Meanwhile, back at the box office, GREEN LANTERN debuted at #1 with $52.6 million, less than THOR and even X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. As the Times put it: “An all-hands-on-deck effort by Warner Brothers to turn “Green Lantern” into a box office superpower fizzled over the weekend.” With a budget of a reported $300 million, dreadful reviews and a big Friday-to-Saturday drop-off, GL’s task as the advance guard for a new generation of movies based on DC characters has been made much more difficult.
The film did best among older males, Icv2 writes:
As might be expected for a comic book movie that apparently had some trouble transferring its comic market popularity to mainstream audiences, Green Lantern’s opening weekend moviegoers were primarily male (64%) and older (63% over 25, with just 19% under 18 in spite of the film’s “PG-13” rating). Green Lantern could get a bounce on Father’s Day, and might finish better than the $52.7 million estimate, but the drop-off from Friday’s $21.6 million to Saturday’s $16.8 is quite troubling. After getting off to a strong start at Thursday midnight shows (see “Green Lantern Solid at Midnight Shows”), which helped fuel Friday’s numbers, it appears that those most interested in seeing the film saw it right away, and that word-of-mouth did help the film sustain its solid opening day. Audiences gave the movie a mediocre “B” CinemaScore.
GL was also the latest in the ongoing fizzle of 3D films, with 2D showings outpacing the 3D versions, part of a national trend that will hopefully spell the end of this 3D craze. (For the record we made a point of seeing GL in 2D.)
Todd Allen has a detailed analysis of how it all rolled out:
The expectations coming out of Warners were pretty clearly to replicate an Iron Man level franchise. The rationale seemingly was “if Marvel can do this with a B-character, so can we.” And they dumped a rumored $100 million into making this into a megahit. The first question might be “at what point did this project look like it was gelling enough to warrant that kind of marketing,” so we may just have out of control expectations driving the project before the first script was written.
And Nikki Finke gets the jump on the blame game:
Hollywood is expecting director Martin Campbell to be made the scapegoat: he’s already publicly suggested he won’t be back if there’s a sequel. Some point to Geoff Johns, DC Entertainment’s chief creative officer who also writes the Green Lantern comics and was integrally involved (reputedly even the deciding vote) on every big decision. And he’s respected but also controversial in some quarters. But Warner Bros execs Jeff Robinov and Greg Silverman should have made sure this movie was much better than a score of only 21% positive on Rotten Tomatoes (compared to Thor’s 77% and X-Men’s 87%). Looks like there’s plenty of blame to go around. “I’m not going to tell you this is the greatest movie,” a studio exec admits to me about why the film wasn’t better. The problem sounds like it was filmmaking by committee.
All of this very much leaves the state of DC Entertainment’s West Coast office of great interest to industry watchers. While the print relaunch in September has been getting the headlines of late, it’s the Hollywood connection that’s DC’s real value to Warner Bros.: an entire West Coast development office has been in place for months, featuring all the editors shipped over from the New York offices, busily developing ideas for adaptation to various media. Green Lantern was the biggest and most obvious choice to make inroads on expanding the WB superhero portfolio beyond The BIg Two, but this has to be seen as a setback.
While some may be quick to point the finger at Johns (director Campbell has already washed his hands of the whole thing), I’d like to point out that Warners has a pretty good track record for screwing up things that did not have a fierce, powerful guardian like Joel Silver, Christopher Nolan, or J.K. Rowling:
• Following the first two Batman movies, the series went off the rails with Joel Schumacher and bat-nipples culminating in the legendarily nauseating BATMAN AND ROBIN.
• STEEL. Nuff said.
• CATWOMAN. Ugh.
• While SUPERMAN RETURNS can rightly be pointed to as a baffling remake, it was far better than the horrifying ideas that Warners batted around in the interim: Nicolas Cage, McG, Superman vs Batman, and so on.
• Maybe that Jack Black Green Lantern would have had more broad appeal? OR…maybe not. Robert Smigel was interviewed about it at Vanity Fair:
Well, for a lot of people, the version that was made didn’t work. That’s what makes your comedic version such a curiosity.
I haven’t seen it, so I can’t speak to how the movie itself works. I know that when the idea was pitched to me to do a comedy about Green Lantern I did a quick review of the specifics of Green Lantern. And I thought, Well, of course this could be a comedy. Basically just the premise that the wrong guy gets the ring and can do all kinds of goofy visual jokes—because the visuals are so potentially ridiculous. What appealed to me about it on a comedic level was that, in order to be a superhero, this requires no physical skill or talent. All it requires is owning this ring. Automatically, that’s a comedic premise. I was told they’re doing it as a comedy; that’s the way they’re going, so I didn’t really think about whether this was wrong thing to do. I just knew that this was the movie they were making, and when I thought about the potential as a comedy, I felt like, yeah, I can do this.
• JONAH HEX. Brrrrrrr…
Of course, there have been great hits at WB like Harry Potter, The Matrix, Batman, and now the Hangover films. All of these have strong producers behind them.
As I said in my review, GREEN LANTERN wasn’t quite as bad as that 24 percent on Rotten Tomatoes suggests, but it is also clearly not a movie that someone made from love—but rather a corporate exercise in selling soda and toys. Despite this, Warners isn’t going to give up on superheroes. The money from the BATMAN movies alone will guarantee that they’ll keep looking for the next pot of gold. And Disney/Marvel’s ongoing success with their comics franchise movies means that WB has to keep trying, if only because these two studios are insanely competitive.
Scuttlebutt suggests that director Campbell will be tagged with GL’s disappointing returns, despite the fact that he was never really attached to it. But that’s Chinatown. Johns still has many allies and friends, including Diane Nelson, so we’ll see how that rolls out. I think the onus is really on Warner Bros. itself to take a deep look inside and ask itself why they make so many crappy superhero movies.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.