Cowboys & Aliens

The Damage: Hoo-boy, where to begin? This was supposed to be A) proof that Daniel Craig was an action star outside of 007, B) The return to blockbuster prominence of Harrison Ford, C) Jon Favreau's confirmation that he is not just the guy who pointed a camera at Robert Downey Jr. in an Iron Man costume and D) maybe even the long-sought key to resurrecting The Western. Instead, It was a costly underperformer with both critics and audiences alike - and one that stood out even more so in a summer when other high-concept genre films were doing pretty damn well overall.

The Lesson: I'd like to think that the lesson here would be obvious, i.e. that having all the right elements in place doesn't matter if the movie itself isn't any good, but let's be real here. The lesson Hollywood has chosen to learn is that genre crossed Westerns don't work. Barely a month after C&A tanked, Disney shocked the industry by pulling the plug on its proposed $250 million Johnny Depp vehicle The Lone Ranger," which was to have re-imagined the legendary cowboy vigilante as an Old West werewolf hunter. Really. On the plus side, it doesn't seem to have dampened things too much for director Favreau, who's still attached to direct Disney's ambitious tent pole The Magic Kingdom - in which a family must navigate Disney Land (as in, the park) after the rides, locations and characters magically come to life. (Anyone kinda hope they throw a keyblade in there, somewhere?)

Green Lantern

The Damage: Yikes, where to begin? This was supposed to give Ryan Reynolds a career-securing superhero franchise of his own, establish the venerable Silver Age cosmic crime fighter as a player in the new age of superhero cinema, help even out an increasingly one-sided arms race with Marvel Studios, prove that Warner Bros. was actually capable of making successful comic book movies about characters other than Batman, and - depending on who you ask - possibly lay the seeds of a continuity-driven DC Universe of connected films to compete with Marvel's Avengers project. Instead? Reynolds' box office clout took a huge beating between this and The Change-Up, the very name "Green Lantern" is a Hollywood punch line and the non-Batman future of WB/DC now rests on the shoulders of The Man of Stee - a Superman reboot that initially went into production chiefly to impede copyright lawsuits.

The Lesson: If nothing else, it's possible that the circumstances of this particular dud might (but still probably won't) teach at least Warner Bros. the right lesson about how to handle this sort of material. Deservedly or not, the fact that Green Lantern bombed spectacularly in a summer where three other big budget superhero movies about sub-Batman-level characters (Thor, Captain America, and X-Men: First Class) all performed well - and that the three hits were (in addition to being, y'know, good) saturated in fanboy-pleasing details like continuity, mythology minutiae and design accuracy, while Lantern was a "trust us, you'll like it eventually" reworking that fans (again, deservedly or not) had been bagging on since the first shots of Ryan Reynold's horrible CGI costume. Warner would have to be pretty thick not to take some sort of "maybe we need to rethink our approach" moral away from all that.

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