Posts Tagged ‘The Dark Knight’

Lex Luthor.  While not the most famous of villains in Science Fiction or Fantasy – that distinction goes to Darth Vader – he’s close, in most minds ranking equal to The Joker and Magneto (and unfortunately higher than my favorites, Ra’s Al Guhl and Darkseid); he’s the Gordon Gekko of DC Comics (unless someone wants to throw Bruce Wayne – not Batman – into that role).  Of these nefarious characters, he is the most relateable; yes, even more so than Magneto.  While some would certainly argue different as to the relateability of the character – probably because of Luthor’s stature and wealth – it’s the seven seasons of Smallville that make the case, thanks to a brilliant turn by Michael Rosenbaum.  It’s the transformation of Lex into the character the world has come to know that gives pause to ask “Would I have made the same decisions he did had I been in his shoes?”  and watch him make the smaller choices along the way that bring him to where he is as the show ends.  Which brings me to “Luthor Syndrome”.

What is it?  It’s the condition that Lex suffers from, a condition that you and I can suffer from too.  Lex Luthor was born into resources, born into wealth and power.  These circumstances helped lead him to believe that he was special, that he had a destiny and the means to achieve it.  He felt as if that end MUST be achieved, so that he could do greater things than his father did (the whole juxtaposition of the father/son relationship between Clark/Lex and Jonathan/Lionel is fantastic and a study in and of itself, especially in an age of such fatherlessness amongst youth).  Because of his roots, Lex felt that his destiny was owed to him – that he was entitled to it – and the choices he makes are justified in light of his embracing his purpose to rule (he finally becomes President by the time the show’s finale ends).  Before I go on, I want to make a quick point:  the idea of destiny isn’t a bad one at all, it’s how we choose to lay hold of and embrace it that can be a dangerous thing; it didn’t start that way for Lex, but he let it overtake him.

Curing one’s self of this disease is a great challenge and as the entirety of Curiosity’s recon mission to Mars didn’t happen in a day, neither will this.  It’s a rare individual who doesn’t desire to be more than they already are or more than society around us says we can – or should – be.  Most if us have it in us, I think it’s hard wired; the proof lies in our love of myth, triumph, and heroes who rise to greatness (and it hits home even more when movies like The Dark Knight Rises and Avengers crush the box office…and that’s just this summer; wait till we go back to Middle Earth in December).  There is something inside of all of us that looks at what culture says about us – or what we should be like – and our response is to prove them wrong and sometimes at great cost, for there are few whom society accepts on account of themselves and those whom are accepted are the ones the rest of us are told we should emulate…often to the detriment of giving up on who we are and creating an image we don’t even want.  Add too all this the idea – espoused by many in government today – that you have a “right” to just about anything you want – thusly entitled to it – and the curing is even more difficult.

Thanks to “Luthor Syndrome” living with some sort of “disability” can be even more of a challenge.  I’ve talked before about the “conventional wisdom of society”, that folks with disabilities are “less” in comparison to those without and how erroneous such thinking is; thinking prevalent enough to warrant more and more prenatal genetic testing for all sorts of conditions and disabilities.  Additionally, there is also the dark side of having a disability, the sense of entitlement that can come with perseverance.     As much as suffering through the difficulties that can arise from having a disability can lead to perseverance, and that perseverance can lead to character, it can also lead to a sense of  entitlement.   Sometimes, having persevered, having overcome, a sense of entitlement can creep in – a feeling that says “look what I’ve done; where is my reward…the world owes me a prize…look at what I’ve been through”  When that doesn’t happen, then comes anger, disappointment, resentment, disillusionment, and sometimes, even hate.  The steely, arctic truth is that we are owed nothing, yet so many  of us (living with disabilities and without) think that we are.  I live in this tension often.

As with many other things there is a choice to be made between character – often considered to be a positive element or quality – or entitlement. It’s much akin to a fork in the timestream, or watching a parallel dimension: in one, perseverance produces character (and subsequently, hope) and in the other entitlement is produced due to a lack of character.  This sense of entitlement, if not gratified but rather spurned and crushed, can lead back to the fear and anger from which one started.  Fortunately, there is a way to combat “Luthor Syndrome”: humility.  A friend once told me that “the best cure for entitlement is Scripture”.  Therein is the truth of our state in relation to the Creator and Master of the Universe.  Andrew Murray’s book on humility has also been suggested, fortunately it’s on one of my bookshelves.

The world we live in and the worlds we create for ourselves often aren’t nice places because of “Luthor Syndrome” – how would you fight it?

“In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, no evil shall escape my sight; those who worship Evil’s might, beware my power, GREEN LANTERN’S LIGHT!” – The Oath of the Green Lantern Corps.

