This subject is not my specific focus as of today, but I was recently asked to pitch an idea for a Green Lantern movie. I had a good one on an old Reddit post that was fading to obscurity at the bottom of a huge list of Reddit comments, so I thought I would paste it to my blog and clean it up. I want to have this movie pitch on my blog so people can see how I approach movie creation at this stage in my understanding of the subject. This is really a message in how to build a story from theme as opposed to building one from plot or from visuals.
I would do a Green Lantern movie with John Stewart as the hero and minimal involvement from the Oans and the rest of the Green Lantern Corps. John Stewart doesn’t trample Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan and works with Zack Snyder’s Green Lantern cameos as well. The message of the movie would center around the relationship between human consciousness and material reality. You know, philosophical realism vs. idealism, constructivism, etc. Is the spoon here because I see it? That whole philosophy. (Referencing the Buddhist line from the Matrix: “There is no spoon…only you…”
In the story, John runs up against a foe so powerful he just doesn’t have enough willpower to defeat the foe. He does everything he can to increase his willpower (analogous to a wizard using various incantations and rituals to make his spells work). Still no avail. But at some point during the movie he learns from some source that the way to obtain infinite willpower is by having faith in something true. Like, “you may try to convince yourself the sky is pink, but I KNOW it’s blue, therefore, NO MATTER WHAT you tell me about the sky, my understanding is correct.” That kind of idea.
Basically, once John finds unshakeable faith in this truth that he absolutely has 100% certainty of, his ring becomes infinitely powerful with respect to anything pertaining to that truth, and with that, he is able to defeat the foe.
While the first GL movie was about courage vs. fear, this one would be about faith in truth.
Finally, to give an emotional aspect, this truth that John finds ultimate faith in in order to give his ring infinite power should be a love story. A female love interest probably, but maybe a family love or potentially some sort of other passion, though the love of a woman is easiest to build the best scenes and dialogue around.
I’d have to think about specific plot forms to express that, but there was an old movie “Krull” that gives a form of it. If you see that movie, think of the line, “Lyssa, it’s not the glaive. It’s US.” Not to say the GL movie would have to ape that pattern, but it’s a form of the “certainty of love gives infinite power” idea that would make for a good theme to underlie a GL movie given the rings’ relationship to human will. You want to send the message to the kids that you get infinite willpower when it’s not about willpower anymore. The “I think I can” mentality only gets you so far. The infinitely strong willpower is not when you think it is, but when you KNOW it is, and the only way you get that is to have absolute certainty of the truth. Absolute certainty of the truth of love will uplift the audience.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.1 Corinthians 13:13
Drawing from my own personal life, I went through a period where I was convinced that a woman cared about me despite all evidence running contrary to that. In my life, well, it didn’t turn out. Or I’ll say we will never know how it turned out. But in this story, John could gain faith in the love of a woman despite evidence he sees being contrary to that, but the audience knows she actally does love him, and he gains absolutely certainty of her love, which gives him a form of infinite power, and then in the end, after the foe is defeated, his faith is directly confirmed, and they live happily ever after in love. Hopefully that is an example of a good way to tie a romance to this idea of certainty of truth being more powerful than just making up whatever you want.
Once you give the writers the message, they can build the dialog cleverly. The director should organize the scenes. Run time, number of action scenes, slow scenes, love scenes, dialogue scenes, etc. So the movie is perfectly paced around the storyboards. THEN write the script. Theme > scenes > plot details > script. That should be the sequence of development. And though you want the script last, you don’t want to pull a Favreau like he did when he started shooting Iron Man without a script. However, building a script from a developed movie is superior to buying a written script off a screenwriter and then making a bunch of scenes out of it, shredding it in the process, and then getting told by corporate to switch everything around, etc.
Before talking visuals, we need to address the sound problems plaguing both science fiction and superheroes. All the movies are still doing John Williams and Hans Zimmer for sound. A few are doing classic rock. James Gunn pioneered that kind of sound in Guardians of the Galaxy along with David Ayer in Suicide Squad. I’m thinking the sound for this Green Lantern movie should go indie. Trip hop, dream pop, doom metal. Action scenes should not be guitar-based, but bass and funk based.
