Hooray For Hollywood! The Answer To Your Question Is: Money

Todd Harrington, Contributing Writer

Hello! My name is Todd and I will be your humble(ish) guide through the sausage factory that is Hollywood. 

Or, to be more precise, I will be endeavoring to provide a window into aspects of the business of filmmaking that may seem odd, counterintuitive, byzantine and/or opaque. 

Very often, the reason things seem this way is because they are odd, counterintuitive, byzantine and/or opaque. 

They are this way for a reason and that reason is almost always "money".

When Twitch's Todd Brown invited me to write on the business of Hollywood (and by "Hollywood", I really mean the business of cinema in general as all of the market mechanics everywhere are based on what Hollywood has laid out), I was given a short, starter-list of topics that associates of Twitch thought would be interesting to explore and/or have explained:

"What exactly is an 'option' and how does it work?"

(Answer: it's a way to save money and will be explained in a future article.)

"Explain 'turnaround' to me and tell me how I can get the studio to do it to my project."

(I will explain that in a future article and you probably can't. The reason being: money.)

"What's with all the lawyers? Why aren't more contracts just, you know, 'standard'?"

(That would be: "money" and "money".)

At this point, you may be seeing a pattern here and you are seeing it because it really does exist. 

Hollywood, cinema, movies - whatever you call it, it's a business.

"It's art!"

Sorry, but no - it's actually the business of art, the place where craft and commerce collide, and it is all underpinned by money.

It costs money to make a movie. It costs money to market and distribute a movie. And it costs money to consume a movie (or it should, but we'll discuss both piracy and the Millennial concept of "free" in future articles).

That isn't to say that a kind of "pure art" in cinema, one nearly wholly divorced from the concept of money, doesn't exist. It does. It's just that most people will never get to see it.

To create "pure" cinema, you can get an artistic grant, but that is (duh) money and sometimes can come with artistic as well as non-artistic strings attached to it.

So how to do it without money involved?

Well, you can shoot a movie on your cell phone or a borrowed camera. Free.

You and your friends can volunteer your time making it. Free. (I'll waive the economic principles of opportunity-cost and the inherent capital cost of labor for now.)

When it's complete, you can post it on Vimeo or YouTube or another service (free) and you can generate word-of-mouth through your social network to get people to watch it (also free).

And at the end of all this, if you are a very social person with a large network, maybe a thousand people will have seen your work of "pure" art and that is awesome.

And, no, I'm not being sarcastic - you made your film your way, to communicate what you wanted to communicate the way you wanted to communicate it and people saw it.

That is awesome, it's a victory and - I will agree with you - it's probably "pure" art.

But most of the time what happens is, at some point shortly after all this, either you think or someone in your circle says: 

"You know what? We did a really good job with our film. I bet other people would like this, too, if only they could get to see it."

Uh-oh.

You are now about to cross the event-horizon into "commerce" and the more people you want to give the chance to see your film, the more money it is going to cost. 

And unless you have a very large bank account which you are willing to dive into, the money is coming from somewhere else. 

Which means someone else. 

Which means they will have requirements that need to be met which results (most likely) in compromises on the artistic side that will need to be made.

In this respect, cinema is little different from the modern music industry: the means of production - and even distribution - may be open to all for very little, but the ability to market to a wide audience remains capital intensive.

And money shouldn't be viewed as a wholly cynical element in the process. 

Sometimes, money actually drives better creative results.

Without Megan Ellison and her company's money, I'm pretty sure that Paul Thomas Anderson would still have been able to make The Master

But I am just about 100% positive that he would not have been able to make it in 70mm.

Years ago, I was brought in as a screenwriter to pitch a take on Green Lantern to the producers who had the rights at the time. In our first meeting, they seemed confused that I wanted to center the movie around Hal Jordan and his origin story.

(The comic book at the time was in the midst of the "Kyle Rayner" run, where a young art student becomes the last Green Lantern in the universe as opposed to Hal's lone-cop-in-a-larger-force.)

