*Sigh* Poor Ryan Reynolds. I like you, and I really wanted to like your movie, but it was not good. Maybe if I was already familiar with the comics it would have been more enjoyable, since I wouldn’t have been frustrated by the lack of adequately explained relationships or character development, and I might have been excited enough at seeing characters come to life to overlook their clunky dialogue. But it was not so, and just like a Lantern, ‘no
evil [terrible movie element] shall escape my sight.’
Here’s the backstory, as gleaned by me from this film: The Guardians are immortal beings who “made all you see and are responsible for all we are,” (spoken by a Lantern on Oa and so possibly referring to that particular planet and the Green Lantern corps, but ambiguously allowing for an interpretation that includes the entire universe and really either way setting this council of oversized-cranium creatures that sit immobile in a giant Stonehenge-esque circle as gods.) These beings “harnessed the emerald energy of willpower” however many eons ago, because they decided it was the “strongest energy in the universe.” That’s what the green rings are all about, being able to manipulate matter, I guess, according to whatever your will is? But you also need a lantern, to charge the ring, apparently? Or something. And to wear a green ring and be a Green Lantern of the Green Lantern corps you have to be “without fear.” Because “fear is what stops you and makes you weak.” But the rings chose their own wearers, so it’s not like you have to pass any sort of test or know anything about yourself and what you are capable of, the ring will do the self-evaluating for you! Handy.
Anyway, a rogue member of The Guardians had wanted to harness the power of fear instead of will, (should I be capitalizing those abstract nouns?), an idea rejected by the rest of the council because “the power of fear is too unpredictable, the chance for corruption too great.” Interesting…by implication then willpower is predictable and incorruptible? I don’t think that’s exactly what has been evidenced throughout history. And it’s certainly in direct opposition to The Lord of the Rings, for example, when the One Ring of power is forged with Sauron’s “will to dominate all life,” and binds the will of the nine human lords with lesser rings to his own, and when Isildur has a chance to destroy it he doesn’t because “the hearts of men are easily corrupted,” etc. etc. Then you have Harry Potter which pretty much argues that self-sacrificing love is the greatest power, the strongest and oldest magic. And God, the real immortal who really is responsible for creating everything we see, is actually the ultimate power in the universe. No, I remain unconvinced that the strongest, most incorruptible power in the universe is willpower, although it is amazing what sheer will can accomplish. But sometimes girls use a steely willpower to starve themselves; is it a virtue then? I would agree it is perhaps the strongest force to use against fear, as Scottish poet Joanna Baillie so eloquently put it:
“The brave man is not he who feels no fear,
For that were stupid and irrational;
But he, whose noble soul its fears subdues,
And bravely dares the danger nature shrinks from.”
That’s certainly one of the themes to Green Lantern, and it’s a good one. Bravery is an action, a decision, not a feeling. In any case, the rogue (maverick!) Guardian goes off by himself and tries to harness fear, and it all goes awry and he becomes the Big Bad, Parallax. He feeds on people’s fears, which according to the CGI come popping out of bodies in skeletal form. He’s destroying everything in his path and headed for earth. (I’m skipping a lot of details and subplots, because it would just devolve into script criticisms. Seriously. It’s terrible.)
The Guardians don’t think fighting Parallax is worth the risk, and you know, they are all wise and stuff because they have to consider eternity in their decisions. This doesn’t really make sense to me, but oh well. Newly minted Green Lantern Corps member (and first human to wear the ring) Hal Jordan tries to persuade them otherwise. (Why does he need permission to fight for his world?) “I know humans are a young species, and we have much to learn,” Hal says, “but we are worth saving!” Long pause…crickets…this is the part, Hal, where you reinforce your position with supporting facts, or at least emotional appeals. Why are humans worth saving? The movie doesn’t even try to come up with an answer. Battlestar Galactica’s Sharon Valerii (Athena) would be so dissapointed. She’s the Cylon that tells Adama, in answer to his question about why the Cylons are out to destroy humanity,
“You said that humanity was a flawed creation, and that people still kill one another for petty jealousy and greed. You said that humanity never asked itself why it deserved to survive. Maybe you don’t.”
No, we don’t. There is no argument that can be made on the basis of how even the best of us behave. We’re all flawed and corrupt and selfish and fallen. But God thinks we are worth saving. Not because we deserve it, not because of anything we’ve done or failed to do, but because he loves us.
“7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:7-8
That’s not a message you’ll find in Green Lantern. It’s just a bad script, decent but omnipresent CGI, awkward dialogue, good acting from Peter Sarsgaard and Ryan Reynolds, bad acting from Blake Lively, and an overall message that fear=bad and willpower=good. Reality is much more complicated. Green Lantern’s light doesn’t shine on anything useful.