Tag Archives: Ryan Reynolds

Green Lantern and the Psychology of Willpower

Today we have a guest post from Charles Hackney.


Never having been much of a fan of DC comics (hardcore card-carrying Marvel Zombie here), I came to this film with fewer preconceptions than other recent superhero movies.  My comments are therefore based entirely on the film, with no clue as to its faithfulness to the comics.

At a psychological level, Green Lantern is about the human ability to overcome fear with willpower.  Hal Jordan (played by Ryan Reynolds) presents himself to the world as cocky and fearless, but beneath his mask, fear is a powerful motivating force in his life.  In an attempt to live up to his father’s memory, Hal becomes a daring test pilot, but the fear that he will die as his father died causes him to “choke” at a critical moment.  Fear of commitment causes him to abandon his girlfriend, as he believes that he would somehow ruin the relationship.  When drafted into the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic force of super-powered peacekeepers, fear that he cannot live up to the legacy of his predecessor Abin Sur causes him to abandon his duty and return to Earth.  Hal remarks at one point about his highly-developed skill at walking away.  Another Green Lantern tells Hal that he “reeks of fear.”

When Parallax, the cosmic nemesis that threatens the Corps, targets Earth, Hal can no longer hide.  He finds the strength to accept the responsibility that comes with being a Green Lantern, and it is overcoming his own fear that empowers him to defeat the fear-based powers of Parallax.  When discussing the possibility of will overcoming fear, Hal’s girlfriend informs him that there is a word for that: courage.

Several parts of this film fit well with current psychological thought on fear and willpower.  The psychologists’ reference volume Character Strengths and Virtues, for example, defines courage as “the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, either external or internal” (p. 199).  When Hal is told that his fearless father was never truly fear-less, but instead was able to bravely defeat his fear, this also fits. “Bravery” say the authors of the CSV, “is the ability to do what needs to be done despite fear… We have interviewed firefighters given awards for their valor, and no one reported to us being unafraid when rescuing people from burning buildings.”

One of the leading researchers in the psychology of willpower is Roy Baumeister, psychology professor at Florida State University and author of the upcoming book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.  Baumeister’s work focuses on our ability to exert our will over our own thoughts, emotions, and actions, and he argues that this capacity for self-regulation is just as important as intelligence in humanity’s status as unique among animals: “Homo sapiens could just as well be called homo temperans (from the Latin, “the self-controlled man”), as our ability to regulate and control our actions represents a key evolutionary achievement” (p. 2).  Strength of will is associated with a vast array of positive outcomes, ranging from academic and career success to flourishing relationships to mental and physical health.  These associations are pervasive and strong that Baumeister and Exline consider self-control to be the “master virtue” of a highly-functioning human.

Willpower grows with practice.  In several studies, self-control has been shown to operate like a muscle.  When we exert our wills, we are temporarily weakened, but repeated exertion results in gains in self-regulatory power.  It is appropriate that, as Hal’s ability to wield his willpower-fueled Green Lantern ring grows, and he becomes powerful enough to defeat Parallax, at the same time he demonstrates emotional growth, greater moral development, and improved relational maturity.  One villain of the film quips that “all it took” for Hal to grow up was the end of the world.


Chuck is Associate Professor of Psychology at Briercrest College and Seminary.


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Review of Green Lantern: A fan's perspective

I have been the loudest and longest trumpeter that this movie has had for the last few years (yes, years). I have been a fan of the source comics for much longer than that. I have a different toy ring to fit on each of my fingers, and a light-up replica of Green Lantern’s power battery in my garage. So it was with much trepidation that I went to see the movie last night after a slew of painful reviews that it had received.

First, a review of the reviews. I lost count trying to keep track of the number of times reviewers used the phrases “obligatory,” “cliched,” “formulaic,” and “unnecessary.” It is almost as if there is a group of movie reviewers sitting in a dour ivory tower where they have been taught first and foremost to see only the negative in movies before they are allowed to enjoy them, if at all. It is almost as if they have been given a roof over their heads, a good warm meal 3 times a day, and a clean pillow and bed to sleep in with a loving spouse, and then complain that the house isn’t the Taj Majal, the food isn’t Wolfgang Puck, the bed isn’t handplucked goosefeathers, and the spouse isn’t Fabio or Drew Barrymore.

If you don’t like movies, don’t see them. If you are going to crap all over something, at least wait until others have had a chance to eat. Do you ever complain about the “obligatory” nature of movie credits? How about the “cliched” way that every pop song has a chorus? Is it formulaic to state that humans are so lame because they usuaully like to brush their teeth the same way every day? Is it uncessessary to tell children that they are loved, even though it might have happened the day or hour just before? I bet the answer is no. And for that reason I say: Movie critics, stay they hell away from comic book movies.

You just don’t get it. It is the same reason that I hid my love of comics from you bastards as a kid. You just like to make fun and be jerks. Well, I am not that little kid anymore, and as a grown man who has enough life experience and counseling to know who i am finally, I can say with confidence that Green Lantern was freaking awesome! So go play with your dour romantic comedies and overly cerebral movies about foreign imperialists learning to talk better. We are having fun on this side of the theatre.

Now, the movie.


Spoiler Alert: Continue at your own peril.