If James Gunn doesn’t want to do it himself, look at bringing Jordan Peele in. I was impressed by his photography in Us. He colored wardrobe with landscape and architecture and made a lot of shots with an aethetic for symmetry in moving shots that you’d find in a still photographer. He might have an avant garde sense for photography that can pull off what I will describe below. Of course, Zack Snyder will be a great choice for any superhero movie leaning on visual intensity like I am about to tell you about.
So now to visuals. This is the lanterns. Their power, their distinctive, is literally about color. The effects in this film should only be able to be described as kaleidoscopic. The rings should have different effects depending on their strength and the mood and goals of the lanterns. Every conceivable shade of green should come into the mix. Sometimes crystalline, sometimes shimmering, sometimes opaque, etc. Furthermore, green should be at the center of the color spectrum, so rays and objects can be based on green but have elements of other colors such as red, blue, purple, etc. Just no yellow, for obvious reasons. An entire team of effects designers should be tasked to turn the human soul into light. The constructs the rings produce should mirror the soul of the lantern. His mood, confidence, personality, and situation. It should be the most beautiful superhero movie anyone will ever see. Lucy in the sky with diamonds. There should be fewer physical constructs such as creating a bat to hit an enemy with. When physical constructs are used, they should be powerful scene cappers. Think of Dr. Manhattan’s palace on Mars (yeah, ask Zack for some ideas). Otherwise, “constructs” should be rays, webs, clouds, crystalline forms, wormholes, whirlpools, pulses, stars, etc.
Since we are talking about issues of belief, certainty, perception, knowledge, consciousness, will, and love, certain scenes should contain a psychedelic or mindbending effect. This should be about the mind, soul, and heart. Of course not all the scenes should be like this, but we want to transcend the common trope that a Green Lantern relies solely on the creation of physical objects to enact his will. Again, we have seen enough of a Lantern defeating his foe by creating a gigantic flying chainsaw to take him down. Yeah, we can have that, and should have that in some scenes to create continuity with the comics, cartoons, and the 2011 movie, but reliance on physical objects for constructs should be transcended.
Green Lanterns should operate more like the magic user class from Dungeons and Dragons. Remember, Alan Scott was originally adapted from Aladdin and his magic lamp. The D&D wizard could indeed create a physical object to kill you with, such as the “magic missile” spell or the “fire ball” spell, but he could also put you to sleep, confuse your mind so you killed your friends, create rifts to other dimensions to banish you to or bring in demons to take you down, etc.
Fight scenes should contain this kind of diversity. Yet this variety in effects should pervade supporting scenes as well, such as travel scenes, knowledge gaining scenes, etc. Imagine scenes like Patrick Stewart’s Professor X using Cerebro but with kaleidoscopic green everywhere. Traveling by warping through dimensions, etc. I do caveat that the weirdness and diversity I describe should make itself distinct from the Dr. Strange movies. I realize that I am going in that direction with these descriptions, but we don’t need buildings turning into clockwork gears and the like. But a nod toward Dungeons and Dragons should give the vibe I am trying to convey. Look at Carlos Castenada’s novels about the Yaqui shamen for inspiration as well. Imagine a Green Lantern turning into a spirit wolf and coming after you. Since the movie ultimately is expressing issues of consciousness (the primacy of certainty of truth…in love), there should be a psychedelic vibe that is reinforced by the diverse visual effects, the Bristol Sound soundtrack, etc
Of course, this movie should filmed be in conjunction with JL2 and 3. We can’t not finish the quintet. If Warner can’t do it, it should go to Netflix since that’s where all the superhero talent seems to be going.
So that’s my pitch for a Green Lantern movie. No, I do not have a specific villain in mind. No, I don’t know who should be cast as John. I’m going to say Wayne T. Carr, as he seems to understand superhero movies better than most. But the specifics can be addressed as the plot takes shape by casting agents, screenwriters, and the director and assistant directors. This pitch is more about how to build a story from underlying theme and then clothing that story is properly paced scenes, sounds, and visual effects BEFORE hammering yourself down with specific plot details. That’s how I would tackle making a Green Lantern movie that is truly monumental, profound, and distinct from the rest of the genre.