When I couldn't get them on board with the narrative purity of the "Lone Ranger in space" concept, I went a different route: I pointed out that while the "Hal Jordan" version had a history dating back to 1959 (and a fan base to go with it), the then-current Green Lantern comic-book was only selling around 25,000 copies a month.

With the average ticket price in the US around $6.00 at the time, I pointed out that if every Kyle-Rayner-as-Green-Lantern fan saw the movie three times over the weekend we would still be sitting on a gigantic bomb. 

"Pitch us Hank Jordan."

"Money" won me - what I felt, at least, was - a creative victory.

(When I pitched the full take a week later, one of the producers fell asleep and began snoring. I did not get the assignment. They lost the project a year later.)

The point of all of this is two-fold. The first thing is to share with you a short-hand that I have found to be true in twenty-years of working in Hollywood:

The answer is ALWAYS money.

Someone has it, someone else needs/wants it.

Or someone has it and wants even more of it.

But, almost always, money is the center of that craft/commerce crossroads.

"Why would they cast--"

Money.

"Why didn't they just--"

Money.

The second thing is this: none of this is, in and of itself, a bad thing.

While "compromise" seems like a dirty word when it is juxtaposed with "art", cinema, like theater before it, is a group art. The director may have a clear vision, but he or she is utilizing a cast and crew to achieve it, "painting with people". With that much human interaction, compromise isn't just the order of the day, it can be an asset, pushing people to find creative solutions to the barriers that the push/pull nature of compromise can create.

Even when the reason for the compromise is "money".

 

I am incredibly excited to be able to write for you guys and gals who read Twitch. 

As I told Todd Brown, Twitch has been my favorite film-oriented site for years and years and it is an honor to be associated with it.

One of the things that I love most about Twitch is the passion and interest of the readers of the site, as evidenced daily in the comments and conversations that erupt beneath the various articles.

To that point, while my focus here will be the "what" and the "how" of the mechanics of the film industry, I will also be offering you my take on the "why".

I sincerely hope you will engage with me in the comments section: share your own observations of "the Industry", challenge me on things you disagree with, suggest questions you have you'd like to see addressed/answered in an article. I love dialogue.

But above all, remember the sage words of William Goldman (and, no, I'm not referring to "Follow the money."). When writing on the strange beast that is Hollywood in Adventures In The Screen Trade, he gave us this ever-repeated truism:

"Nobody knows anything."

The answer may always be "money" but that doesn't mean the question was the right one.


Hooray For Hollywood! is a column on the business practices, philosophies, and mechanics of the Hollywood studio system, written by a veteran with first-hand experience.

Around the Internet:
  • Guy

    Thanks for the article.

    In response, I would like to raise some questions:

    1 - I don't dispute the centrality of money in the movie business, but I was wondering if the system has been changing over time or not. How does the situation today compare with the situation, say, in 1980, or 1960, or 1940? Spielberg, Lucas and others famous directors complained recently (was it last year?) about the system as it is now. Can anyone explain to me how things were really different in their youth?

    2 - While I don't want to reassert the radical opposition between money and art, it appears to me that "money" on its own still leaves room for a variety of options. After all, there are different business practices out there (different managing practices, different investment practices, etc.). So perhaps we should try to distinguish between different ways of "using" of money. Additionally, even the people who are in the movie business to make money and not art do not always succeed in making money. I believe that a lot of Hollywood projects fail to generate any profit at all (correct me if I'm wrong). So saying that people want to make money (instead of art) is not enough to explain what goes on from this point onward.

  • Short answer to part one is that the situation has changed fairly significantly thanks to changes in distribution models that have arisen as a result of increased bandwidth and increased piracy. When Spielberg was on the way up you could platform a film ... release it on a few screens in a few cities and let word of mouth spread. You could let the audience become the marketing and wait for word of mouth to spread and allow the time for audiences to find the movies because they would. They'd come out and see them in theaters. And so you had little British comedies like The Full Monty slowly spreading by word of mouth until six months or so after initial release they were still on screens having grossed over a hundred mil.

