Willing a greener future
Halloween outfit? Eco-friendly torch? St Patrick’s Day merchandise? No, the Green Lantern (not to be confused with this year’s other emerald superhero, the Green Hornet) is yet another comic book hero given his fifteen minutes of fame on the silver screen.
The two main comic-book publishers, DC and Marvel, have been in ascendancy over the past two decades as more and more of their titles have been raided to meet the desire of a public who grew up reading their favourite superheroes. Some (X-Men, Batman) are better known than others (Daredevil, Green Hornet), but that doesn’t stop the publishers from digging up titles which may not be that well-known. Marvel has always held the edge when it comes to a wider range of interesting and appealing characters, whereas DC has two of the most iconic – Superman and Batman. The Green Lantern is one of the less well-known DC creations, albeit one who has been around since 1940. He’s had his fans and one can only assume that this film is aimed at them.
Ryan Reynolds is the reckless test pilot who is chosen to become a Green Lantern – an intergalactic police force which stands for peace and justice. The are watched over by the Guardians who, despite their awesome title, resemble an unfortunate mix of elderly Smurfs on life support and the aliens from Mars Attacks! Each Lantern is given a green ring which allows them to manifest pretty much anything using the power of their wills. Whatever they can imagine, they can create. The will which they harness is more than just their own – it is the wills of billions of beings throughout the universe. Those wills also have a colour – green.
As Reynolds tries to reconcile this new found responsibility, he discovers that planet Earth is also under attack from an enemy known as Parallax who is determined to destroy both him and the Green Lantern Corps. In what is a distinctly colour-coded action film, Parallax is fuelled by the yellow power of fear. It feeds on the fear of those it faces. If you show no fear, in theory, you ought to be fine.
Green Lantern lacks any of the flair, story-telling or focus which has made other recent comic-book adaptations such as Thor or X-Men enjoyable. It certainly gives the impression that many of the best bits have been left on the cutting floor of the editing suite to shoe in more explosions or special effects. More’s the pity, since the central conflict could certainly have been explored further.
While evil is certainly a reality, the case can be made that the motivation for most inaction or bad decisions is found in fear more so than anywhere else. Any faith you have, whether in a person or a future event, can be undermined by the fear of failure, disappointment or getting hurt. Projects can collapse or personal missions fizzle out if fear takes root. And while it would be handy in real life to represent fear as a large yellow CGI monster, naming its subtle influences is helpful in overcoming its effects. One of the most damaging side effects of this fear is paralysis. So while you would never kick the beggar you see on the street, you do not give him or her money or food out of fear for what others may think, fear of being late for work or fear over what they will do with it. So fear as a stumbling block to doing the right thing? A better film would have given that further examination. As Franklin D Roosevelt put it, ‘All we have to fear is fear itself’.
The other point worth raising, and one which already fills dissertations at Bible colleges, is over the righteous omniscience of the ring which the Green Lantern wears. As Reynolds hesitates over accepting his role, the other Lanterns reassure him – ‘The ring never makes a mistake. It has chosen you.’ Christians acknowledge God’s inability to make mistakes but the issue over free will versus the concept of predestination continues to keep the printing presses going. If this was more than just a movie review now would be a good time to explore it further.
So, this summer sees another superhero come and go. Reynolds is the only thing worth watching in the Green Lantern since even he can make a goofy green costume look cool. Aside from that, there are better stories with better themes being mined in the current trend of comic-book adaptations. The X-Men have no reason to be green with envy.