Sunday, June 19, 2011
The Green Lantern
"Take courage and do not be afraid, all you who hope in the Lord." Psalm 32:25
The Green Lantern presents a rather complicated universe that includes a corps of green protectors who watch over 3,600 sectors of the cosmos and promote intergalactic peace and justice, all led by a high council of Guardians from the central planet Oa.
To be honest, when this film started throwing out all these mythological pointers, I was a bit overwhelmed. But beneath the complex exposition lies a basic story of the tension of courage and fear - carried out by the struggle between free will and paralyzing inaction.
Set against this grand landscape is also the story of one man's journey into this new reality: Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a reckless test pilot who is chosen by the light of the Green Lantern corps to succeed the most noble of their group upon his sudden death. And immediately upon taking on his superheroic responsibilities, Hal is thrust into the most dangerous battle ever faced by the Guardians of the Universe... no pressure, right?!
The main villain of the story is the appropriately-named Parallax (a tentacled blob of evil voiced by Clancy Brown) who is the ultimate embodiment of paralyzing fear - and who is headed straight towards earth since our inhabitants are naturally prone to fear anyway... making any such conquest an easy task.
Set against this terror are the members of the Green Lantern group, fueled by an energy force of free will (considered the greatest power since it converts inner thoughts into realized action); unfortunately, for being so creative, brave, and strong, they cannot seem to stop the spread of the fear-inducing monster. So it falls to the rookie human to save the day.
The movie's mythology closely resembles the theology of our own universe - where the evil and fear of the darkness is set against the goodness and courage of the light.
Even more specifically, it is fear that paralyzes us - and makes us easily susceptible to vengeance, rash decisions, and quick fixes. Fear leads to anger, hatred, and evil. Many of the worst atrocities ever committed in human history were born of fear - from the Nazis who feared the Jews to modern fundamentalist terrorists who fear the power of freedom.
Against this backdrop stands God, who represents hope in the midst of the worst fear. The psalmist sings, "How great is the goodness, O Lord, which you have in store for those who return to you and take refuge in you... Take courage and do not be afraid, all you who hope in the Lord." (Ps. 33:20,25). In the New Testament, Jesus says many times, "Do not be afraid," to the disciples in the storm and several times after his death-defying resurrection.
It is natural to be afraid. It's human instinct to hide our faces from frightening realities. Yet God calls us to rise above our ordinary emotions to become extraordinary in the face of danger.
As Hal's love interest Carol Ferris (Blake Lively) tells him when he is ready to give up in the movie, we are not supposed to be fearless - but instead, we are not to allow fear to define us, control us, and tempt us towards even greater evils. Fear is a part of the human condition, which we cannot escape, but we have the free will to fight it.
By acknowledging his fear but not letting it overtake him, Hal is able to face the ultimate monster. God has hope that we will be able to do the same. By giving us the gift of free will, each one of us has the power to overcome the darkest, most fearful situations.
We are all able to be truly superheroic - thanks, of course, to the God who strengthens us.