At this year's San Diego Comic-Con, I was assigned to cover the Hall H panel for 'The Green Lantern,' Martin Campbell's big-budget adaptation of the DC Comics character which stars Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Mark Strong, and Peter Sarsgaard. Although I was immediately familiar with the folks working on the film, my knowledge of the character upon which it's based was decidedly less complete; in fact, it was limited mostly to the comic books I dimly remember from my childhood and a poster I received at that time, for free, which I think may still hold up the wall in my childhood bedroom closet. Regardless, I was reassured enough by the choice of the participants involved in the adaptation, as well as Warner Brothers' mostly-consistent pedigree as adapters of comic-book based material, to get excited about the information and footage that would be revealed in the panel.
Unfortunately, there wasn't much to see.
Particularly given the mixed reception that met with the images that appeared in an issue of Entertainment Weekly just weeks before Comic-Con, I'd expected the filmmakers to come out full throttle with a sizzle reel that offered plenty of steak, too. But other than a few unfinished effects shots and some oblique references to what lay unrevealed in the film, there wasn't much to behold. But within a week of publishing a reaction piece, I found myself standing in a warehouse in New Orleans, surrounded by enough concept art, character drawings and plot details to ensure that any lack of confidence in the film was summarily erased. And in its place, there were (and are now) expectations that I can only hope that 'Green Lantern' will live up to, since few other films, even tentpole blockbusters, probably can.
Currently I'm unable, and quite frankly uninclined, to reveal much information about what I saw. An upcoming piece will include interviews with cast and crew members, and recap some of the sights that audiences will see in the film – within reason. (I wouldn't want the film spoiled for me, so I won't spoil it for you.) But to all of the skeptics who questioned the look of Green Lantern's suit, or wondered where all of the money shots were in the Comic-Con footage, the answer is deceptively simple: it's a very big movie.
"Big" of course is a relative term; to Michael Bay, for example, it means another day at the office. But to me, big means that a movie isn't just some kind of predestined blockbuster, or something that involves a lot of explosions or action. The truth is that most summer movies don't feel big, because studios front-load their budgets into one or two destination sets and force the filmmakers to wrap their story around them, rather than letting the story dictate where the film goes. ('Iron Man 2', for example, may have featured more hardware than its predecessor, but the fact that it both started and ended at Stark Expo signaled that the title character wasn't going to be tackling anything on a global scale, except possibly Tony Stark's own ego.)
But after taking a tour of the 'Green Lantern' story, told to a phalanx of journalists by the film's producer, Donald De Line, this film feels big in the way that blockbusters of old did – think 'The Last Starfighter' with better jewelry, or even something on the galactic scale of 'Star Wars.' There will be aerial battles in planes, journeys through the deepest reaches of space, and fights that play out against entire continents. And this massive canvas is also why the filmmakers were unable at Comic-Con to show audiences more of the film; Warner Brothers is putting their full muscle behind the movie, and the reason we aren't seeing more is because it simply isn't ready. And for once, that's a good thing, since what longtime fans and eager newcomers both want is a movie that surprises them, blows them away, and more than anything feels like it's been fully rendered – not just technically but conceptually. And judging by the work we saw in New Orleans, it has been.
A final note about that Green Lantern suit: first of all, the images on the cover of Entertainment Weekly were not finished; second, the suit is not made of spandex or body armor, it's biological, which is why it has a different look and texture than the super-suits of other heroes. The film utilizes a really effective combination of practical and digital effects work to augment the look and abilities of the suit, including the ability to transform, while the ring's capabilities evolve over the course of the film – so that big green fist folks saw in the Comic-Con footage isn't the iceberg, it's just the tip.
But if my firsthand account of a visit to the set doesn't convince you that 'Green Lantern' will be the movie to beat next year, at least reserve judgment until you see the first trailer in November on the front of the next 'Harry Potter' movie. Or, in lieu of that, until you get a chance to read the comments of the filmmakers themselves, including Campbell, Reynolds and Mark Strong, whose commitment and passion for the material already elevates it above the majority of the comic book adaptations being produced. Of course, whether that passion translates to interest in the film remains to be seen, but as a Green Lantern neophyte, I was duly convinced at least that the movie was going to be something unique and special, and that's why even after learning so many of its story details and secrets, I'm more eager than ever to see the finished product.
'The Green Lantern' hits theaters on June 17th, 2011.