    With very, very, very few exceptions that never happens any more, particularly not with small films. Things are pirated and online so fast that you can't wait for word of mouth because if it's not available everywhere all at once the moment people hear about it they'll just download it if it's not on a screen near them. They won't wait a month or two for the expansion with the films that hold screen space well overwhelmingly now being the films that incorporate some sort of larger spectacle that doesn't translate to downloaded version. This is 100% the reason that Hollywood has invested so heavily in 3D.

    End result is that if you want a mass audience it means you need a mass release (2500 screens at minimum) which means you need a massive P&A spend to generate enough awareness, which means you need enough star power and whizbang to support / justify that massive advertising spend, which means everything skews towards blockbusters and the risk:reward ratio skews dramatically from what it used to be.

    That's specifically what Spielberg and Verbinski were talking about ... when the business model skews so strongly towards blockbusters without a healthy collection of mid budget films to provide stability then you end up in a situation where it takes only two or three failures to destroy even the largest company. See New Line shutting down after The Golden Compass tanked as an example, bearing in mind how close Compass came behind the success of Lord Of The Rings. Even with the Rings cash, Compass destroyed them.

    There's a major problem in distribution / exhibition right now with there not really being a reliable business model that will consistently support mid level films, which is why everything is skewing either to massive blockbusters (which people know how to distribute under current systems) on one pole and micro budget indies (ditto) on the other. Until exhibition gets their shit together and realizes that what they're doing no longer works for the middle ground, that the middle ground is what provides stability for the business as a whole, and that they are the largest single barrier to that section of the industry being viable, things will continue to skew out farther and farther the way they are and there will be some major fallout when the Sonys, Warner Brothers and Universals of the world stack up a string of failures in a row ...

    That wasn't so short. Sorry.

  • Guy

    Don't say sorry. It's a great answer to my humble question. Thanks a lot!

  • Johan Forsberg

    Thanks for the article!

    I don't think the "money is the answer" is so black and white though. Like you pointed out in the comments, Im sure Von Trier wants his movies to be financially successful too. But I'd still say there are different levels of the importance of money when you create something.
    I like to compare with the fashion industry. For instance, there are several independent designers working in small ateliers to fulfill their visions. I mean there was even a collective of designers who used to bury clothes in the ground for months to get a special look to the clothes. That is not really financially beneficial. They would never put a label on their clothes and even refused to advertise. Their only selling point is the quality and craftsmanship to their product.

    Same principle could be applied to movies. For instance...even if money rule the business I think people react when it is not the picture itself that is the main selling point. Take Robocop PG-13 as a perfect example. No one in their right mind would actually believe they are trying to make an updated version of an R-rated 80's favorite. They are trying to rip people off...and with a PG-13 they can rip more people off.
    Im just saying that there is a difference between artistically free people making pictures they want to make (and still making money) and people making pictures for the sake of the money.
    I can go on and on about directors who made great pictures independently only to be swallowed by the studio system to go on an make crappy films that pleased producers.

    I really don't mind hollywood making money, I just wished they would have the guts to trust artists with their money, and consumers with their taste, instead of taking charge and saying we know what you want and that's what you will get.

    I don't know if you have seen the doc Jodorowsky's Dune...but I think it's a perfect example of what is wrong with the industry.

    Sorry if my english seems a bit off, its not my native language :)

  • Your statement that people are trying "rip people off" is LOADED with a host of faulty assumptions. You think there are suits at the studio laughing maniacally to themselves about how they're going to take a bunch of money from people while giving nothing back? Of course not. That's your own bias speaking, and has absolutely nothing to do with the reality. And that reality is that the core audience of the original Robocop film (of which I am very much a part, and I presume you and pretty much everybody else who makes that argument is, too) is no longer a statistically relevant demographic. You don't build a viable, growing business by catering to forty year old men. The new Robocop isn't meant to rip anybody off, it's just meant for a different audience than the original. It's meant for my twelve year old son, just like the original film was meant for me and not for my father.

    The motivations behind the new film are EXACTLY the same as the motivations behind the original film. The only difference is that people like you and I are no longer who the industry caters to, and that makes a decent number of people in this age group very sulky because they're used to be catered to in all things and have a hard time coping with their own middle age.

