The presentation for “Green Lantern” was easily the most anticipated event at this year’s WonderCon. Following lukewarm responses to both the film’s debut trailer and the reveal of star Ryan Reynolds in his CG costume on the cover of “Entertainment Weekly,” the show was Warner Bros.’ last chance to appeal directly to a room full of fans before the film’s release on June 16.
The footage reveal was an unmitigated success, seemingly turning the majority of naysaying fans of the DC Comics superhero around on their opinion of director Martin Campbell’s big screen translation. Reynolds rode that high directly from the screening and panel into the press room, where he spoke enthusiastically of the elements that originally drew him to the role
“For me, it was that transformation,” he said. “I love this idea that this guy who’s so arrogant, cocky and reckless could be given such a higher calling and rise to that purpose and that challenge, and in that process find it humbling.”
Reynolds revealed that the change in Hal Jordan’s character takes place at an early point in the film, and that the one-liner-spouting nascent superhero that drew some criticisms in the initial trailer is not as front-and-center as fans have been led to believe, especially as the story unfolds and the stakes ramp up.
“I would say that in terms of the overall film, Hal is far more aggressive in the movie than he is funny. Once we get into the middle of that second act, everything is pretty significantly serious,” Reynolds said.
The element of the origin story presents a significant challenge, as fans of comic book adaptations know too well. It is easy to become too caught up in painting the birth of a superhero, and the unfolding plot has a tendency to suffer if it isn’t handled carefully. The final analysis will obviously come from the fans in June when the movie hits theaters, but hearing Reynolds describe the approach taken by Campbell and the rest of the creative team is encouraging.
“It’s just tough when you’re dealing with so much exposition in an origin story,” he said. “To service the audience with it in a very analytical kind of way is dangerous. You have to make it entertaining and palatable. They did such a great job of doing that, allowing the movie to start in the first act instead of it starting in the third act like it does in a lot of origin stories.”
“You feel this guy’s rage and purpose halfway into the second act,” he revealed, adding, “that’s what drew me to the movie in the first place.”
Reynolds was also attracted by the lure of playing a superhero, something he admits he hasn’t done before. He was one of the heroic human Nightstalkers in “Blade: Trinity,” and he played Deadpool in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” — “I wouldn’t really classify that character as a superhero,” he said — but Green Lantern is definitely another level. Not just for the impressive range of superhuman abilities, but for the different type of work he was responsible for as an actor to make it seem real.
“Some actors can’t do it,” he said of working in front of a blue screen (green screen wouldn’t work for the movie because of Green Lantern’s signature color). “They feel like they need to have that world in front of them to see it. But I would’ve felt like an asshole asking them to build a life-size version of Oa [with an] 18-story power battery in the middle of it. Aaand there’s the budget,” he joked.
“It’s great, it makes you feel like a kid again. When you’re a kid and how you could live in that world so easily. We get to experience that through Hal.”
“Working on a green screen stage for six months, it’s all that,” he continued. “You are literally in the land of make-believe and pretend. In a typical drama movie where you have everybody in front of you and you’re dealing with these elements and this world is right in front of you, all you’re doing is believing. In this you’re having to do both, you’re having to believe and you’re having to pretend. It’s a challenge, but it’s like a muscle that’s atrophied. Once it comes back, it’s there and it’s easy and it’s actually kind of exciting and fun.”
Peter Sarsgaard’s Hector Hammond is also a key character in the movie’s story. In addition to enjoying the experience of working with such a talented actor, Reynolds also was able to better flesh out his take on Hal Jordan using what Sarsgaard brought to Hammond.
“Peter’s great. One thing he did with Hector Hammond which I thought was really inventive was, he created a sympathetic character out of what could ostensibly just be a villain,” Reynolds revealed.
“So we actually feel empathy for this guy who is wreaking havoc in Hal’s life throughout the course of the film. And they’re childhood friends, so you feel a sort of sense of loyalty from Hal and from Hector, and you kind of hope these two guys don’t come to blows. Peter’s an immense talent and he really knows what he’s doing.”
As is always the case with a big franchise movie, there’s a question even now, before the movie’s release, of what might be coming next in sequels. In the comics, Hal Jordan takes some dark turns. It sounds like the next movie — assuming there is one — won’t be going in that direction, but Reynolds, a fan of the comic himself, hopes for a chance to take Hal in a different direction.
“If we were to do a second film, I know where that’s going,” he said. Hal will still be his good, old heroic self in the second outing. “But a third, I have no idea. That would be very exciting… to hand it over to one of the other [Green Lanterns], Guy Gardner or John Stewart or something.”
For now, we’ll have to just enjoy what we get in “Green Lantern.” There’s so little known about the film at this point, but the WonderCon footage certainly put the more fantastical elements of that universe on full display. This is no Star Wars though; Hal Jordan is Earth’s protector and he won’t spend his entire post-ring experience in the far reaches of outer space.
“I’d say there’s fifty percent Earth, fifty percent Oa, fifty percent… other stuff,” he teased. “Surprises to come.”