There’s a lot to unpack in the comments of Warner Bros’ movie president Jeff Robinov about the second Green Lantern movie, including what looks like an acknowledgment that the first one wasn’t all that it could be – and a worrying sign that the current plan learns all the wrong lessons from the success of The Dark Knight.
It’s interesting, for example, to see Robinov admit that the “decent opening” proved that there was an audience becausem in doing so, isn’t he implying that the audience didn’t stick with Green Lantern beyond the opening for a reason (ie, it wasn’t very good)? The mention of a sequel having to “find a way to balance the time the movie spends in space versus on Earth” suggests that he’s all too aware of the choppy, uneven plotting in the movie, as well. Admittedly, we’re never going to hear Robinov coming out and saying “Yeah, it wasn’t really great, we screwed up, sorry,” so let’s savor this hint and move on.
It’s distressing to hear Robinov talking about a second Green Lantern – one that may possibly dump the existing outline by the writers responsible for the first movie, as well as director Martin Campbell – for a movie that “a little edgier and darker with more emphasis on action,” not only because it means that he still apparently has the same take on superhero movies as he did three years ago, in light of The Dark Knight‘s success, but because it suggests that he really has no idea what Green Lantern is all about.
“Edgier and darker” works for Batman because it works for Batman, if that makes sense – Audiences respond to that, because it fits with the character, one born of tragedy and living in a world mostly devoid of fantastical elements. “Edgier” and “darker” make sense for Batman in a way that they just don’t for Green Lantern, a character that is entirely rooted in child logic – He’s a space cop with a magic wishing ring for a weapon – and based around a much more uplifting message (Overcoming fear) than Batman, one that would seem to be at odds with the idea of an edgier, darker story.
What Green Lantern needs in order to succeed isn’t the idealized version of “realism” that accompanies things like The Dark Knight, but a more focused, more realized version of surrealism that brings more depth and believability to things like the various aliens on Oa, the idea of will-powered rings, and cosmic personifications of emotion. Green Lantern didn’t fail with audiences because it wasn’t dark enough, or lacked edge, but because it ultimately wasn’t coherent enough to be sufficiently entertaining. Instead of forcing the concept to be another Dark Knight – stripping it of the originality and interest it already has – what will make Green Lantern 2 a success will be to let its freak flag fly, and explore what makes it unique.
And, anyway. Who could ever think that a movie with “Lantern” in its title should be made darker? That doesn’t even make any sense.