  • Johan Forsberg

    First of all, I think you missed my main criticism which was not that Robocop is rated PG-13 instead of R. It was how hollywood cashes in on products. As I said, this is not something that is specific to the movie-making-industry but perhaps more apparent here because hollywood is such a big influence on the industry as a whole. My complaints are that movies don't make money because of their quality (again this is not black and white and of course quality matters)...but marketing, franchises etc are big influences of how a movie will sell.
    Im not objecting to hollywood making a movie LIKE Robocop that caters to a younger audience...Im objecting to them throwing creativity out the window and choosing the easy path of secured money by using a known and beloved franchise...instead of creating something new. My complaints are valid in other industries as well. Videogames are another industry where the creators tend to cash in on franchises far too much (Resident Evil etc) instead of creating something new.

    About rip-offs:
    Its a subjective opinion what is considered a rip-off and in any true sense I don't believe rip-offs really exists when it comes to cinema. For that to happen, a customer would first need to be able to examine the product and then lied to about its functions, quality etc. Its not possible with cinema and it is widely accepted, even expected that you often will be disappointed when buying a ticket to the theatre. What I meant with "rip-off" is the fact that they are marketing a new movie as a Robocop movie, when in fact as you said it caters to a completely different audience. I mean, I have friends who are talking about how great its gonna be to see the new Robocop movie. These are not cineast or movie-buffs but regular people who might visit the cinema 3-5 times per year. They don't look up ratings...and in any case Robocop got a 15yr rating here in Sweden (which is the highest rating possible here) and in case they go on imdb, read the pg-13 and also has an understanding what a PG-13 rating stands for and why it was implemented etc they will buy a ticket to a completely different movie than they expect. Hence, I call it rip-off...but you are right that the term is not accurate. Cheers!

  • Guy

    I think you're right. Ah! it's hard to get old...

  • Kurt

    "Someone has it, someone else needs/wants it.

    Or someone has it and wants even more of it."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

  • Todd Harrington

    Awesome. Totally forgot about that ad. Nice call, Kurt!

  • Z. LaPorte Airey

    Thanks Todd. Great article and looking forward to more.

  • Todd Harrington

    Thanks a lot! Look forward to continuing the discussions.

  • Niels Matthijs

    While I'm sure money is the number one driving factor behind most movies out there, there must be at least some "artistic" integrity floating around? Just thinking of guys like Jackie Chan taking on roles in the USA to fund films on his home turf. Certain big actors appearing in smaller films to support certain indies/directors. People like Soderbergh switching between big and small films to find a balance? Oshii getting the chance to make Fast Food Grifters on a shoestring budget, knowing that even that wasn't enough to make them enough money from the film.

    Money is always the bottom line of course, but once you have "enough" there must be some room to squander a part of it on projects that maybe put money in the second or third spot?

    Or am I just being incredibly naive here? :)

  • Todd Harrington

    Yes, you are incredibly naive.

    (No, you're not, but I couldn't resist!)

    I don't personally know anyone who makes all of their decisions devoid of artistic inspiration. That said, I don't know ANYONE who makes a decision devoid of financial consideration.

    A big-name actor may take a small, indie role to stretch their artistic legs further than they feel they might in a studio tent-pole, sure.

    But here are a couple of things to consider:

    They are able to take the financial-risk of those roles because of money. They have it and don't have a mouths-to-feed need for more of it.

    What about the people financing the film? Are they casting BNA (Big Name Actor/Actress, my on-the-fly acronym, not official Hollywood-ese) because they're the best fit for the role? Maybe.

    Are they looking to indulge the actor's desire for testing their craft? If they have another project they want the talent for and this is a relatively low-risk entre into that person's world, then, sure. Otherwise, no, not interested.

    Most likely, they are thrilled that a (presumably) decent actor with a massive Q-score is willing to do scale on a film that now has a pre-sale factor at AFM or Cannes.

