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