Jack Black, Robert Smigel, and the GREEN LANTERN That Might Have Been

Ska-doozh!Missed opportunities. Wasted potential. Dodged bullets.

Whatever you may call them, development hell is overcrowded with comic book movies that never came to be. If you’ve been a superhero fan for any length of time, you’ve spent many a stray moment anticipating/fretting over some of these unrealized masterpieces. Remember Superman Vs. Batman, by the writer of Se7en? What about Catwoman, starring Michelle Pfeiffer? I had been dreading Tom Cruise’s Iron Man for years before Jon Favreau stepped up. I probably don’t even need to mention James Cameron’s horrifically tone-deaf Spider-Man treatment from the eighties, or the interminable Superman project that would waste the time of everyone from J.J. Abrams to Kevin Smith to Tim Burton to McG.

(What ever happened to that David Goyer movie about Green Arrow breaking out of prison? That may need to go on the list.)

As Ryan Reynolds' Green Lantern movie comes out this week, it’s worth remembering that this project was another one that began as something very different the first time many of us heard about it. Six or seven years ago, Green Lantern was supposed to be a Jack Black movie. At least one draft of the script by Robert Smigel (You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, TV Funhouse, many a Saturday Night Live/Conan O’Brien sketch) made it across the finish line. Then it made it onto the internet.

I read that script this week, and I guess you can too. But just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. I am not endorsing this as a use for your afternoon.

It took a lot of pages before I was even convinced the script I was reading wasn’t an elaborate put-on. In the end, I decided it had to be real because I couldn’t fathom anyone sitting down and writing all 132 pages of it if they weren’t being paid. I still haven’t decided whether it’s genius or hogwash, but I have a leaning.

Smigel avoids Hal and his friends entirely; his Green Lantern is a shlubby Ikea employee named Jud Plato, who is chosen by the ring when it sees him eat a raw coyote head on Fear Factor. Once chosen, Jud uses the ring over the objections of his nerdy friend Seth (those names were part of what made me wonder if the script was some kind of faked swipe at Team Apatow) to selfishly generate projections to improve his own life. Green elves and inexplicably Hispanic green maids clean up after him. He makes green hotties to feed him grapes while he watches TV. He projects a sassy African-American woman to trash talk a villain. He traps some bad guys in a giant condom.

The movie essentially asks, “What if the mask in The Mask was a ring?”

Eventually, the Guardians tire of Jud’s childishness and take him back to Oa for training, where he meets and mocks some of the more alien Green Lanterns before eventually bringing Kilowog back to earth with him for a meal at Olive Garden. After spending a day at home with Jud, Kilowog immediately begins a hilarious alcoholic spiral into your Earth gutters.

At one point, Jud calls Abin Sur “Deady.” This is while watching him die.

It’s really something.

That’s not to say I didn’t laugh a few times. Sinestro’s attempted takeover of Earth, during which he gives a cat a mustache just like his and commands everyone on the planet to buy matching outfits from Nordstrom, was something I didn’t know I needed until I had it. I’m just not sure who they thought this movie was for. There’s no way the language in the script would have made it to the toy-selling screen. I never needed to see Xax talking about getting laid. The ring projects an act involving Elmo and Barbara Walters' breasts that I will not describe even if you e-mail me privately.

I have no idea what Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern will be like. You may love it. You may not. If you don’t, though, don’t be too hard on it. You almost got something very, very different.

 

sweet Photoshop action courtesy of Ryan J. Haupt

Comments

  1. It sounds like we dodged a HUGE bullet with this never being made.

    The fact that Jack Black was considered for Hal Jordan is more then enough problems for me. 

  2. Conor Kilpatrick conor (@cskilpatrick) says:

    @TheNextChampion  From the article:

    “Smigel avoids Hal and his friends entirely; his Green Lantern is a shlubby Ikea employee named Jud Plato…”

  3. @conor: Wow, so I made a mistake. Thanks for pointing it out!

  4. Conor Kilpatrick conor (@cskilpatrick) says:

    @TheNextChampion  No problem.

  5. Jim Mroczkowski Jimski (@jimski) says:

    All of this energy could be channeled into both of you talking about how great my article is.

    I had to read this whole script without commenting. The validation payoff is going to have to be phenomenal. 

  6. azrael1213 azrael1213 says:

    Wow. Just… I don’t… Wha-…

    The only question is whether knowing this will make your viewing experience of Green Lantern better, or will it still be hurtful watching this adaptation of Hal. 

  7. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    As dangerous as Jack Black is now, those platinum highlights years were particularly volatile. 

  8. SirSullymore SirSullymore says:

    I’m so down for Sinestro ‘stache-a-fying stuff in the actual movie.

  9. I think seeing the name Robert Smigel (this is the right name right?) is all you need to realize this wasn’t going to be a serious Green Lantern film.

  10. Hm alot of this dose not sound funny but I would be open to a comedy based around a comic book property like a I remember a daffy duck cartoon where daffy duck gets Hal jordans ring and costume from the dry cleaner and becomes a green lantren Kevin smith was Hal jordan anyway I think that a case of superhero mistaken identy could provide alot of high jinks for a good comic book comedy movie great article jimski

  11. s1lentslayer s1lentslayer says:

    I’ll rely on your summary and not read the whole thing, Jim:) Hollywood really is crazy.