    The point I'm trying to make is this: with film, except that DIY scenario I outlined above, money-and-the-making-there-of is always lurking somewhere in the equation.

    Just as, except for the MOST cynical exercises, art/craft is always there somewhere in the equation.

    Cinema is a melange of the two: commerce and craft. And when these two things achieve great, emotionally-resonant storytelling, we call it "art".

    To think most people involved just do it for a paycheck is cynical.

    Thinking most aren't aware of or interested in the fiscal realities of this craft, however, would be naive.

  • Niels Matthijs

    Sure, but that's hardly unique to Hollywood. Money is an important factor in just about every decision we make in our daily lives too. That's like saying the sky is blue.

    The real question is: are you willing to give up some of your fortune for the sake of artistic freedom/integrity (which I guess translates to morals in our own lives)? Of course those big stars can afford to take on a small project without charging their normal rate. They have tons of money. Then again, they could just take the easy route, take on a big project and earn even more money. That friendly gesture is still a loss to them, even though it's a calculated one that doesn't put them in any risk.

  • Todd Harrington

    Not unique to Hollywood, agreed, but Hollywood -- or the film industry -- is what we are talking about on Twitch and, too frequently, the "business" part of "show business" is either ignored in these discussions or huffed at.

    For example -- and this is honestly a question, not a zinger -- why is it you equate someone giving up money as a prerequisite to "artistic freedom/integrity"?

    It presupposes an awful lot: both that art, freedom and integrity are inherent to an independent production and are equally absent in a studio production. I just don't believe either to be a universal truth.

    I think it's dogmatic and creates an us/them polarization amongst those of us enjoying film, preventing us from feasting on the whole buffet before us.

    I am pretty certain that Gore Verbinski considers himself a creative individual and I am equally certain that Lars von Trier wants NYMPHOMANIAC 1 & 2 to do good business.

    My hope for this column, in addition to maybe acting as a Film Business 101 for those interested in such things, is to bridge this artificial divide that seems to crop up.

  • Niels Matthijs

    Let me make it clear that I'm not one of those "artists have to be poor" guys, you can have artistic integrity and make boatloads of money. I'm truly convinced that some films that I consider to be the biggest, cheapest stinkers in the industry are made with artistic passion. Tastes differ and considering the overall tastes of audiences, it's only fair to assume some directors actually share that taste. Verbinski is the perfect example :)

    But making money AND remaining true to your artistic integrity isn't very interesting. There's no dilemma there, it becomes interesting when those two elements are opposed to each other. Will you still make decision A if the result is that you'll lose B amount of money (or not get extra B amount of money).

    Let me try to give a quick example of what I mean: imagine three options of the ending of a film.

    A/ writer loves this one but everyone in the room understands general audiences will hate it. It's clear the film won't make it's money back.
    B/ writer and director like it, but it's clear that it's going to divide audiences. The film will make money, but they won't be shovelling money.
    C/ nobody is too happy with the ending, but it's a certain cash-in. People seeing the film will devour it.

    Now I think we can agree that situation A is a rarity. Maybe in the indie scene, maybe a big studio project gone wrong (Sogo Ishii?), but this is clearly the exception.

    The article here makes it look like situation C is pretty much the only possible outcome in Hollywood. I argue that there's a sizeable minority that would at least think about option B :)

    Also, I'm loving this series already! Looking forward to the next write-ups :)

  • davebaxter

    There's also the question of politics (mostly studio driven, also union driven) about why creatives choose which projects when. A lot of actors, directors, and writers are more or less leaned on to work only on studio projects, and they can fall out of favor if they choose to do other work elsewhere. Eventually studios will move on in any event, so a lot of talent just ride the gravy train while it lasts, no need to shorten it by having independent thoughts at the wrong time. It's often not an option to go off to do something "artistic" and expect a big budget offer when you get back.

  • Todd Harrington

    I'm not sure what you mean when you say "leaned on". Do you mean that their representatives want to steer them towards higher paying studio work or that the studios/system itself wants them wholly to themselves?

