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Green Lantern

This weekend I watched Green Lantern at my local theater. It's not the movie to end all superhero movies, but it did a few things most reviews seemed to skip over, which I thought were worth pointing out.

I read several critical reviews before I saw this, which complained (among other things) that this was just like all of the other superhero movies we'd seen before: We get the introduction to Our Hero as a normal guy, we see his job and his prowess with the ladies, we see how he gets his powers and how he learns to use them, and things quickly build up to a boss fight with the fate of something important at stake. As a Troper, I know that Tropes Are Not Bad, so I will not be quick to criticize a movie for using a standard Three Act Structure. While the movie does use a standard superhero-film template, it does what it does well, I think.

[SPOILERS from this point out] One of the things I was particularly impressed by was that they made the hero's character development explicitly essential to the plot. If Hal Jordan doesn't overcome his fear, Earth and the universe are doomed. And I particularly respected the way they had him overcome that fear. I've watched far too many anime where everything the hero accomplishes is done through sheer heroic willpower. Willpower is essential in this story, but it's not enough. Hal Jordan has tried all his life to be the fearless hero he saw his father as, and his fear of commitment and success has beaten him every time. And finally, right before the climax, he sits down with the people whom he loves and respects most in the world, and he confesses his fear and inadequacy, and they look him in the eye and tell him "You're not fearless, but you are courageous. Just like your father was." This is not some cheesy, one-size-fits-all "You can do it! We believe in you!" This is a personal statement of affirmation, based on long-term, intimate knowledge of the man behind the mask. If it hadn't been true, if it hadn't resonated and rung his soul like a giant gong, it wouldn't have worked.

And boy did it work. It changed the man on the most fundamental level. It made him fearless.

And fearlessness was exactly what was needed. In the ensuing battle, still ringing with the power of that soul-deep affirmation from the people who know him best, Hal Jordan shows us what fearlessness really looks like.

It couldn't have happened without the ones close to him. If Hal's sister had kept her mouth shut, if she'd stumbled over her words and failed to look him in the eye, if she'd distanced herself from him over the previous decades and prioritized other things over learning to understand her brother, Parallax would have shredded him and then everyone else. Hal Jordan is not the only hero in this movie.

This is why superhero movies are worth making and worth watching. If they're just flights of fancy, they're superfluous. But stories that teach us about the things that really matter: that is valuable.

That's why I liked Green Lantern.


Jun. 27th, 2011 06:10 pm (UTC)
Re: "You're not fearless, but you are courageous."
The quote isn't exact--I was paraphrasing. No idea about what's been said elsewhere. :-)


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