  12. RonSwanson RonSwanson says:

    The new movie is not much worse than this.

  13. kennyg kennyg says:

    Did Jack Black fight a giant spider in the last act?

  14. Smasher says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but wasn’t there a pitch to do Green Lantern movie starring Eddie Murphy back in the 90s?

  15. Smasher says:

    I’ll correct me… Eddie Murphy was in contention to play GL in the 1980s.
    (http://splitsider.com/2011/04/the-lost-roles-of-eddie-murphy)

  16. Jim Mroczkowski Jimski (@jimski) says:

    @Smasher  I don’t know about Green Lantern, but in the eighties (pre-Tim Burton, post-Adam West) there was a lot of talk about Bill Murray as Batman and Eddie Murphy as Robin. Which somehow I am glad never happened and desperately wish I could see simultaneously.

    This article could have been three times longer, by the way. I keep thinking, “And what about the part where they– !”

  17. MaxPower MaxPower says:

    Jim, you suffered for us. I, for one, thank you. Horrible film it no doubt would have been, however imagine a tongue and cheek comic staring Guy Gardener in these situations and drawn by Skottie Young could be amazing.

  18. Smasher says:

    @Jimski Say word. That would have been F-R-E-S-H. Fresh Fresh Fresh. That’s Fresh.

    @ I think we have a new stunt casting article for you. “Remake & Reboot: Batman & Robin (1985)

  19. EgonSpengler EgonSpengler says:

    Wow……

  20. RaceMcCloud RaceMcCloud says:

    What’s really interesting about this (I just read it) is that it really, really gets the Green Lantern mythology right. Also, everyone is here and pretty much in-character… except for Hal Jordan, or Kyle Rayner, or Guy Gardner, or John Stewart. It’s like fan-fiction Green Lantern starring the guy Jack Black plays in every movie.

  21. Tork Tork says:

    I almost wish we had this over what I’m guessing the Green Lantern movie is going to be.  Both were going to fail by the sound of it but if it was the Jack Black movie, the studio would have figured, “Well, we should have taken this more seriously.”  I fear now they’ll just figure, “Well, Green Lantern sucks.”  Though I might be too naive in thinking they won’t think the latter regardless of the actual movie was.

  22. timvargulish timvargulish says:

    hmn you’d think that a comic book company owned by a movie company would know how to make good comic book movies. As awful as this sound I’m kinda interested to see what this would have been like, sometimes bad movies can be kinda entertaining like that fantastic four movie from the 90s. 

  23. I would love to have seen this movie. I’d rather see something new and different from the superhero movies at this point. Robert Smigel is a funny writer. Maybe we’ll get lucky and see this as a comic someday, but this feel like a missed opportunity to do something different and funny rather then a dodged bullet. 

  24. Jeff Reid JeffR (@JeffRReid) says:

    From now on, whenever someone asks me who my favorite Green Lantern is (which is totally a thing that happens to me constantly), I’m going to say Jud Plato just so I can be all hip and underground and shit.

    But seriously, it’s Kyle. 

  25. OttoBott OttoBott says:

    Y’know, it would’ve been, at least, different from the same ‘ol superhero origin that we’ve seen 20+ times already.

  26. If they made this movie instead instead of the one that is actually coming out, there is a chance I would actually go to see it. This sounds FAR better than the real GL movie to me.

  27. So wait, what’s the real one about?

  28. JK I would totally see this.

  29. Matrix Matrix says:

    The most important dodged bullet here is the one Jimski took for us. In a un/fair world this would exist with some name changes, something like Captain Fist or Power Punch, along with the Chris Farley (well frank caliendo doing chris farley) movie about the a caped crusader.

  30. JSAkid JSAkid says:

    This slightly elaborate sketch is a hilarious double parody and is obviously a joke and if made would be a screwball comedy, if anyone thinks this would be a real GL movie and DC would let it happen is smokin rocks.lol.

  31. Jim Mroczkowski Jimski (@jimski) says:

    And–! And–!

    I’m still trying to parse the way Smigel handles superheroes in this world. In this script, when Jud becomes the Green Lantern, everyone on earth knows what a Green Lantern is. There’s a running joke: whenever someone sees Green Lantern, they say, “He’s like the tenth most popular superhero!” Even though Abin Sur just got there and there’s no Hal Jordan, they seem to have the Superfriends cartoon or something.

    Not to mention the fact that everyone is acting like Superman is real, but they also all saw Richard Donner’s Superman movie. Jud saves the day at one point by projecting a Superman construct and making him circle the earth until it goes backwards and reverses time. It… it….

    I am getting the feeling that I will forget the movie by the time I’m in the theater parking lot but I’ll be puzzling over this script for the rest of my life. 

  32. Jim Mroczkowski Jimski (@jimski) says:

    Vanity Fair interviewed Robert Smigel about this script, and his take on things remains interesting and good-humored:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/online/oscars/2011/06/exclusive-robert-smigel-on-his-lost-script-for-a-green-lantern-comedy-starring-jack-black.html