NEW ORLEANS, LA - Visiting the set of Green Lantern isn't your typical press event filled with elaborate sets, ornate costuming, or even...well...cameras. Instead, it's a bit more like visiting an art museum - albeit, one with eye-popping, geeky paintings all over the walls.
Last August, the summer blockbuster wrapped principal photography in The Big Easy, giving reporters a peek at a shoot that was anything but. The 71-year-old superhero has never appeared in a movie before, and for good reason: With a storyline set predominantly in outer space, with his main mode of transportation flying through the air surrounded by a green circle, the technology was never there that could make it look anything but laughable. And even now, overflowing with green screens and dozens of characters to be added digitally, there's some doubt that it's possible even now.
So, after a lengthy field trip looking at storyboards and maquettes that map out the film's plot, reporters are told that everything is subject to change. And when star Ryan Reynolds comes walking in with little dots all over his body, even he admits that it's a bit strange to be wrapped on a movie that still has significant work to be done over the next ten months.
"I didn't come in the motion-capture suit, because I didn't want you to laugh," Reynolds says with his signature grin. "I feel about as threatening as Estelle Getty."
Over the next few months, much will be written about Reynolds' CGI costume, poorly received trailers absent of completed f/x, and better-received footage with outer space visuals. The fact of the matter is that when you go see Lantern on June 17th, much of it will have been created in a darkened post production edit bay - but considering the elements that necessitated it (folks have called it "The Star Wars superhero movie"), it could all result in either an epic dud or an instant classic.
"I did it because I'd never done [a superhero movie]," explained Martin Campbell, director of Casino Royale and the Zorro movies. "And secondly, because Green Lantern is so interesting, with the widest scope. If you compare it to Batman or to Superman, the world of Green Lantern is way, way bigger and potentially way more interesting in a lot of ways."
"This is the first movie I've ever done where I feel like my nieces and nephews are tracking it already," Reynolds said of his character, who much like former Marvel B-listers Iron Man and Thor before him has a loyal audience that could expand exponentially if the movie is a hit. "My nephew asked me, when I was just meeting about the movie: 'Can I have the ring?' And I said 'F***, no!'"
Much like many people who will go see the movie next month, when Reynolds got the gig he was more aware of the character's stature than his storylines. "I knew of the Green Lantern, but I wasn't versed in it," the actor explained. "I knew he was an ordinary guy who was bequeathed a ring by a dying alien, and he shot lasers out of it or something like that. Beyond that, I didn't know much. I think I was most startled to find out how vast the universe is. [Comic writer/film co-producer] Geoff Johns likens it to the Star Wars of the DC Universe, and it certainly does feel that way; the scope is what blew my mind."
"He looks great, has a sense of humor, is physically terrific. What more could you want?" Campbell said of the man he cast as Hal Jordan. "He has all of those elements. We tested something like eight people, and as with every film you go through a process of elimination. To be honest, Ryan was always my first choice."
"I met Martin just like I was meeting on any other movie. They were casting Green Lantern, and I knew I had dipped my toe into the comic book world a little bit - years and years ago I was in Blade: Trinity and then I had four minutes of Deadpool [in X-Men Origins: Wolverine]," Reynolds remembered. "I wasn't sure if this was the right fit; I was more interested in working with [Campbell] because I loved Casino Royale. I had three meetings with them total. At first, they were trying to convince me - but by the end, I was begging them for the role."
For those unfamiliar with the tale, it breaks down thusly: Reckless test pilot finds ring, ring allows him to create virtually anything with a mere thought, man becomes member of an interstellar super police force; Blake Lively is the female lead.
"The power source is will and imagination," Reynolds said of what separates GL from his DC contemporaries (Superman, Batman) who've already reached cinematic superstar status. "The ring is just a conduit for that, a manifestation of that will and imagination. [His superpowers] come from within, and I think that's the most interesting thing about the character. Not the fact that he can fire things out of his ring, but the fact that the ring is so much more."
"The reason the ring chose Hal Jordan is he has an ability to overcome fear," Reynolds said of his take on the character. "And he's as baffled by this decision these cosmic entities have made as anyone. He doesn't understand why he was chosen, he's afraid to admit he's afraid. That's his challenge throughout the film."
"But that's the reason he becomes the greatest Green Lantern of all," he continued. "Because fearlessness is insanity; courage is an amazing trait, it's noble, it's a virtue that everyone wants. That's what it is he's trying to find within himself. He's one of these guys that's trying to be fearless, but when we meet him we realize he's going in the exact opposite direction."
So, expect lots of growth in Hal throughout the film, and perhaps a bit less tomfoolery than you might expect from a Reynolds character. "Deadpool lives for [being a smartass]," he said of the key difference between Jordan and the last superhero he played. "I always saw this guy as Han Solo crossed with Chuck Yeager. He's not funny, but he's witty, and his wit is more of a defense mechanism than anything else...he's quick with his mouth, but he's not cracking jokes."
As the first full-scale, non-remake/sequel/reboot launch of a DC superhero in quite some time, a lot is clearly riding on Green Lantern. As for how the set visit looked - well, it feels a bit irrelevant since so much of the film was shot but yet so incomplete. For instance, Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan were announced not long ago as the voices of fellow Lanterns Tomar-Re and Kilowog - two key castings that Reynolds was completely unaware of during our visit.
But there is a ton of enthusiasm towards GL's movie debut, and if all that post production construction has gone well, there's no doubt that a big franchise is planned - with or without Ryan Reynolds.
"You don't want to put the cart before the horse, but if this works you do another movie. And then, another one after that," the actor explained, saying his participation wouldn't necessarily be as mandatory as with most franchises, since the ring has been passed between multiple beloved characters in the comics. "You can see this going well beyond Hal Jordan, into the other Green Lanterns, the fall of Hal and the dispensing of him, bringing in Guy Gardner or Kyle Rayner."
"This is the origin story, which is what's so good about it," Campbell agreed, saying this could be the beginning of a unique sci-fi/superhero franchise. "On its face, you have someone who should never be a Green Lantern; he seems to have every attribute that would say no to becoming a Green Lantern. But the ring recognizes that he has those qualities inside him. And it chooses him, so that by the end of the movie he's become if not the greatest Lantern, than potentially so."
"You start with a rough diamond," Campbell added, talking about Hal Jordan and perhaps the movie's unorthodox production as well. "And you end with a polished gem."