  • davebaxter

    Possibly both. If you don't earn out, your agent won't be working as hard for you. But the "leaned on" part is all studios - they'll make it clear that they don't want you "distracted" by other gigs when you should be fully focused on pre-production for the next (insert franchise here) film, and they don't want to risk there being any scheduling conflicts if something with another project goes overtime, or the talent gets distracted with press commitments with the other project, etc. Once you consider how much is actually required of talent per project - prep, production, post, press, festivals, then on to the next project - there's very little practical wiggle room between films. Should commitments on some small non-studio film actually hinder the studios' needs, that is going to be a burned bridge right there. So studios tend to make it clear that it isn't an option.

  • Todd Harrington

    Well, I take your point (I think), but -- take writers for example -- you're talking about an AWFULLY SMALL number that fit that description, maybe a dozen, two? And almost all of them are in that position as a matter of hard work and preference.

    Actors are probably in the toughest position in this sense -- they have to defend their "image" or "brand" more than anyone else, and always have.* Studios used to do it for them but now most of them have management teams adept at mid- and long-term planning for their careers. This also serves as a counter-balance to any perceived pressure by the system to do work they find untenable.

    And, frankly, I don't really know of any agents who would drop a client they believed in because they (A) hadn't worked for a little bit; or (B) took a passion project on. I'm sure there are some, but my sense is they aren't very good agents to begin with and that if those clients are any good at all, they would be better off without that person handling them.

    As for the studios time-suck, I don't think the time demands are as onerous as you seem to feel. The studios have the resources to supply the logistics of accommodation. I don't know of any writer or actor who has to drop three years of their lives for a film -- that's usually reserved for the director and the producer, and the latter has probably worked on it for even longer for little-or-no pay.

    I think the reality of it all is that most talent -- SAG, WGA, DGA, PGA or non-union -- is looking to do good work, with the emphasis being on "work". They have kids, mortgages, car payments. Most are scrambling for the next gig as soon as the current one ends, if not before, and the ones who aren't in that position usually know just how lucky they are.

    *and that's if they even WANT to manage their image. A lot of younger actors seem fine with rolling the dice and going well against image and it seems to work out for some of them.

  • davebaxter

    My own experience is watching this happen with directors, and while I can't name names I will say that none of this is theoretical - it doesn't apply to all cases exhaustively, but it is a practice and it is every day. It isn't that literally a director CAN'T do another project without conflict, it's that the studios don't want to risk any conflict, and the surest way to do that is to convince the director they should keep their schedules clear. I think it's patently ridiculous, but it is what happens.

    Re: agents, they don't often drop clients, they just stop prioritizing them if it's too much effort. Money always has to be made today in major agencies, not tomorrow.

  • When did Jackie ever need to take on a role in the US to fund something at home?

  • Niels Matthijs

    Not "need", I just heard him say once (not sure if it was from a written interview or from one of his documentaries) that he took on American roles just to earn lots of money, fast, which could then be invested into his HK projects. Shame I can't find a source right now.

  • The 'earning lots of money fast' bit, sure, but I'm reasonably confident that he makes every bit as much with his Hong Kong / China stuff. Has he ever made a movie that lost money over there? My hunch would be that Jackie hasn't had a problem financing a Hong Kong / Chinese project in the last thirty years or so. That man's bank.

  • Senh

    Yeah, Jackie did say that once. A reporter asked if he hated the Rush Hour movies so much, why did he continue to make them. He said something to the effect of: "With the salary I get from one Rush Hour movie, I can make 20 Hong Kong movies in my company." He was referring to films that he was producing, not starring in.

  • Oh, I don't question whether he said it, I question whether he actually meant it or was just feeding a line to his Hong Kong fans to keep them from feeling slighted. And if you look at his filmography it's VERY clearly the latter. If you take Rush Hour as the start point, Jackie has made 14 films in the US. In that span his company has produced only 8 films that he did not have a significant starring role in - less that he didn't star in at all - almost all of which got their money from somewhere else and, if anything, Jackie got paid to put his name on rather than actually putting money into. Jackie's been investing in Jackie, not in movies.