Those words were first penned many decades ago and for many decades since then, fans of the Green Lantern comics have waited for silver screen treatment; on June, 17, 2011, it came (kicking off a big weekend for me which included a birthday and the return of The FENX to Washington once again for my use). The story of Green Lantern is very much a cross between Top Gun, the original Star Wars and The Last Starfighter (all movies I love). The main character, Hal “Highball” Jordan, is a former United States Air Force (USAF) pilot who works as a test pilot for Ferris Aerospace a company started by former USAF pilot Carl Ferris (a friend of Hal’s aerospace daring father who died in a crash Hal witnessed as a young boy). Hal works alongside Mr. Ferris’s daughter (and fellow pilot) Carol “Sapphire” Ferris with whom he has an on again/off again romantic relationship. Both characters are asked to fly a sortie against a pair of UAV fighters that Ferris Air is development for the Department of Defense, an exercise which results in another plane crash.

Meanwhile, in another galaxy far from the Milky Way, an ancient threat that feeds on the fear of others known as Parallax has escaped imprisonment by the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic law enforcers who wield green rings which channel the will power of the wielder into anything they can think of. Having escaped, Parallax hunts down Abin Sur, the greatest of the Green Lanterns and the one responsible for imprisoning him. Wounded in their encounter and fading fast, Abin crash lands on earth and instructs his ring to choose his replacement; the ring chooses Jordan. In short order Jordan is transported light-years from earth to the planet Oa, the home-world of the Green Lantern Corps; here he begins his training at the hands of Kilowog (a brutish alien version of R. Lee Ermey) and Sinestro (an emotional magenta skinned Vulcan looking character). As the story progresses Jordan’s two lives collide and new villains and heroes are born.

In all honesty, I loved this movie. Not everyone will but I did. In full disclosure though I’ve been a fan of Green Lantern since the Justice League show on Cartoon Network so I’ve been waiting for it for about a decade. When DC Comics unleashed the Blackest Night crossover a few years ago it only solidified my position as a fan of the Corps. When it comes to a film like this my greatest concern is how close the movie stays to the source material and I never apologize for that fact. Green Lantern did a marvelous job here (no pun intended). Most of the characters were spot on as were costumes and locations like Oa. (Ryan Reynolds was what I expected Jordan to be, but even if Blake Lively had a good moment or two I hope she steps up the game going forward; she has to for the story arc of Carol).

One of the most important elements in the film was properly dealing with the relation between the Power of Will and the Power of Fear, illustrated by the colors green and yellow, and how they are often antithesis to one another. It brought to mind the mantra from the Dune universe “Fear is the mind-killer, fear is the little death that brings total inhalation; I will face my fear, I will let my fear pass through me and when it is gone only I will remain”. Critics complained that there was too much Computer Generated Images (CGI), and while A LOT of the movie was that, to not do it in such as way would have made the cost of the film astronomical and harder to execute. Additionally, critics expect all superhero movies such as this to be on par with The Dark Knight or the first Iron Man; without his powers, Hal Jordan is “Pete Mitchell” from Top Gun and with the power of his Lantern Ring he can’t be Batman. This is a film about finding courage (and the will to act) in the midst of overwhelming fear, and the places that courage comes from. It illustrates the power and influence of fathers (and how much younger men are affected by it) and mentors (in much the same way the Star Wars film did). It also hints at the cost of fighting as one’s enemy does (I expect the sequel to deal with this more), as well as the dangers of great power and the arrogance that can come with thinking oneself unassailable.

This film is a big step for DC and Warner Brothers, as it is really the first mainstay DC character to get his (or her) own movie (not TV show) and your name isn’t Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. Seeing as how Marvel Studios is creating their own Marvel “movie-verse”, DC is finally taking a stab at the same (as illustrated by the inclusion of Dr. Amanda Waller; a character I expect to see much more of going forward who crisscrosses DC story-lines often and nods to the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO)). In short, I look forward to future adventures and returning to Oa.

Finally, I couldn’t help but see a Christian parallel when it was the Sun that was ultimately the undoing of the interstellar baddie. On that note I will simply end with something I wrote years ago, inspired by Christian belief and the Oath of the Lantern Corps – “In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night, We Cannot Escape His Sight, He who loves us with all His might, He Casts Out All Fear, Jesus Christ, the Light”

*UPDATE* I just returned from an unexpected special Green Lantern in 3D screening in DC. One of the points in the film I didn’t cover but should have is Hal Jordan’s struggle with being chosen to join the Green Lantern Corps. Tomar-Re, one of Hal’s mentors (and his wisest), makes it very clear that Hal was chosen by the Ring even if he doesn’t understand why; that the Ring doesn’t make mistakes. Hal really struggles with this because in most areas of his life he is a failure who cannot overcome his fear. Ultimately, the Ring’s choosing Hal gives the character a sense of destiny that is both freeing and a burden; a burden because it is a difficult undertaking, but freeing because the die is cast and any sense of confusion and doubt about the path is past once he realizes why he was chosen. This is probably my favorite subplot in the film because ever since Star Wars and Terminator destiny has fascinated me.

In something totally unrelated, I am convinced that post-production conversion to “3D” is just a Hollywood gimmick, but when it’s actually filmed in 3D that is something else entirely.

Riding Towards Eternity,

Aaron