Ryan Reynolds is a good choice for this role of Hal Jordan. He’s a talented Air Force test pilot who enjoys playing the irresponsible slacker when not on duty, which makes him relaxed and rarin’ to go when he does report. He has no family, other than a good friend, Carol (Blake Lively), who’s also a pilot, but while she shares his passion and equals his skills, she doesn’t know how to think outside the box.
OK, here comes something so outside the box it’s from outer space. It seems that the universe is actually run by a council of immortal guardians (the pantheon legend morphs into an intergalactic form). The guardians, in turn, have divided the universe into 360 sectors (didn’t Hammurabi do that?), each protected by a chosen Jedi—no wait, a Green Lantern protector. The central Green Lantern is powered by the collective will of the universe, and, conveniently, each warrior is entrusted with a ring, which in turn is rechargable, through a portable Green Lantern, by repeating the ancient oath to defend against evil. (Never mind where evil comes from in the first place.)
One of the immortal guardians decides to turn to the Dark Side, attempting to explore the powers of Fear, which Courage was supposed to overcome. Plus, he enlists the aid of an earthling mad scientist (Peter Skaarsgard) who becomes more physically ugly as his soul turns toward the darkness. (Making it even harder for him to get the girl.) He feeds off the fears of others, becoming more and more powerful, eventually even threatening the power of the immortals, and destroying a couple of the chosen Green Lanterns.
Yes, you don’t choose to be a Green Lantern, it chooses you, in a wonderful twist of comic book predestination. It sees something in you that perhaps others don’t, maybe even you yourself don’t. Kind of like election.
You gotta like a superhero whose powers are limited only by his imagination. He has to envision something before he can bring it to reality. And yet, he can create it merely by willing it (much as we think of God ordering the creation). Yes, he’s still human, and therefore still fears, but he has to overcome his inherent weaknesses in order to fight against the strength of evil (much like Jesus had to do in his earthly life). It is tempting to think of the intergalactic Green Lanterns as powerful angels who can transport themselves across galaxies, but you’d hate to think of The Highest Power
as a balky, dispassionate, isolationist, indecisive committee. That would seem more like Hell.
Comic-book-type violence? Of course. But the romance is oh-so-formal, there is no gutter slang, evil is conquered, and the cosmos is safe for quirky humans who can occasionally rise above themselves when the need arises, but only when understanding themselves invisibly connected to a universal force united for the greater good. Not a bad view of the world at all.
Ronald P. Salfen is co-pastor of United Presbyterian Church, Greenville, Texas.