GREEN LANTERN. Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Mark Strong, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Temuera Morrison, and Tim Robbins. Directed by Martin Campbell. Rated M (Science fiction themes and violence). 114 min.
Like other current films showing at the moment (e.g., Captain America), this is a science fiction film based on a superhero comics character of the same name. It tells the story of a test pilot for a US aircraft company being inducted into the Green Lantern Corps, which is a group of intergalactic police who guard the Universe. The force is held together by the green essence of willpower. Every Green Lantern has a power ring and lantern. They both help their owners control the physical world, so long as those who own these objects maintain sufficient will-power, free of fear.
In the movie, fear is contrasted with courage and will-power. Parallax embodies the essence of fear. Parallax (voiced by Clancy Brown) was a former Guardian of the Universe, but was imprisoned by Abin Sur (Temuera Morrison) after he was exposed to the yellow energy of fear. From his prison in the Lost Sector of the planet Ryut, Parallax escapes to wreak havoc among members of the Green Lantern Corps. He kills four Green Lanterns, and Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) becomes his target as the first Green Lantern from the planet Earth. Jordan is not a happy choice for the Green Lantern leader, Thaal Sinestro (Mark Strong), on the home planet of Oa. On Oa, Jordan is taught how to use his cosmic powers by Tomar-Re (voiced by Geoffrey Rush), a bird-beaked, fish-like member of the Green Lantern Corps.
At the beginning of the film, another member of the Green Lantern Corps, Abin Sur, is mortally wounded by Parallax, and crashes his spacecraft on Earth. The dying Abin Sur commands his ring to find a fear-free successor, and it chooses Jordan. Jordan is transported to Oa, and because Sinestro is not confident about the ring’s choice of a simple earthling, Jordan returns to Earth, disillusioned. There, he uses his ring to save others, including his girl friend Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), and a US Senator (Tim Robbins), but fails to save the Senator being killed by Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), the Senator’s son. Hammond has fallen under the influence of the yellow energy force that feeds on fear, which is Parallax’s weapon of evil. In a cosmic final battle to the death, Jordan lures Parallax into the sun to destroy him, and the entire Green Lantern Corps back on Oa congratulates him for his bravery and courage.
Green Lantern Members serve the cause of justice, and they fight to establish the supremacy of good over evil. That scenario has good dramatic possibilities, and the movie uses them intelligently. Although the movie quickly becomes an entertaining sound-and-light show, human drama consistently underlies the visual effects, and the film mixes together plot, bizarrely cartoonish characters, and light effects that are best appreciated by watching the movie in 3D. Characters in the movie are not all that scary, but it has to be said that Parallax, and Hector Hammond, could be the stuff of nightmares for some children.
Courage, the power of humanity, determination, and the overcoming of fear are all well up front in the movie, and the film’s moral messages punctuate and enliven the drama throughout. The film imaginatively mixes science-fiction theatrics with philosophical overtones, culminating in an epic fight for good against evil, which is a dominant theme for movies of this kind. Its obvious moral messages may be boring for those wanting just to be dazzled, but they make the film stimulating, for those, who want to think as well as be entertained.
This is one of the best of the science-fiction movies around at the moment. Ryan Reynolds is the hero to beat in them all, with his attractive mix of charm, good looks, and rakish humour.
There are hints, of course, of sequels to come, particularly when we see things like a ring of yellow energy lying in the palm of Sinestro’s hand.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out August 11, 2011.