While the 2011 movie Green Lantern wasn’t the commercial or critical success that DC Comics and Warner Bros had hoped, the film still managed to leave its mark on popular culture. It certainly didn’t do the career of Ryan Reynolds any harm, with the actor’s turn as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern being one of the most highly commended elements of the movie. Whether you liked it or loathed it, the term ‘forgettable’ is not necessarily a term that could be applied to Green Lantern.
A significant impact on the entertainment industry
There was a lot of buzz ahead of the release of Green Lantern. By the time Green Lantern landed in movie theaters, there were only four installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and Thor). DC had been fairly quiet in the 21st-century, but its success with the gloomier blockbusters Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) had shown that they could thrive by delivering something very different from Marvel.
Green Lantern was never going to succeed in the same manner as the Batman trilogy. After all, this is a hero who gains his superpowers from a special ring bestowed by a dying alien; going down the grittier Christopher Nolan path was never an option here. The subsequent lack of Green Lantern sequels, particularly when compared to the rapid growth of the MCU, is proof that DC missed the mark with this movie, but the film’s pop culture impact shows that plenty of people bought into its general aesthetic.
Tie-in media helped to build hype ahead of Green Lantern‘s release. The animated movie Green Lantern: Emerald Knights arrived a week prior to the summer blockbuster and, although featuring different actors as its voice cast, established some of the backstories of characters from Green Lantern. DC Entertainment’s series of Green Lantern Movie Prequel comics fulfilled a similar role, with five characters (Hal Jordan, Sinestro, Tomar-Re, Kilowog, and Abin Sur) each explored in much greater depth in their own comic issue.
Other media has built on the film following its release. Playtech’s Green Lantern is part of the free slots lobby at VegasSlots.co.uk and was released in a collaboration with Warner Bros, with Reynolds’ Jordan and other leading characters featuring prominently as symbols on its five reels. Double Helix Games’ Green Lantern: Rise of the Manhunters was also developed to capitalize on players’ familiarity with the film, as Reynolds’ voice and likeness were used in this console game that furthered Jordan’s narrative as Green Lantern.
A lesson for superhero film-makers
Some viewers of Green Lantern would argue that it’s pop culture tie-ins and spin-offs are significantly more successful than the movie itself, pointing to the $75 million losses for the studio and its critical panning that gave the film a thoroughly rotten 26% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, the counter-argument could definitely be made that the movie world is richer for having Green Lantern and that its legacy should not be underappreciated.
Green Lantern had a cast that could rival most non-Avengers MCU movies in terms of star power. Reynolds headed a line-up that included Blake Lively, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, Tim Robbins, Peter Sarsgaard, Taika Waititi, Geoffrey Rush, and Michael Clarke Duncan. That’s quite the roster, although it is inevitably Reynolds that has become most closely associated with Green Lantern in subsequent years. That’s not an association that Reynolds has sought to avoid, as Deadpool fans can attest.
There are clear jabs at Green Lantern in both Deadpool movies, which land perfectly given the anti-hero’s tendency to break the fourth wall and his affinity for meta-humor. In 2016’s Deadpool, Reynolds’ character has a request for his superhero suit: it should not be ‘green or animated’, with Green Lantern‘s CGI suit one notorious target for criticism. In a time-traveling sequence in the 2018 sequel, Deadpool went as far as shooting a younger Reynolds holding a screenplay for Green Lantern to prevent the movie from ever being made.
That would be a shocking and drastic measure, so one very much in keeping with Deadpool’s MO, but the superhero genre needed Green Lantern to exist. Film-makers have been able to learn from the narrative lessons from Green Lantern. For example, one criticism levied at Green Lantern was that it tried to do too much in one film, with Parallax, one of the hero’s biggest foes in the comics, thrown in at the climax without much justification. Superhero movies made since now tend to tease the arrival of their main villains and build up the suspense more successfully.
From its world-building to its use of CGI, Green Lantern unwittingly provided a lesson for directors and writers about how not to approach a superhero film. DC hasn’t completely forgotten the film and even integrated its world into The CW’s Arrowverse, with the crossover event ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ establishing that Green Lantern took place on Earth-12. That shows that DC still appreciate the 2011 movie, while its influence on a range of media continues to pay tribute to the positive side of its legacy.
Oh, and there’s one more positive effect of Green Lantern that can’t be disputed: Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively met while filming the movie. They’ve since married, had three kids, and become Hollywood’s favorite couple. Now that’s a legacy worth appreciate