Thoughts on “The Green Lantern”

Ryan Reynolds. Ooooooh baby.

Sorry, had to get that thought out of the way.

My family and I went to see “The Green Lantern” last night. (At 8 o’clock! And I stayed awake through the whole thing! Yes, I’ve been known to doze off in movie theaters if it’s too late at night…) I know, we’re a little slow on the uptake, but we’re also not really comic book people. My dad loves Spiderman (and hence, so do all three of his girls), but none of us ever read comics other than the occasional Archie and Friends. The slough of superhero movies has largely not phased our realm, but this one seemed like a good occasion for all of us to go together. (I was voting for X-Men, but I was overruled.)

No one was sufficiently impressed. The plot was slow, the dialogue plain, and we all agreed that we feel sorry for the “minor character who becomes the evil villain through alien or radioactive DNA transfer.” But I thought the purpose of The Green Lantern Corps (the gigantic group of alien action heroes like Ryan Reynolds who have their own planet somewhere in the universe) was really interesting.

The Green Lantern, and the entire Corps, is battling Parallax, an entity which exists through the power of fear.

That’s right. The Green Lantern is up against the ulitmate terrorist.

It makes sense, in this age, to have an anti-terror superhero. After all, we called upon superheroes in the past to do battle with us during WWII (Captain America, who has cropped up in popular culture once again). This enemy seems even greater, though perhaps fewer in number, because it is amorphous and less easily recognized. And the human Green Lantern definitely put fear in its place (for a little while). And so I have to wonder if the writers knew what they were writing about. I’m sure they did. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” is not exactly a newly coined phrase. Even so, the nod to the Green Lantern’s anti-terrorism efforts was not subtle in the least. While I should be glad that Parallax was an alien lifeform with strange, octopus-like shadow arms (meaning not resembling humans of any racial or ethnic background of any kind, which would have completely ruined the movie for me), I will say that the creature overly resembled J.K. Rowling’s Dementors of Azkaban– shadowy cloaks, large gaping mouth, and sucking the soul/essence of a person through fear. The Green Lanterns’ gigantic net did not seem like an adequate defense after Harry’s Patronus– an equally strange entity made of hope.

But then again, the power of the Green Lanterns was refreshingly physical. Yes, they utilize the power of “will” or courage over fear, but the things they create are the physical objects their minds can imagine– like race cars and swords. Hal Jordan/Ryan Reynolds/the Green Lantern exists in our human world, and his powers take shape using his human experience. That, at least, felt like a fresh and new idea after watching a Star Wars marathon and feeling a little too in tune with “The Force” for a week or so.

The moral of the story is that The Green Lantern, like any superhero story, cannot stand on its own; it will always be compared to other hero tales, and unfortunately, this one falls short. But I am very curious to see where the writers take the plot line, because it has significant cultural implications. Sociology 101– The Politics of Superheroes? Sign me up!

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