received. 2003 may have given us Bryan Singer’s great follow-up X2: X-Men United, but it also gave us The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. 2004 may have given us Spider-Man 2, but we also got Catwoman. 2011 may have given us Captain America: The First Avenger, but it also gave us Green Lantern

…which I didn’t hate.

Don’t blame me! If Green Lantern had a defining mistake, it’s that it was made for people like me: comic book fans. It got panned as derivative and permeated with CGI, but we also had a movie where we were able to see Tomar-Re in full motion, voiced by Geoffrey Rush! Michael Clarke Duncan’s booming baritone got behind the wind pipes of Kilowog! I’m unashamed to say that I had fun watching it, but I understand the criticisms all too well. So, you might be wondering where 2011’s attempt at superhero space opera will stand now that people at Warner Bros. have a stated desire to bring the DC Universe to life in live action. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman will all be appearing in the 2016 sequel to Man of SteelThe Flash will be hitting television very soon, rumors continue to persist about characters like Cyborg or Aquaman showing up in the near future…that’s practically the whole lineup of the Justice League across a few different projects.

Except for Hal Jordan.

Well, recently at Collider, screenwriter David S. Goyer spoke ever so briefly about the DC Universe’s Emerald Ring-Slinger, especially in relation to the finished 2011 film versus the film he wrote that reintroduced Superman to audiences everywhere.

I would love to do Green Lantern. I really wanted to showcase Krypton as a truly alien world. That was one of the things I wanted to do from the beginning when I got involved in the project. At his heart, Superman’s always been a science fiction story. I wanted to lean into that, and so did Chris [Nolan], and so did Zack [Snyder], so I was just glad we were able to.

In that comparison, there is a pretty fundamental point that’s difficult to ignore. Regardless of what many people may have thought of the finished product, the opening scenes in Man of Steel that took place on the planet Krypton were singled out for particular praise by many critics and fans alike. Krypton really did feel like an alien setting, from the climate, to the technology, all the way down to the architecture, flora, and fauna. There was a difference in the way that people spoke (carrying on the nearly Shakespearean tone first used in 1978’s Superman: The Movie), and the entire affair truly looked like it was of another world.

In comparison to Green Lantern, Oa was certainly gorgeous, but definitely not as distinctive as Krypton would prove to be. Hal Jordan is swept up in the proud tradition of an intergalactic police force that has never had a human member before, but he’s tossed in and has a reasonable understanding of how everything works, what his job is, and what he needs to get it done correctly. He may have doubts in the film about his capability of doing that job, but he pretty much knows exactly what it is right from the beginning. It’s kind of hard to feel like this is an otherworldly force when everyone behaves like humans.

If Justice League is an inevitability on film, then the likelihood is that so is the return of the Green Lantern. This begs the question: should they use a different character for the ensemble? Should they reboot the franchise entirely and go with a new actor as Hal Jordan? Or, should they incorporate Reynolds’ rendition of the character into the wider continuity of this new, budding universe? Everybody has an opinion, including me, so here it is:

I choose a different path: reform what we’ve already got. Warner Bros. should keep Reynolds, and fold him into the Justice League.

In this moment from Green Lantern: Rebirth #6, Hal knocks Batman down with one punch to end an argument. Batman would return the favor in kind not long afterward.

In this moment from Green Lantern: Rebirth #6, Hal knocks Batman down with one punch to end an argument. Batman would return the favor in kind not long afterward.

If anyone places the blame for Green Lantern‘s critical and commercial failure solely on Reynolds’ shoulders, they are seriously focusing their ire in an entirely wrong direction. Reynolds is a great actor (have you SEEN Buried?!), he has excellent comedic and dramatic timing, and I’d even argue that he thrives in an ensemble. Including Reynolds in a potential Justice League cast adds a recognizable name to the marquee, and the slyness of his Hal Jordan would certainly help make him a unique element of the entire cast. During his definitive run on the Green Lantern comics on into his current work in Justice League, comic book writer Geoff Johns established Hal Jordan as having a delightfully irritating relationship with Batman.

The mere possibility of seeing some of those priceless scenarios of character interplay between Ben Affleck and Ryan Reynolds makes me nearly giddy, since both actors have a proven talent in standoffish, comedically tense confrontations.

Reynolds’ name on the marquee would only enhance the star power. While Henry Cavill has largely been well-received as the new Superman, he still has a way to go before being an actor with fully-fledged “star power.” The same can be said in regards to the stature of the new Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot. Having seen enough Zack Snyder films to know that casting is, by-and-large, rarely an issue, I have enough built-in faith in the people making decisions to believe that Gadot will do a respectable job as Wonder Woman. In the end, though, it wouldn’t hurt to have someone like Reynolds on the cast, who has star power, sex appeal, and a well-deserved reputation as a quick-witted firebrand when he wants to be. All of these are also character traits I’d apply equally to the character of Hal Jordan.

With the current creative team overseeing DC Comics on film with Goyer, Snyder, and Geoff Johns, I think you have a good enough mix of solid fans and people that know how to make movies to gel the undeniably cool tenets of the Green Lantern world together with the fundamentals necessary to craft a good film. Ryan Reynolds deserves another chance to bring Hal to life on the big screen. The best way to do that may be have him in Justice League as the team’s charter Green Lantern. It’s simple and effective, and it could also be pretty fun.

Also, it would mean keeping Mark Strong as Sinestro, one of the most awesome comics characters combined with a great casting choice. That goes without saying.

What do you think, DC Universe fans? How should Green Lantern be handled moving forward? Let us know below!

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation, Batman-On-Film.com, The Huffington Post, and Movies.com. He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.
  • wilderfox

    PLEASE LET THIS HAPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Nothing thrills a CBM fan more than continuity and I loved Reynolds as GL!!!!!!!