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"I may be a total screwup in every other part of my life. But the one thing I do know how to do is fly."
So says Hal Jordan, a seemingly fearless daredevil test pilot for Ferris Aircraft. But Hal's got a secret: He is afraid. Haunted by the fiery death of his father, who was also a test pilot, Hal isn't afraid of flying, driving and living fast. Very fast. But he is afraid of getting too close to anyone—namely ex-girlfriend and fellow test pilot Carol Ferris—or having anyone depend on him too much.
So why would he want to save the human race—not to mention the rest of the inhabited universe? Talk about having to be dependable. But that's exactly what he has to do when a Green Lantern ring chooses him to become the next member of an elite cadre of superpowered celestial sentinels tasked with guarding the galaxies from evil.
Hal's initiation happens shortly after legendary Green Lantern Abin Sur—pursued by a planet-devouring, fear-fueled monstrosity named Parallax—crash lands, mortally wounded, on Earth. An energy orb from Sur's ring immediately begins seeking out someone worthy (read: fearless) of taking up the Green Lantern mantle. With his dying breath, Abin Sur tells Hal what an honor it is to be chosen as a Green Lantern … and emphasizes the weightiness of the responsibility that comes with that accolade.
The playboy pilot loves the powers that the ring has bestowed upon him, namely flying (without the aircraft) and the ability to shape energy into objects (called constructs) with his mind. As for the duty that comes along for the ride? Well, that's another matter entirely.
After Hal's transported to the Green Lantern home world of Oa to begin Lantern training, the corps' leader, Sinestro, quickly takes his measure: Hal is an arrogant, fear-filled weakling. The first human chosen to be a Green Lantern is, in Sinestro's estimation, little more than a bad joke. He's not worthy of being a Lantern, and he certainly won't be any help stopping Parallax.
Hal needs little convincing that he isn't, in fact, up to the job, and so he meanders back to Earth. But his friend Carol believes that the ring chose him for a reason, that perhaps it saw what he could become, even if Hal seems lacking in the courage department at the moment.
It's a word of encouragement Hal will need to believe if he's to keep Parallax from destroying … everything.
The outward conflict in the film centers, of course, on Hal's eventual showdown with Parallax. But before that can happen, Hal's got some growing up to do. He must first admit that he's afraid of lots of things, and he must then embrace Carol's belief that he can, in fact, transcend those insecurities and shoulder the responsibility that's been bequeathed to him. And so he does. So much so, in fact, that he's willing to sacrifice his life if he has to in order to save the woman he loves, humanity and the rest of the universe.
Carol, for her part, is light-years more mature than Hal. She repeatedly tells him he needs to grow up. And even as she's being wowed and wooed by an ex-boyfriend with really snazzy new powers, she's willing to walk away from him when it seems he's caving in to cowardice and refusing to own up to the gift he's been given.
Becoming a better human being (and hero) enables Hal to sympathize with another important character in the film, Hector Hammond. The son of an influential-and-corrupt senator, Hammond is a shy, nerdy scientist who's eventually infected by matter from Parallax. Hal earnestly, if briefly, tries to help Hector deal with his own disappointments.
Elsewhere, Hal insists to Sinestro that humanity is worth saving. Carol risks her life to distract Parallax in order to save Hal from being consumed.
On Oa, Hal is taught that everything in the galaxy has been created by an ancient oligarchy of alien seers known as the Guardians. Though the genesis of evil in the universe is never explained, it's the reason the Green Lantern Corps exists. And upon joining, Hal recites the Corps' 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."
Green, we discover, is the color that represents the willpower of all the beings in the galaxy. (In a way, that's similar to the concept of the Force in the Star Wars saga.) The will is described as the "strongest source of energy in the universe." And the Green Lanterns' rings are powered by it. Willpower, then, is good. (Never mind the obvious observation that a person can will something evil, a subtlety the film never addresses.) Combating the will is fear. Fear, we're told, is the scourge of the universe and must be eradicated, because fear undermines the will. Thus, Hal's struggle to overcome his fears is of central importance to his role as a Green Lantern.
Parallax, in contrast to the Lanterns, is a being of pure fear, powered by fear. Repeatedly we watch as the entity (which resembles a massive, smoke-like octopus) feeds on the fearful souls of those he encounters, including three hapless astronauts, a squadron of Green Lanterns and quite a few people fleeing him on Earth. We watch as his mouth sucks the spiritual essence of each person from their bodies, leaving only a charred, decayed husk behind.
