The Green Lantern Franchise Isn’t About The Green Lantern
It was reported today by the Hollywood Reporter that despite lackluster box office performance, Warner Brothers intends to pursue a sequel to the recently released Green Lantern film. Anyone who’s seen the film, or read a review of it, seems to find this surprising. I don’t. If you went into the Green Lantern film thinking that it was a film made for it’s own good, then you are sorely mistaken. Let’s talk a little about the roadmap that DC has set, and the film universe reboot that Green Lantern represents.
Before getting into any lengthy discussion about DC Entertainment properties on film, it’s important to know a very specific date and it’s significance to DC Universe films. The date is September 9th, 2009. This date is important because it was the date that DC Comics became DC Entertainment, and the date that Diane Nelson became the President of the company. This change in power structure is important because it forces us to draw a line between projects that were started pre-Nelson and projects that happened post-Nelson. The only DC film projects that were happening prior to Diane Nelson’s arrival were Superman Returns and Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise. The rest of the DC Universe is a blank slate for film production.
Diane Nelson and Geoff Johns
Since Diane Nelson’s arrival at DC Entertainment, a few new things have happened. First, and most obvious, of all, is that we got a Green Lantern film. The second is that we’ve heard from WB’s top man, Jeff Robinov, that the Batman franchise will be re-thought after Christopher Nolan’s trilogy has wrapped up. The third is that we’re getting a Superman reboot, this time making a very clean break from any previous film version of the character. Essentially, all previous ties to any DC Universe film or television continuity before Diane Nelson’s arrival have been severed, or are scheduled to be severed.
Given this completely clean slate, you could make the assumption that nothing drastic will change. But if WB didn’t want a very specific drastic change, they wouldn’t have brought in Diane Nelson. You see, prior to being the President of DC Entertainment, Diane Nelson worked for Warner Brothers as the supervisor of the Harry Potter brand. In other words, Nelson is in many ways directly responsible for the building of a decade-long, multi-billion-dollar franchise that spans films, videogames, toys, and more. There are plenty of people who could oversee a smattering of DC-related film adaptations, but there are very few who have franchise-building resumes like Nelson’s. As I said, you could assume that very little will change. But if you did that, you’d be misunderstanding the very reason that Diane Nelson was given the reigns of DC Entertainment. WB is looking to replace Potter with the next evolution – a series of film franchises that tie together into a single, larger franchise. Essentially, WB wants what Marvel Entertainment already has.
So how do they get there? Well, it’s important that they’re starting with Green Lantern, for a few reasons. First and foremost, in the current DC Comics continuity (which could change this fall), The Justice League was started by Green Lantern, Flash, and Aquaman. At Nola.com, a New-Orleans based online publication, an early report about the filming of Green Lantern in the Big Easy suggested some knowledge that the DC Film Universe would be following very closely in those continuity footsteps:
“Green Lantern” is expected to be the first in a trilogy of films focusing on D.C.’s Justice League heroes — the others being “The Flash” and “Wonder Woman” — before uniting all three with fellow League members Batman, Superman and Aquaman for a Justice League movie.
It may not ultimately play out exactly this way, but it’s important that Green Lantern is seen as one of the big heroes of the DCU, a character important enough to be an introductory and founding member of the Justice League. What we also know is that a brand new Superman continuity will be born next year, free to go anywhere it wants, and that not long after, a brand new Batman continuity – one that doesn’t have to tie itself so closely to the earthly bonds of the Nolan-verse. The doors are wide open for these films to feature references – if not outright cameos – about other heroes. If Nola.com is to be believed, we could also be seeing Flash and Wonder Woman movies in the next 3-5 years. The picture this paints is that in 6-8 years, the pieces could be in place for many of the major heroes of the Justice League to have on-film franchises, each with at least one film released.
Another important point about beginning with a Green Lantern film is that it establishes that we are, in fact, dealing with an entire universe. Starting a continuity like this with a narrowly-focused character like Batman makes prying back the edges much harder for the audience to swallow. If we are working with an entire universe, then Superman could one day face enemies like Brainiac, Darkseid, and more. The fact that we know we’re getting General Zod in the Superman reboot already suggests that the creative muscle at DC and WB are looking in this larger direction.
The last big important piece of the Green Lantern film is the presence of Amanda Waller. Amanda Waller is a character that can – and I suspect will – function in very similar ways to the Nick Fury character of the Marvel Film Universe franchise. For Green Lantern, the Waller character was extremely inconsequential. She literally could have been anyone. Any scientist. Any man or woman in a lab coat with any name at all. It wouldn’t have changed the film even remotely. But the fact that it is Amanda Waller is important. It would be easy to minimize this as simply fan service on the part of the film-makers, but I wholly suspect that Amanda Waller will be turning up in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel next year, and that she will ultimately feed through all other DC Universe films until she finally plays some important role in the inevitable Justice League movie.
The three reasons above are precisely why Green Lantern is getting a sequel. Green Lantern isn’t just about a bet on a single film. WB put Diane Nelson in charge of DC Entertainment because she has long-term vision. DC and WB are not simply trying to put one or two characters in films. They are officially playing the long game now. Green Lantern will get a sequel despite it’s lackluster box office performance because it was never about this one film’s box office performance. They will adjust based on reviews, surely, but Green Lantern was just a first step into a much larger world.
Here’s the new unified DC Universe film continuity as it stands today:
- Hal Jordan is the Green Lantern. He is possibly, though not necessarily, the first superhero to go public.
- Abin sur is the first “Alien” life form known to be on Earth. This means that either Superman hasn’t gone public yet, or hasn’t identified himself as being from another Krypton. It also means that the events of Green Lantern occur before Superman’s throwdown with Zod in the upcoming Man of Steel.
- Sinestro has the Yellow Power Ring.
- Hal Jordan’s ring has been worn by an individual who was, at the time, possessed by Paralax.
- Amanda Waller exists and is alive, but her whereabouts are unknown. She works for people who make it their business to know about aliens on Earth (and probably more).
- An invisible jet has been implied to exist.
And here are some of the possibilities I see for the future:
- The Sinestro Corps War. With Sinestro having the Yellow Power Ring, this seems inevitable, either in a Green Lantern sequel, or possibly in a Justice League movie.
- Hal’s ring has been in direct contact with Paralax and could be infected by the yellow demon. Hal Jordan could very well become a villain – the “Paralax” version of himself – either in a Green Lantern sequel, or possibly in a Justice League movie.
- Paralax was dragged into the Sun. I could see a future where this leads to a storyline similar to Final Night, forcing a Paralax-infected, ultra-powered Hal Jordan to sacrifice himself to save the Earth.
- When (not if) the Wonder Woman movie happens, I’m going to bet that her invisible jet is created by Ferris Aircraft.
- Batman will be rebooted into a world where Superman and Green Lantern (at least!) exist. He will stand out even more as a “normal” man in a world of Superheroes.