Has it happened? Have we exhausted the genre? Is it time to stop making superhero movies? Let's take a closer look at the Green Lantern trailer and its similarities to every other superhero movie.
Origin Story (See Iron Man)
The very first time we see Hal Jordan, he's in bed with a random blonde with whom he just had awesome, anonymous, beautiful-people sex. He immediately hops out of bed, abandoning her in favor of heading out to work.
This establishes Jordan as a freewheeling playboy, someone who is good with women but has to sprint to work in the morning because he forgot to set his alarm. A reckless guy with flexible morals. This is done to establish that Hal -- a cocky, immature, possible womanizer -- is the last person you'd expect to be a superhero. It would be a nice set up, if it wasn't already exactly done in Iron Man.
It's not too clear, but trust me when I tell you that it's a screenshot from Iron Man that shows Tony in bed with a random blonde that he just met (the reporter from Brown). It's one of the first scenes of the film and establishes Tony has a cocky seducer. And, of course, in the morning, Tony abruptly leaves for work, abandoning the woman, just like Hal. It should be pointed out that the Jordan character from the comics isn't some kind of playboy -- he's a space cop. The creators of this movie had to consciously decide that they wanted to intentionally make their character more like Tony Stark, and then consciously decide that they wanted to establish his characteristics by behaving the same way Tony Stark does. That no one stood up in the brainstorming meeting and said, "Hey, wait, they did this movie already," is mind-boggling.
If that's not enough, in the Green Lantern trailer, after Jordan leaves, we see his blonde looking dumbfounded, and wordlessly staring straight ahead wearing nothing but a sheet.
Nice. But where have I seen that before?
Oh, right, it happened in Iron Man after Tony's abrupt departure. Both movies use the same action to establish that their protagonists are bed-hopping man-boys, and they top it all off with the exact same image.
Superpowers (See Superman: The Movie)
We see a few seconds of Hal's pre-Lantern life in the trailer. He drives fast cars, he's a stunt pilot doing things that are important, he dreams big and is stunningly pretty, like a woman.
He's just ... beautiful.
Then, of course, everything changes due to some bizarre accident. Now, if I was going to attack one comic for utilizing the tired, overused "hero gets powers through ridiculous space/science-related accident," I'd have to attack all of them, and I don't want to do that because I don't want Spider-Man to be mad at me. I can, however, focus specifically on how Hal's powers show up in the film. Hal is off somewhere in the middle of nowhere, he stares into the distance at a bright light and then immediately travels to the source of the light to find a flaming crater, in which sits a strange creature with amazing abilities. Let's take a look at this beat by beat, but let's do it while also looking at the trailer for Superman: The Movie.
Superman is one of the most famous superheroes of all time. At no point in your movie-making process did you ever stop and think, Hey, we should make sure this isn't exactly like a popular superhero movie that already exists?
With Great Power Comes I Can't Believe We're Using This Character Arc Again (See Plenty of Superhero Movies, or Even Superhero Movie Probably)
If trailers are supposed to be foreplay, the makers of the Green Lantern movie are like the giant hand-less babies of sex (which is to say, they are bad at it). This trailer completely blows its load all over the place and leaves nothing to the imagination. You see Hal Jordan's beginnings, you see him getting the ring that gives him power, you see him abandoning the ring, abdicating his duties and finally, you see him donning his costume and accepting his responsibility, emerging as a hero. Because he has to, dammit.
Same as Spider-Man. Same as Spider-Man 2. Same as Ben Grimm's arc in Fantastic Four and everyone else's arc in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Bullshit CGI. Same as The Dark Knight.
There are probably more, but the point is, when you've already got four or five movies where the one sentence summary could be "An ordinary person is given an amazing gift, refuses the responsibility of that gift but eventually mans up, makes sacrifices and becomes the hero the world needs," why would you need to make another one? We told that story, we got it, we nailed it, move on. Comics are full of interesting, unique and complex stories, but Hollywood is screwing that up by making the same movie over and over and over again. If I wanted to watch some guy covered in a bunch of green CGI slowly come to terms with the fact that he needs to accept his new role as a superhero, I'd watch The Incredible Hulk, except I wouldn't because it is a shitpile.
