By Dr. Craig D. Reid
Ryan Reynolds got his big break starring in the TV show, Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place (1998-2001) and in Green Lantern, although Reynolds as Hal Jordon (aka Green Lantern) is one of two guys vying for the same girl, he’s playing rendition two of the fabled DC comic book character Green Lantern and partially battles a guy who comes to have a pizza face.
Although in the film, the color green is a metaphor for the power of the will, to the studio, green hopefully represents money and in the cinematic world, the color green could be the envy that this DC Comic character receives from the few weeks prior Marvel Comic character based film X-Men: First Class, where Green Lantern is simply more what mindless-rooted summer extravaganza actions films are supposed to be all about…fun.
As a wee aside, you’ll notice that nobody from the cast of X-Men visited any Armed Forces bases to do a little extra for the men and women protecting our country that affords us the freedom to make films like these and watch them. Reynolds went out of his way to visit and talk to the troops at San Diego’s Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Of course this doesn’t make a film any better or worse, but it does show you an intention by Reynolds behind the idea of who the real heroes are in this world. Semper Fi man.
One could say that in this film Reynolds was not working on the railroad all the live long day, but was passing the time away, and his career is definitely on a solid track. For those not familiar, the first Green Lantern, created by Bill Finger and artist Martin Nodell in 1940, was railroad engineer who after a railway crash came into possession of a magical green lantern that told him about the great powers he could have. It was sort of a rehashing of Aladdin’s Lamp, where Bill Finger had Scott forge a magic ring, which when was placed on Scott’s finger, the comic book came to live.
As the Green Lantern comics evolved, by 1959 under the watch of writer John Broome and artist Gil Kane, Green Lantern was no longer a single man but became an alien federation called The Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police force that guarded the universe’s 3,600 sectors, who were overseen by an ancient race of immortals called the Guardians that resided on the planet Oa. Each Green Lantern had a ring that gave them extraordinary mental and physical abilities. Most Lanterns are aliens, but of the six Earthbound members in DC Comics’ history (Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Raynor and Jade), Jordan is arguably the most popular. And thus the movie begins.
Directed by Martin Campbell, Green Lantern pits these warriors of intergalactic peace (or universal peace if you’re new age) against a new yellow enveloped enemy called Parallax who is threatening to destroy the balance of power in the Universe. The fate of the Lanterns and Earth lie in the hands of their newest recruit, the first human ever selected: Hal Jordan.
Hal is a gifted and cocky test pilot, but the Green Lanterns have little respect for humans, particularly Sinestro (Mark Strong), who have never harnessed the infinite powers of the ring before. But Hal’s humanity is one weapon no member of the Corps has ever had, and if with willpower, determination and the encouragement of fellow pilot and childhood sweetheart Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), Hal can quickly master his new powers and find the courage to overcome his fears, he may prove to be not only the key to defeating Parallax…he will save the Earth and all of mankind from certain destruction.
What I liked about this film was that there was no pretentious piddadaling around, we quickly knew the foibles of Hal and after he became the Green Lantern, there was no guessing by his “girl friend” and his best friend as to who the Green Lantern was.
Similar to tons of martial arts films in the 1970s and certainly heavily influenced by the success of Sam Raimi’s Spiderman (2002) is the obligatory training sequences that Hal undergoes as he must learn to harness and control his new-found power if he’s going to be of any use going against the dastardly demons that will soon try to chew the flesh of mankind and turn them to mold. He learns that he can create whatever he imagines in the mind, which should have opened the doors of the screenwriters’ minds to come up with the most far-out, bizarre and utterly awesome visuals on this side of the Pacific. Chinese film on the other side of the Pacific rim have been doing this in their martial arts movies.
And this is where the film looses some of its luster. The filmmakers are saying that either Hal or the screenwriters have no imagination because the stuff Green Lantern did with his magical green ring was rather unsubstantial and downright lame. The fact that Hal is a highly trained, albeit wreckless, fighter plane pilot, one would think with a military mind under duress he should be able to imagine unimaginable weapons and bring them to life.
I couldn’t help but to keep having flashbacks from an old Star Trek episode specifically the pilot episode “The Cage” (later reworked as “The Menagerie”) where Commander Pike had a run in with large bulbous headed Talosians. If you watch carefully, the Spock-eared Sinestro looks a bit like Pike and the first swollen headed Guardian suspiciously looks a lot like the lead Talosian. Then when Green Lantern starts spouting on about we are only human, not deserving of such powers and honor, etc…it just seemed very Captain Kirk like when Kirk would explain to the various powerful aliens wishing to expunge us that we humans have our foibles but that is our strength and we are hear among you to learn…blah, blah, blah.
And learn Hal does, just in time to save we peons on the planet Earth, with what some would say is the brightest idea ever known. There’s no need to fear, Green Lantern is here. But of course the film’s ending has a different kind of fear implanted into our sequel brains that finds it’s cliché in the 1950’s America line, “What are you, yellow?”