    Interestingly, Jackie's answer about the Rush Hour films is almost identical to one given by John Cusack about why he did Con Air, saying it would pay for multiple Grosse Point Blanks, but he only ever made one of those despite it being very successful.

    It's not to say that people can't balance stuff out this way and use commercial projects to pay for more personal stuff - people like Soderbergh and the Coen Brothers clearly do - but the Jackie example is a BAD one.

    And, more to the point, the people that gain creative freedom don't do it by disrespecting the commercial realities of making film. All that ever gets you is more restriction. You get there by understanding the business end, perhaps even embracing it, and manipulating the system to your own advantage rather than being manipulated by it. When you show the money people that you're responsible they leave you alone to do what you do. I return to a quote from David Cronenberg on this a lot ... He was at a TIFF press conference once and said openly from the stage that the main factor of his success and creative freedom is not talent or artistic ability but that he's delivered every film in his career ahead of schedule and under budget. He respects the business people so they leave him alone to do what he wants to do.

  • Ard Vijn

    My first question is a terrible one, probably off-topic and the answer won't be "money", but it popped up anyway...
    ... what do you think about the GREEN LANTERN movie that was eventually released?

  • Todd Harrington

    Dude, that movie is so MONEY!

    (See what I did there..?)

    I think the end result was the wrong execution of the right idea.

    I think the writers were all good (I especially like Marc Guggenheim as a writer -- he and his brothers, Eric and David, are like a screenwriting Barrymore household) and I have always liked Martin Campbell a lot.

    What didn't work for me were two things: Ryan Reynolds and the villain.

    I think Ryan suffers in these roles -- GREEN LANTERN, R.I.P.D., X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE -- from being too pretty. Guys don't buy into his alleged toughness and, without them, you got no one to drag the girls along to see Ryan being pretty on screen in these bombast fests. I think he works best in SAFE HOUSE (a David Guggenheim script) because his character starts off as kind of a whiny puss wanting out of his assignment.

    As for the villain, Parallax: I understand (I think) the reasoning behind it, but it still comes across -- to me -- as just another amorphous "blob/cloud" monster in a series of them over the last few years: "Galactus" in the FANTASTIC FOUR sequel, the Gort-cloud in the DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL remake. I think a better choice could have been made.

    And, unfortunately, if your lead actor and your main villain are wanting, good things usually don't follow.

    But nobody knows anything, so what do I know?

  • davebaxter

    I would lay a good share of the blame on Geoff Johns as one of the writers (I think he even was heading the DC film stuff at the time, not sure if he still is). The whole story was based on John's own Green Lantern comic tales that were extremely popular at the time to the very niche comic shop going crowd. The problem with these stories is that they were heavily involved in "ret-conning" and dealing with Green Lantern as a decades old brand and these stories contained everything and the kitchen sink. Shoehorning these plots into a debut feature film was an egregious error of judgment IMHO. Especially when a clean, dramatic and action packed origin story already existed in the form of the "Emerald Dawn" comic. DC even made an animated feature ("Emerald Knights", I think it was called) that adapted the Emerald Dawn story, and they released it on DVD in tandem with the feature film release. The animated feature got largely positive reviews, and the live action one not so much. Really, it was putting someone who knew too much about Green Lantern and also wanted to adapt his own stories in charge of the project, when someone else could have kept it simple by using the more obvious origin material at hand.

  • Todd Harrington

    I agree that the EMERALD KNIGHTS was a better take on the material. In general, I think DC Animated knocks it out of the park and I'm curious how much that might have to do with centralized development, ala Marvel.

    That said, a lot of their animated movies simply wouldn't work executed as live-action at the cost-scale they would be produced at. As always, IMO.

  • Completely agree with you on the pretty factor with Reynolds but another element is when you talk with guys who have worked with him on some of his more action oriented stuff is that Reynolds is just plain clumsy. I know a few people who have worked with him and they all say, right across the board, that he's a great guy who absolutely works his ass off to do his very best but that he has zero muscle memory and struggles very badly to repeat movements and learn choreography. He feels awkward because he is awkward.

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