Green Lantern fans have long been divided over the controversial “Emerald Twilight” storyline, but it would be a perfect starting point for a multi-film science fiction epic, potentially positioning Hal Jordan as the multiversal villain of The Flash. Green Lantern is a foundational member of the DC Universe, with some iteration of the character in near constant rotation since the 1940s. But so far, his luck with movies has not been great; the 2011 Ryan Reynolds starring Green Lantern was a dud, failing to make an impression with critics or audiences.
The character has been in cinematic limbo since then, sitting out the DC Extended Universe films up to this point. Green Lantern not being around for Justice League was just one of that film’s myriad problems, but an important one nonetheless; the Justice League almost always includes a Green Lantern and his absence was felt in the movie.
A Green Lantern Corps film is reportedly in development, though very little is known about the details and status of that project. If the filmmakers want to really leave an impression on audiences, they could adapt (and improve) on the most shocking Green Lantern story of all time: “Emerald Twilight.”
There have been dozens of characters who have wielded a Green Lantern ring over the years, but for the lion’s share of the character’s existence, the main Green Lantern has been Hal Jordan. Created in the Silver Age of comics in the 1950s, Hal Jordan was a test pilot who was drafted into the Green Lantern Corps, a sort of intergalactic police force. Hal was a founding member of the Justice League and enjoyed a critically acclaimed run with Green Arrow called “Hard Traveling Heroes” that bluntly addressed social issues and politics in a way that was previously unheard of in mainstream superhero comics.
By 1993, Hal’s story was getting stale, and the people running DC Comics at the time were big on radical reinventions — this was the era when Bane broke Batman’s back and Doomsday killed Superman. The decision was made for a new character, Kyle Rayner, to become the title character. But rather than kill off Hal or simply phase him out of the book, it was decided he would lose his mind and become a villain.
Thus was born “Emerald Twilight,” easily the most controversial story in Green Lantern history. After his hometown of Coast City was decimated, a grief-stricken Hal attempts to use his power to recreate the city and its inhabitants. The Guardians of the Universe — the diminutive blue men who oversee and power the Green Lantern Corps — judged this a gross abuse of power and threatened to take away Hal’s power ring. This seemingly drove Hal completely insane and spurred a rampage across the galaxy, where Hal fought his fellow Green Lanterns on his way to the Guardians’ home planet of Oa, where the Central Power Battery that powers all Green Lantern rings resides. After murdering a handful of Green Lanterns, Hal absorbs all the energy from the Central Power Battery and becomes the entity known as Parallax, killing all but one of the Guardians and essentially dissolving the Green Lantern Corps in an instant. The lone surviving Guardian, Ganthet, travels to Earth with the last remaining power ring, where he hurriedly bequeaths it to the young artist Kyle Rayner.
It’s a stunning story to this day, though its impact has been blunted a bit by later retcons (as discussed below). It completely threw out the concept that had been at the heart of Green Lantern’s appeal since the 1950s and horrified fans of Hal Jordan. It’s easily one of the most shocking twists in comic book history.
The next major appearance for Hal Jordan as Parallax was in the massive crossover event Zero Hour, which saw Hal attempt to rewrite all of history to his own personal taste. It would be easy and interesting to have Hal serve as the villain of the multiverse spanning Flash film, with Barry Allen attempting to stop Hal from altering the multiple timelines.
A few things would have to be changed for a big-screen riff on “Emerald Twilight” to work, chief among them including the retcon of the reason for Hal’s insanity in 2004’s Green Lantern: Rebirth. That book explained that Hal hadn’t simply lost his mind, he had been infected by the fear entity Parallax when he was at his most vulnerable moment emotionally after the destruction of Coast City. That DC comics retcon added a much-needed explanation for Hal’s sudden character turn, and also offered up a cool new science-fiction idea that writer Geoff Johns would greatly expand on in his acclaimed run on the character in the 00s. It makes it so Hal isn’t just a cold-blooded, murdering psychopath, and gives him a potential redemption arc down the road. It would also allow for Hal to be a more sympathetic character in the Flash film, as Barry tries to reach out to the good still buried in the former Green Lantern.
Green Lantern offers nearly endless storytelling possibilities in its massive corner of the DC Universe, but a combination of “Emerald Twilight” and Zero Hour would be a great way to give deeply compelling character arcs to both Hal Jordan and Barry Allen beyond just having them team up in a Justice League style film.
Green Lantern often gets held up as DC’s potential answer to Star Wars, and leaning into the operatic tale of the rise and fall of Hal Jordan would be an ideal way to show the property is about more than just special effects and space battles; it’s ultimately about the characters, why they were chosen to wield such unimaginable power, and what happens when one of them falls short of expectations. It would undoubtedly be a risky move, essentially allowing one of the faces of your franchise to become a villain for a movie or two, but it’s the kind of bold storytelling the DCEU needs to justify its continued existence.