At one point, the Guardians' conviction that they can defeat Parallax collapses, and they suggest fighting fear with fear by crafting a yellow ring powered by fear's energy. Hal, however, opposes the effort, telling them (rightly, it turns out) that whoever attempts to use such a weapon will ultimately be corrupted by it (bringing to mind the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as the idea of going over to the Dark Side in Star Wars.)
Hector, who's a xenobiologist, performs an autopsy on Abin Sur and speculates about aliens' and humans' "convergent evolution."
Hal's first scene pictures him in bed with a woman (we see her bare shoulders), and it's implied they've had a night of casual sex. Later, conversation between Hal and Carol hints at their first sexual encounter years before. Other dialogue between them references her knowledge of his many sexual conquests since they broke up; she also recalls having seen him naked. Hal begins to change clothes in front of Carol in the pilot locker room. And we see him in his underwear a couple of times. Carol wears a low-cut dress. She and Hal kiss.
Three astronauts plunge down a shaft to a very hard landing, after which their souls are consumed by Parallax. Parallax battles Abin Sur, inflicting a mortal, oozing, purplish wound in his shoulder. Sur crash lands on Earth.
Hal crashes a jet (from which he ejects before it hits the ground and explodes). In a flashback, we see him as a young boy running to his father, whose plane has crashed on the runway. The plane blows up before Hal can reach his father.
While performing his postmortem on Abin Sur, Hector is infected by a bit of yellow matter from Parallax. That results in his head growing to massive, grotesque proportions. He gains superpowers from that substance, including mind-reading and telekinesis. And he uses the latter to hurl various people around. Hector also causes a helicopter carrying his father to crash at a public event. And he threatens to inject Carol with the same corrupting matter that's infected him. He telekinetically shoves a hypodermic into the skull of a doctor, hurls a female scientist brutally into a glass wall and uses flame-throwing incinerators to trap and murder his father. A fierce battle with Hal ensues.
Hal is viciously assaulted by three men in a parking lot, and he takes quite a beating before unwittingly unleashing Green Lantern power that hurls his assailants across the lot. His Green Lantern training involves punishing hand-to-hand combat against a huge troll-like mentor. And Hal's final battle with Parallax includes mountains of comic book mayhem—some of it of the mortal variety as the evil being continues to suck the souls out of several unfortunate fleeing victims.
We hear that all the inhabitants of two planets have been killed by Parallax.
Crude or Profane Language
About 25 profanities total, including two s-words, 10 misuses of God's name (sometimes in combination with "d‑‑n") and one abuse of Jesus' name. We also hear "h‑‑‑," "a‑‑hole" and "b‑‑ch."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Several scenes show people drinking alcohol (beer, hard liquor and champagne).
Other Negative Elements
Hal drives recklessly a couple of times, once speeding and trying to wrap a birthday present at the same time. He nearly causes an accident in the process. His reckless approach to life is also evident when he breaks rules of engagement while he and Carol battle remote-controlled drone fighters early in the film. That choice results in his plane crashing. (Not so negative is the fact that he's roundly criticized for refusing to submit to the parameters of the staged combat exercise.)
Green Lantern poses some interesting questions when it comes to the relationship between the will and fear. The story rightly (if somewhat simplistically) reflects the reality that fear can undermine our ability to make good and courageous choices. That element of Green Lantern parallels the Bible's oft-repeated admonition, "Do not fear."
As long as we're talking about spiritual ideas, though, let's note that Green Lantern also replaces the biblical creation narrative with an evolutionary-based, sci-fi alternative. (Paging L. Ron Hubbard.)
The modern equation for a superhero? Self-absorbed playboy gets special suit and/or nearly omnipotent powers, misusing or dodging them for a time before embracing the truism that with great power comes great responsibility. Green Lantern eventually follows that formula to its positive end, but not before fans face scatter-shot profanity, winks at sexual immorality and Parallax violently vacuuming up the souls of his victims.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern; Blake Lively as Carol Ferris; Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond; Tim Robbins as Senator Hammond; Mark Strong as Sinestro; Temuera Morrison as Abin Sur; Temuera Morrison as Thomas Kalmaku; Angela Bassett as Dr. Amanda Waller; Clancy Brown as the voice of Parallax
Martin Campbell ( )
June 17, 2011
October 11, 2011