Green Lantern fever has been burning its way across the internet since the debut of the trailer for the Ryan Reynolds starrer, and even though that film is still half a year away, the script for the sequel is already being worked on at the same time that one is being pulled together for the big screen debut of The Flash. And one of the common threads between all three is co-writer Marc Guggenheim.
Currently serving as a consulting producer on the superhero drama No Ordinary Family, and having credits that have included such television shows as Eli Stone and FlashForward, the ever-busy Guggenheim took the time to discuss Green Lantern 2 and The Flash.
Superhero sequels have a tendency to overload themselves with villains. Do you think that will be a challenge of Green Lantern 2, keeping Hal Jordan front and centre while still making his opponent or opponents fully fleshed out?
I think that’s the challenge of every superhero movie. But, you know, I saw someone comment online that the first Green Lantern already follows the superhero sequel pattern of having two villains instead of one – and so did Batman Begins, by the way – so I feel that we’ve already faced this challenge and overcome it with the first movie. The trick is always giving the protagonist a compelling arc and never forgetting that it’s his movie, no matter how many villains you might have.
Green Lantern has often been referred to as a cross between Star Wars and a superhero film. Using the Star Wars analogy, Star Wars was very much a straight-ahead adventure story while The Empire Strikes Back was much more complex. Do you see the Green Lantern films following the same kind of approach?
I think [fellow Green Lantern screenwriters] Michael [Goldenberg], Greg [Berlanti] and I are always striving for a certain amount of complexity in any film we write. When you’re doing a trilogy, your middle chapter is always the darkest because that’s basic three-act structure: end the second act in as dark a place as you can manage. Empire didn’t establish this pattern, it’s just a great example of it.
Looking at the first Green Lantern, in your opinion what do you think Martin Campbell and Ryan Reynolds bring to the project?
They’re both perfectly suited for the movie and material. Martin understands the language of blockbuster movies in general and superheroes (Zorro, James Bond) in particular. The movie requires a director with an epic vision and the wherewithal to create an epic scope and Martin’s had both from day one – I’ve never seen him not have a very firm grasp on who Green Lantern is as a character and concept and what the movie needs to be to see that brought to life. As for Ryan… I’ve seen footage cut together and he’s probably the best fit between cast and character since Christopher Reeve and Superman. He carries this movie on his shoulders. I think Ryan’s a star of a certain caliber, but after this movie, his career will be on another level entirely.
It’s been established that Michael, Greg and you are also writing The Flash. What’s the appeal of the character of Barry Allen and The Flash for you?
The Flash – to me – is about pure expression. Flash is untethered to the limitations of time and space – he can be everywhere at once and with that, I think, comes a certain freedom. Who hasn’t wanted to be faster? To get someplace quicker? And because Flash does so by means of running – instead of, say, flying or teleporting – there’s an athleticism to the wish fulfillment that other superheroes don’t have. When Greg, Michael and I are talking about the character, we speak a lot in athletic terms. There’s a component of this movie that’s a lot like a sports movie, at least in terms of the language and physicality and mental toughness in what the Flash goes through.
The general audience familiar with The Flash may look at him as the superhero who runs really fast and not see much beyond that. For those people, how would you define the complexities of this character?
Well, it’s all about who the character – in this case, Barry Allen – is before he gets his powers. We spent a lot of time talking about who Barry is and, specifically, why he’s the kind of guy we want to see get these powers bestowed on him. What’s missing in his life? What problems does he have? What personal foibles? And how are all those things impacted by the ability to run fast? I don’t want to spoil the answers that we came up with, but this was very much our approach: You make running fast interesting by creating a character who is challenged and fulfilled by getting the ability to run fast.
In our minds, The Flash is in the same position Iron Man was as far as mainstream audiences: a known quantity by name, but pretty much an empty canvas beyond that. Do you agree with that?
I don’t think any superhero is an “empty canvas,” per se, because even if the mainstream audience doesn’t know about him or her, the comic book community does and you always want to honor what they love about the character. In the case of the older, Silver Age characters, the trick is to dramatise their back stories in a way that feels modern and fresh. You always want to be informed by the source material and draw inspiration from it. For example, we always try to avoid creating a new character when it’s possible to draw from the cast established by the comic.