Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Green Lantern": another extraterrestrial civilization puts its battles on us, and a moral paradox

Green Lantern” (not to be confused with “Green Hornet” or even “The Green Mile”), to the viewpoint of a non-comics person, seems to conflate a lot of other movie and television genres, ranging from Spider Man (the fitted body suit), Smallville (the super hero), Thor (the other planets and intergalactic wars), Star Wars,  The Lord of the Rings, and even the Japanese “Giant Behemoth” of the 50s.  The last analogy comes from a scene where the “Parallax”, a disorganized huge mass of protoplasm sprouting angry faces with mouths agape, inundates downtown New Orleans, which has seen enough.

Ryan Reynolds plays a test pilot and solid family man Hal Jordan, who, after a hot-shot mishap, get abducted by a blog of green ball lightning, and taken to a wreck of a spacecraft. He tries to save the humanoid alien’s life, but soon gets abducted again, taken through a wormhole portal and to another planet some hundreds of light years away, and recruited to be the force for good, protecting Earth from intergalactic evil with a font of miraculous energy, the green lantern, which powers a ring that gives him powers (indeed “The ring is mine” – Frodo). Or he become as Green Lantern himself.  There is some body analysis (he gets to “keep it”), and one pec gets a tattoo, but otherwise he gets protected by the suit.

The humanoid alien is examined by professor Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), and eventually Hammond will give in to temptation to get illegitimate powers himself (and become grotesque).  But Hal is assisted by a handsome bespectacled techie-geek sidekick (Taiki Waikiki, made up to look like a well-known classical musician friend), fellow test pilot Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), and family members. 

There are plenty of accounts of the “theology” of the Green Lantern online. I found the extraterrestrial city in 3-D interesting, at least.  There were a lot of spires with Guggenheim-Bilbao like surfaces (Marc Guggenheim is one of the writers), towers like the Burj Khalifi-Dubai (here about a mile tall), and various little neighborhoods or kesparates where the “people” live in buildings that look Middle-Eastern.  It’s always twilight here (perhaps they’re in what astronomers call a “termination zone”).  But a society on another planet may have to deal with a population of species genetically different but with equal intelligence, presenting political  and practical problems much more complex than ours with race.  Perhaps that accounts for the fragmented nature of the metropolis’s neighborhoods.  I’d love to see life on the city streets, rather than from “on high”.  With access to space portals and wormholes, this has to represent what Michio Kaku calls a "Type III Civilization".  We have a long way to go to get there. It's interesting to me that these advanced civilizations are so politically authoritarian (like China). 

The film is directed by Martin Campbell, but Greg Berlanti, creator of “Everwood” on TheWB a few years ago, is the lead screenwriter and story originator, and his ideas show up big time.  (“Everwood”  was interesting to me specifically because of the piano prodigy Ephram and I have in fact met actor Gregory Smith.)  Specifically, Hal is told that the Green Lantern must be “fearless”, but then he has to challenge the “powers” of their own fear of admitting fear.  Dealing with your own potential weaknesses (and acknowledging or even admitting them) is not cowardice.

In my own latest version of my “Do Ask Do Tell” screenplay, I have a similar or comparable moral dilemma toward the end. At the risk of flouting the movie industry’s “third party rule”, I’ll pass along a hint about it here, because this film gives me something to compare my own writing to.  My protagonist is given the opportunity to be the first to return from death (or a kind of Purgatory set up by Angels not too far from Earth in light-hours) but he must agree to let “people as people” become real to him and give up the pleasure of experiencing people only throughout his own fantasies.  In a critical “tribunals” scene and ritual, he confronts his captors (including the “Angeles” – not the baseball team in Anaheim!) with their own eventual lack of moral perfection and their own deepest prejudices.   After doing so, he returns to Earth, to find out what has “happened” to it.  Of course, I need to sharpen all of this up.

Here is the Warner Brothers official site There’s a tease for a sequel in the closing credits. The film was produced also by DC Comics. 

Interview with Greg Berlanti, who also discusses “Life as We Know It”, which he directed, which presents the problem of “involuntary” parenthood (reviewed here Oct. 8, 2010)


Pictures: mine, not from movie. 


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