Faithful interpretation? The good news is that the script stays true to the heart of the mythos at every most important part. Of course, Hal Jordan is the main protagonist, and that for me was 80% of the movie, right there. I’m not sure how many will remember that the first serious Green Lantern script had Jack Black as Kyle Rayner. That would not have been ok. The scope of the Green Lantern comics wasn’t fully utilized, but it was hinted at, giving us a very good hope of seeing an all-cosmic Green Lantern sequel in the next few years, which if the cosmic scenes in this movie are any indication, would be epic on an epic scale.

Cast: The cast was great. They all did great jobs with the parts and character that they were given. Ryan Reynolds was a great Hal. If anyone says differently, they either don’t know Hal or are just hating on Reynolds for their own silly reasons. Mark Strong was epic as Sinestro, although his screen time was woefully short. This should be rectified in future installments. Blake Lively, for all of the grief she has recieved about this role, plays Carol Ferris as fire and ice as the comic version of Carol. Peter Sarsgaard did a great job as Hector Hammond, and Geoffry Rush and Micheal Clark Duncan really nailed the voices for Tomar-Re and Kilowog.

Villains: The villains were altered from their comic book counterparts in a few ways. First, the main antagonist, Parallax, is a product of a rogue guardian experimenting with the power of fear. While this is mirrored in the comics, where the rogue guardian Krona experiments with emotions, the movie equates Parallax with this rogue guardian instead of granting that Parallax is the embodiment of fear. Also, the insect-like appearance of Parallax is replaced by a cloud/face/tentacle that is pulled off much better than was Galactus in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

Hector Hammond had his brain size toned down a few hundred times, but the villian really worked anyway. He was genuinely freaky and threatening, if underused and under-explored.

It should also be noted that Amanda Waller shows up in a governmental role. That name might not mean anything to non-fans, but she is to DC what Nick Fury is to Marvel, albeit in a less hands on, overtly militaristic way. Her presence sets up an antagonist to the Justice League within the U.S. government for future movies.

Costume: The trailers all made Hal’s costume look ridiculous. That is what worried me the most. However, it is apparent that all of the money they spent last-minute to get the CGI right paid off. It was (aside from the white gloves becoming green) a 100% faithful and well done translation of Hal’s current costume.

Problems: Editing. It felt like there was another 45 minutes that were supposed to be in this movie. I understand why they wouldn’t want to put it in, but the movie is the worse for it. I read in initial drafts of the movie, Hal’s childhood is told in a more straighforward manner than in the movie, and I think there was a misstep by not keeping it that way. Also, if I am being honest, there are a few times, where it was clear that something important happened off-screen that would have made the next scene make more sense story-wise. What does this mean? That hopefully we will get an amazing director’s cut!

Verdict: This movie will not win any oscars. And good. This movie will turn a bunch of younglings into Green Lantern fans, guaranteed. It will make people more interested in Green Lantern and comics in general. It will spawn a sequel and is the opening salvo into a greater DC universe. And it will give us a gateway into the animated series that is set to hit later this year. This movie will make tons of money, and it should. It is fun. Light. Shiny. And I will see it again, next time with my kids, and I will be glad that someone, somewhere still thinks that a light-hearted superhero who doesn’t brood, or scare children, or kill their enemies is a good idea.



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Green Lantern: Potentials

The Green Lantern movie, starring Ryan Reynolds, entering the movie fray on June 17, 2011, simply must do well. The execs over at Warner Bros/DC Comics have said on numerous occasions that this movie is the forerunner of how DC’s hero properties will be handled for movies in the future. What does this mean? It means that if Green Lantern does even reasonably well, the field is open for Green Lantern sequels, more untested heroes coming to film (specifically Flash, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman), Superman and Batman films continue to get big budget love and the best directors, and lastly, the shared universe project (read: Avengers, JLA, Teen Titans) will have another solid leg to stand on.

If the Green Lantern movie bombs (and there is really no middle ground between succeeding and failing), this will be the first domino in a tragic chain reaction that will look like: no more Green Lantern sequels, WB will not be willing to sink money into untested superheroes for a while (no Flash, GA, WW, Aquaman), Superman and Batman – once the initial “Begins” hype wears off – will be seen as properties to stick back on the shelf for another decade, and the shared universe concept will be crippled and likely “Avengers” will be the last and only one we’ll see for a good long while.

So I am abnormally fixated on my favorite superhero becoming a film star. Here are the quotes from the people that matter regarding the film so far.

  1. Blake Lively’s manager: “Whatever the mistakes were with Green Lantern, she needs to not react to them and do an indie movie just because a big superhero movie didn’t work… “Even though Green Lantern is supposed to be terrible, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to do extremely well and enhance her foreign value.
  2. Scream Awards: The film won the award for “Most Anticipated Movie” in 2010.
  3. Stuart Thomas (composer working on film): “Saw new CGI on #GreenLantern today. This thing is awesome!”
  4. Jeff Robinov (Warner Bros Motion Picture President): Regarding the poor marketing as a result of delayed CGI – “We are on a learning curve in getting 3-D materials and marketing materials on the same schedule…We won’t be in this position again.”
  5. Sue Kroll (Warners’ worldwide marketing president): “Part of the reason the response to the first trailer was lukewarm was that the big-scale sequences weren’t ready to show, and we suffered for it. … We can’t afford to do that again.”

Please post more quote about the upcoming Green Lantern movie as you come across them. For me, so far, the quotes seem grim, but somewhat hopeful. I actually am psychologically needing to say that.