So in this week's paper version of the Mercury, we won't have a review of Warner Bros.' Green Lantern, one of the summer's biggest blockbusters. Sorry, nerds!
While it's not uncommon for movies to be kept from the press (even if for some goddamn reason we had wanted to, critics weren't allowed to witness the glory of Marmaduke or Gulliver's Travels), what is uncommon is for a film as big as Green Lantern to screen after our press deadlines. To be fair, Green Lantern is technically screening for press—but it's not doing so until Wednesday at 7 pm, barely a day before the film opens at 12:01 am on Friday, and long after papers like the Mercury are on the streets. Come to think of it, Green Lantern's screening strategy isn't unlike that of another Warner Bros. flick, Sucker Punch, which screened for Portland critics at 10 pm on the Wednesday before it opened. But hey, that turned out great, right?
I couldn't get a solid answer on why Green Lantern isn't screening earlier—despite some last-minute panicking, it's certainly finished, as it was shown to theater owners and film bookers last week—other than to be told by the film's regional publicist that it was a nationwide decision on Warner Bros. behalf, and one that's possibly piracy-related.
It's weird, though. Even if—like most movies that are kept from critics until the last minute—Green Lantern turns out to be an embarrassment, it seems like Warner Bros. would want all the publicity they could get. The stakes with this one are pretty high, as the Times points out:
Just as Green Lantern is an effort by Mr. Reynolds to redefine his career, the picture represents a bid by the studio to create a superhero franchise outside of Gotham City or Metropolis. Batman and Superman are huge multiplex forces, and new cinematic adventures for both are on their way, but Warner has tried and failed for years to bring the likes of Wonder Woman, the Flash, Justice League and Green Lantern to the screen. (Let’s not even bring up Catwoman.)
All the while Marvel Entertainment, now owned by the Walt Disney Company, has catapulted one comic book character after another onto the big screen, most impressively the lesser-known Iron Man. If Marvel can turn Thor, a Viking with a magic hammer who travels by rainbow, into a box office hit, what’s the holdup at Warner, which has all of DC Comics at its disposal?
Green Lantern, which was once in development as a Jack Black comedy, is Warner’s first superhero release since making management changes at DC last year and more deeply integrating it into the studio’s development machinery. The pressure is intense not only because of the studio’s desire to compete with Marvel. The Harry Potter franchise ends in July, and Warner’s plan for replacing those riches turns squarely on DC characters. Green Lantern cost an estimated $300 million to make and market—on par with similar moves but still expensive. And buzz has been a problem. Although fans now seem to be on board, an early trailer was poorly received.
First, holy shit, a Jack Black comedy. Second, in talking about movies with people this weekend, two things came up: How much people are enjoying bitching and moaning about Super 8, and how no one who isn't a comics fanboy (A) knows or (B) cares who or what a Green Lantern is. The marketing isn't helping: Speaking of Super 8, that movie had a marketing scheme that was all about mystery, and it worked; so far, Green Lantern's ads have been about exposition—fully half of the below trailer is little more than tedious narration that sets up the film's concept, for chrissakes. According to my incredibly accurate and scientific polling practices (one survey took place next to a keg!), this is the sort of hyper-geeky tactic that makes the average moviegoer want to go see abso-fucking-lutely anything else. (The Zookeeper's trailer got a better reaction than Green Lantern's at the theater I was in on Saturday, which says... fuck, I don't know. Probably something about how incredible T.G.I. Friday's is.)
ANYWAY. We'll still have a review of Green Lantern this week—it'll only be online, though, instead of being both online and in print—and we'll see on Wednesday night if there's any particular reason the film's screening so late. As someone who's stoked that comic book movies are finally venturing beyond Spider-Man, Batman, and Wolverine—we certainly don't need this summer's five billion superhero flicks, but since that's what we're getting, at least they're starting to focus on weirder characters—I'd like nothing more than for Green Lantern to be all sorts of fun. But the fact they're keeping it from critics until just about the last minute? Not a big confidence booster, especially when most of this summer's other big movies—including Transformers: Dark of the Moon!—are screening early enough to give critics plenty of time to write their reviews.
O, Transformers 3! How I pray you'll include some more scenes of John Turturro looking at robot balls.