September 30, 2011

Summer of the Super Hero - Part 4: Good Will Intended

by John-Brian Paprock

This is a review of one of super hero movies during the summer of 2011.

Green Lantern
Released June 17, 2011 Runtime: 114 min
Rated PG-13
DVD/Blue Ray release date: October 14, 2011

All heroes are borne of circumstance.  It is the synchronicity of timing and character that brings to light the potential inner qualities of mortal men. 

Often the circumstance of super hero origins are rather contrived, but when it involves the transformation of a mere  human being, the stories take on a mystical quality and seem to tap into the mythos of spiritual development.  This is sometimes intentional, but in early comic books (especially by the 1960s and 1970s) it was an uneasy incorporation of spiritual principles without the constraint of religion.

However, the age of aquarius and lunar travels inspired a cosmic view of humanity and the possibilty of other races on other worlds.  In most cases, more advanced technologically, socially, spiritually - often with ethics that include all sentient beings in the universe.  There are several comic books stories of "mere humans" becoming super hero born of that cosmic awakening in American culture.

Older comics left the source of these super powers mysterious, coming from another realm or spiritual reality.  Modern comics, starting in the early 1960s, tried to merge that older understanding with science fiction explanations.

The Green Lantern is the name for a hero that wears a ring with special powers. The 1940s Green Lantern has a ring with magical powers. In the movie version, the modern origin story includes a ring of advanced technology.  In both stories, a "mere human being" becomes a cosmic and mystical hero. 

Through the ages, rings have had mystical power.  Rings incorporate talismans, charms and gems, which were believed to hold spirits in obeyance.  Rings of power were the subject of superstition and intrigue.

A modern sect of Sufis, Nasqbandi, continues a teaching of wearing a ring of blessed power on the right hand of men. This ring, they teach, is a protection against enmity and evil, particularly the negativity of others.
     The Prophet Muhammad {s} taught that the use of the Ring on the Right Hand {Because of the Right are Ashab al Yamin people of the Right are Blessed, takes away Enmity.

Green is usually seen as a heroic and healing color.  In the alternative healing of Reiki, colors of auras correspond to charateristics of a person's energy.  A green aura color, in Reiki, is a very comfortable, healthy color of nature. When seen in the aura this usually represents growth and balance, and most of all, something that leads to change. Bright emerald green is evidence of a healer or a love-centered person.

So, we have a superhero given power by a rings of green light!  Rather than rely on religious or alternative spiritual teachings, the first lines of the Green Lantern movie explain the contrived context for the use of green.

Tomar-Re, a Green Lantern instructor of the planet Xudar, also narrates at the opening of the move and at the end. He begins: 

     Billions of years ago, a race of immortals harnessed the most powerful force in existence: the emerald energy of willpower.

Later, Hal Jordan, in training on the Green Lantern Corps home world of Oa, asks:

     What's with all the green?

Tomar-Re responds:

      Green is the color of will. The guardians harnessed will because it is the strongest source of energy in the universe.

In instructing Hal Jordan in Green Lantern ways, legend and lore, Tomar-Re, sets up the movie's climactic conflict that will, of course, be fought on Earth. 

     The greatest threat the Corps ever faced was Parallax, an entity that fed on the yellow energy of fear.

We, the audience, learn that the Green Lantern ring, with a mystical intelligence of its own, found Hal Jordan of earth after a deadly encounter with an escaped and growing Parallax in space that fatally wounded Hal's alien predecessor. Being human, Hal is unsure of his worthiness and the other races believe humans are too weak as a race and too young as a world to have its own Green Lantern.

In human mythology throughout history, humanity's strength seem to flow from perceived weakness and the greatest hero attributes and power needed at the time of crisis prove to be the most human qualities of them all.

Hal Jordan, when confronting a human who has become distorted with the "yellow" fear power of Parallax, says:

      You know... there is a saying in my planet, we say 'I am only human'. We say it because we are vulnerable, we say it because we are afraid, but that does not mean that we are weak.

Hal Jordan succeeds through human courage that boldly acts in the face of fear - through the human ability to take the next step with blind faith, trusting that there is some reason and rationale - somewhere. 

Tomar-Re ends the movie as he would the legend of the Green Lantern Corps for a new batch of Green Lantern trainees:
      Of all the Lanterns who have ever worn the ring, there was one whose light shined brightest. At first his humanity was thought to be a weakness, and yet it proved to be his greatest strength.

Just before the credits, Hal Jordan, in a bright green light, charges his Green Lantern ring, activating the special lantern with his oath:

In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil's might,
Beware my power... Green Lantern's light!

The movie does a very good job with creating the Green Lantern Corps with all the special ring effects as well as the corps' diversity of races. The backgrounds of space and alien worlds is of an expected good quality.  The special effects are able to give the Green Lantern a viable screen appearance.  However, the script and story are rather simple for such a complex scenario.  At the same time, the dialogue is true to the comic books of the 1970s, with updated 21st Century references.

It was a pleasure to see one of the staples of the DC comic book universe on the screen in a CGI live action mixture that really brought the Green Lantern to life.  As a first effort with this hero and the cosmic magnitude  the superhero represents, it suffices and worthy of any superhore fan's time.  It may be lost to the challenge of such a complex source of powers and a rather mundane earthly script, even with its cosmic overtones.

As a study of the inherent conflict within each of us between our will that can propel progress and the fears that divert can divert us from our goals, the movie can work as a beginning place for conversation. That conversation could have happened in the movie, but it did not - at least not in a provocative manner that could lead viewers toward higher aspirations, whether they own a power ring or not.

Nevertheless, Hal Jordan, our Green Lantern, echoes a fan's hope for future movies and adventures when he says: "No matter how bad things get, something good is out there, just over the horizon..."

==== Special Addendum =====
For comic boook fans, the DVD/Blue Ray includes the digital version of best selling printed comic book of 2011: Justice League #1 - see the story:

DC's 'Justice League' #1 Is Top-Selling Comic Book of 2011

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