The world may never forget the abysmal Green Lantern movie with Ryan Reynolds (Free Guy). It was so much of a trainwreck that it made Fox more nervous about a Deadpool movie as the studio did not want a blockbuster-sized bomb that Warner Bros. got with the actor. Well, guess what? The green-ringed hero was going to get a movie years before that would have starred Jack Black (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, The Next Level), and it would have been just as bad, if not worse.
Before Jack Black got thrown into the conversation, Warner Bros. was trying to make a movie off the hero since 1997. All kinds of people were being discussed to tackle the project, most notably Kevin Smith (Clerks), who turned down the project.
Eventually, the film was pitched as a comedy where Robert Smigel (Saturday Night Live) would have written it. He told Vanity Fair about the experience. While Jack Black was not attached to the project, the studio told the writer to have the Tenacious D singer in mind. Since the two knew one another, Smigel asked Black, who declined initially due to the superhero genre until the script was done and the Jumanji actor read the script and was sold on the idea.
The idea of making a Green Lantern comedy with Jack Black made sense on paper. A guy getting thrust into this position when he should not be could make for some good laughs, especially if he makes goofy objects with the power of his ring. Unfortunately, things started to go downhill pretty quickly.
The first draft of the Jack Black movie, which made its way online, went through rewrites. That is not a sign of trouble, as rewriting is a part of the process for anything, especially a longer-form piece like a book or screenplay. What marked the red flag was the studio making notes that it should pivot away from Green Lantern and be a fictional, brand new hero that is not based on an already established character, although that defeated the purpose of making a comedy about this iconic DC superhero.
Another bump in the road came from Jack Black. Well, not necessarily because the actor caused trouble, but the news of him taking on a beloved DC character sparked a backlash from the fans. It also stung that it was a comedy and not something a little more serious. While the writer aimed to take the character seriously, it was not viewed that way by fans who read the leaked first draft.
To properly understand the fuss from fans and the studio, we need to look at what went out into the world when it was leaked. The Jack Black movie would have been inspired by the comic book run Emerald Dawn. It started off as a typical origin story for Hal Jordan in a world where superheroes are so normalized that secret identities are not a big deal, and it is no surprise when a new face arrives to save the day. The twist to this origin story was that the ring gets to a lazy Atlanta resident named Jud Plato, who featured little details as Warner already had its heart set on its leading man.
What we knew about the character that Jack Black would have played was that he starred in a reality series that was reminiscent of Fear Factor. If it hit the big screen, audiences would have been introduced to the character in the middle of the show with him eating a coyote head. He would have been a loser at a dead-end job with a tense relationship with his family, a crush on his boss, and would rely on his best friend, Seth.
In today’s lens, the film with Jack Black would not look good. It would feature immature sex jokes, Jud using his powers to create sex toys, and heavy use of “gay” as an insult. Based on the script, it would have aimed for the typical bro-styled comedy that has shifted in recent years.
The story would have seen Sinestro take the ring away from Jack Black as he would be deemed not worthy of the power and responsibility. He would have taken over Earth, making humans follow his rules like how to dress and groom themselves.
The finale would have revealed that Sinestro was responsible for the ring getting into the hands of Jack Black by manipulating Abin Sur’s signal. Under Sinestro’s rule, the Tchk-Tchkii would attack, but Jud stands up to prove his worth by defeating both enemies.
With a 2011 bomb and a canned Jack Black movie, Green Lantern has had a bad run at attempting big screen translations. As DC fiddles with its movies, maybe one day the fans will be made happy with a satisfying adaptation.