Recycled Female Lead (See Iron Man 1 and 2)
Because audiences are evidently incapable of appreciating a movie that doesn't have a romantic subplot (even if that movie is about magic cop monsters fighting space crimes), Green Lantern features one of those classic, timeless love stories, like the one found in Iron Man, or Iron Man 2. Already in the trailer you can tell a) that Blake Lively's no-nonsense character isn't a fan of Hal Jordan's shit and b) she most certainly will be by the end of the movie. Their dynamic is clear the first time you see them together: Blake puts on a serious face and talks about how important their job is, and Jordan takes his pants off.
How will these two total opposites ever get over their diff- Oh, crap, before I could finish typing that sentence, the trailer advanced twenty seconds and it was clear that Blake and Jordan are about to kiss.
So, without even needing to see the movie, you know that the female lead's arc is that she starts off being disgusted by the cocky, male protagonist's cocky maleness and ends up coming around and falling in love with the man inside. Aaaannnddd....
Nailed it. God forbid you have a female character in a superhero movie whose interest is not based entirely on the fact that her boyfriend is a superhero. Let's go ahead and reinforce the idea that it doesn't matter if you're arrogant, reckless or objectively terrible; women only care about power and/or cool suits.
Halfway through my list and I still haven't found a single original moment in the trailer.
Villains We've Already Seen (See Iron Man 2, X2)
We don't get a whole lot of information on Green Lantern's villain, Hector Hammond, in the trailer, we just see him walking around looking absurd. According to Wikipedia, Hammond discovers a meteor that grants people heightened intellectual powers. He kidnaps four scientists, exposes them to the meteor and forces them to design brilliant new inventions, which he sells in order to become a rich and famous inventor.
Remember Iron Man 2? It also featured a villain who became rich and famous after using a brilliant scientist to design weapons and various other inventions. But that was totally different. See, in Green Lantern the guy's name is "Hammond," and in Iron Man 2, it's "Hammer."
Several of the letters are different, you see.
Here are some of Green Lantern's enemies from the comics:
-A guy whose tattoos come to life and attack people;
-A mutated Tiger Shark;
-An alien magician;
-A shape-shifting alien;
-Just a mess of robots;
-A giant gorilla;
Any one of those things could have been the main villain, but the creators of this movie chose a corrupt manufacturer, like Hammer, or Norman Osbourn.
Over a giant talking gorilla.
Eventually, being rich and famous isn't enough for Hammond, so he exposes himself to the meteor to expand his intelligence. The exposure renders him completely paralyzed and unable to speak, but he does gain psychic powers, including the ability to control the minds of other people. A villain with a totally useless body but an unbelievably powerful mind. That's pretty unique, if you haven't seen X2.
That's Jason Stryker, who you may recall as the silent, paralyzed, wildly powerful psychic mutant who got inside Professor Xavier's head. Or maybe you recall him as Hector Hammond, I don't know, I've completely lost track at this point.
So it looks like the formula for Hammond is Hammer + Jason, though that doesn't feel complete. I think it's the visuals; there's something familiar about the look of Hammond, I feel like I've seen him before, I just can't place it.
Additional Unapologetic Similarities
I don't make very many trailers for big budget Hollywood blockbusters, (in fact I probably don't make any at all), but my Spider Sense tells me that a good rule of thumb would be to not copy other movies. If you want to stand out and avoid potentially unfavorable comparisons with successful movies, maybe take a look at your trailer before releasing it and make sure it doesn't look like a rip-off of another movie.
Now, I don't want to split hairs, or anything, but here's how The Dark Knight starts off:
We see dark blue smoke and fire moving in slow motion, out of which the Batman symbol will emerge. The color is appropriate for the character and it symbolizes the chaos and destruction that's about to follow. Here's a still from the Green Lantern trailer:
It's a small thing, it has nothing to do with the plot and it says nothing about the quality of the movie, but come fucking on. If you're a superhero movie and you're trying to stand out, when designing your title cards, maybe try not to do the exact same thing that the most successful superhero movie of all time did with their title cards.
It's just so overdone, it's almost as bad as ending your trailer with a majestic shot of your hero triumphantly flying through the air alone.
When not thoughtlessly criticizing the film genre he loves so much, Daniel O'Brien is fighting cancer with his face all month long. Here's how you can help him.