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Heroes and villains are only human

Green Lantern (M). Director: Martin Campbell. Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins, Blake Lively. 114 minutes

In a modern era where we have seen some excellent film adaptations of comic books, it must be said that Green Lantern is decidedly middling. Its eye-candy special effects and a handful of enjoyable performances just don't quite make up for its shoddy script.

That said, for those who seek role models at the multiplex, through the polarised lenses of a pair of cheap 3-D glasses, Green Lantern contains two types worth considering. One is 'the villain I hope I'm not'. The other is 'the hero that I could be'. These characters inhabit a story that posits fear as the mark of evil, and will as the heroic attribute that is able to overcome it.

Ever-affable Reynolds portrays brash test pilot Hal Jordan, who is 'chosen' by a mystical ring to join the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic army charged with defending the galaxy against evil. He is 'the hero that I could be'; personally flawed, but possessing the mettle required to ultimately overcome these flaws and behave in a heroic manner.

The same alien presence that marks Hal stains biology teacher Hector Hammond (a nicely creepy Sarsgaard). He is respected by neither his students nor his colleagues and perennially put-down by his politician father (a miscast Robbins). In this he is a sympathetic character.

For this reason, we can understand why his new powers might put him on the path to selfish, even evil ends. However, where we might aspire to the personal growth and integrity discovered by Hal, we would not readily view ourselves as being as weak-willed as Hector. He is 'the villain I hope I'm not'.

Hal, meanwhile, undergoes training with the Green Lantern Corps. Summoned to a distant planet, he learns the Corps' particular brand of combat (which involves summoning energy into solid forms by strength of will and yielding it against enemies). He is also instilled with the mantra: that members of the Corps must be fearless, because only in a state of fearlessness can the will truly succeed.

There is another reason for this mantra. The Corps' most formidable enemy, Parallax, literally feeds on the fear of his potential victims. Thus fuelled, he is able to wipe out worlds in moments. He has recently returned from a prolonged and enforced exile, and has universal destruction on his mind.

Hector, who is already a slave to his own fears and insecurities, naturally becomes Parallax's villainous minion on earth, and Hal's nemesis.

But Hal is struggling with self-doubt. Members of the Corps are meant to be fearless. Yet he is full of fear, and his bravado is a mere façade, a fact that he is finally ready to admit to himself and his friends. How can he possibly confront such a vast enemy?

Here there is a further nuance to Green Lantern's fear-will dichotomy. Hal's would-be love interest Carol (Lively) points out that there is a distinction between fearlessness and courage. Fearlessness implies a lack of fear, which is an idealised and probably impossible state. Courage, on the other hand, is the owning and overcoming of fear.

Courage, therefore, is the twin of will. The ability to proclaim that one is 'only human', yet still strive to make the 'only' redundant, is a mark of strength. Of such, heroes are born.

Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is Assistant Editor of Eureka Street. He is a contributor to Kidzone, Inside Film and The Big Issue, and his articles and reviews have appeared in Melbourne's The Age and Brisbane's Courier-Mail. He was a member of the TeleScope jury at Melbourne International Film Festival. Follow Tim on Twitter  

Topic tags: Green Lantern, Ryan Reynolds, Peter Sarsgaard, Tim Robbins, Blake Lively, Hal Jordan, Parallax



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