April 18, 2014

A Good Friday

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Let me rephrase what Jesus said to the rich young ruler: why do we call today good? I love Jesus. He comforts me, He takes care of me, and He defines my very existence. Yet today we celebrate the day that He died the most horrible and gruesome death ever known. So why do we call it good?

Let me share a bit of my life. A year and a half ago, my second son, Justin, was born. He had a beautiful face and unusually wise eyes for his age. However, even though he looked perfectly healthy from the outside, on the inside his lungs and heart were malformed. The Lord gave my wife and me 10 days with him, and then he left us. Out of all of the experiences of my life, it is the most painful and difficult experience I have ever had. And I will treasure it always.

There is only one word to describe those days we had with Justin: good. There is only one word for the anticipation of him being born even though we knew he would be sick: good. There is only one way to define the feeling of being able to hold him in my arms as he passed away: good. There is only one thing to say to explain what Justin’s short life was: it was most certainly good.

Good is not the absence of pain, or the immensity of happiness. It is the fundamental value of something. Justin’s life, though short, will forever be cemented in his mother’s and my hearts, and it is that which makes it good. When we look to the cross – the epicenter of human history, the suffering to end all suffering, the King of Kings carrying the guilt of the world – we look at something of immeasurable worth. It was not just another Friday, but for humanity it was the best Friday of history. And though it was a difficult time for Christ that day, I am certain He looks back on it and calls it good, for it was the day He bought His people.

So let us celebrate in mourning. Let us express our joy for the day of sorrows. And let us look up that hill and know that what was done was done for you, for me, and for the whole world. May you have a truly Good Friday. Amen.

April 14, 2014

Cosmic Software

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I was thinking about the question of how does God's omnipotence work? Often Atheists attempt to challenge the notion of His omnipotence which such things as, "Can God create a square circle" or "Can God create a rock so heavy He can't lift it", but both of these arguments, apart from being sophomoric, assume a 1st grade definition of omnipotence as "God can do anything". A more scholastic definition would be closer to an inexhaustible reservoir of power implementable on both macro and microscopic scale.

But thinking about this, I wondered if there was a way to explain why this inexhaustiveness is true. Note how I am not saying infinite, for that would assume that it is quantitative (and a quantitative infinite is impossible). Instead, omnipotence is usually understood as a quality and is therefore not measurable or watt not.* It is often explained as being the result of His nature and His relationship to the cosmos.

So I thought of this analogy. Consider a computer programmer. This programmer designs a game where the characters in it have AI. This world that they live in would also have certain well regulated physics that they would be bound to. However, the programmer would not be bound to such physics. He would probably develop some kind of standard medium of interaction, like some kind of interactive HUD. However, this medium will have its limitations, and if there is something that he wants to do which is part of the standard medium, then he would still be able to go to the code level and change things.

So how would this appear to the simulated persons? Well, certainly his power would seem infinite. After all, it would take the same amount of energy for him to move a pebble as it would for him to move a mountain. Second of all, the universe would appear regulated, since there is a standard physics in the world. Also, the programmer would seem less active than his power would imply. This is because the standard way he interacts with the world is the HUD, and only goes to the code level when he has good reason.

This description strikes me as being very similar to how we experience God. Now I am not saying that our world is mere illusion, and this is merely a simulation. The analogy has to do with a creator vs creature relationship. But it seems to me that it is reasonable that God has same standard means of interacting with this world that He goes outside of in rare circumstances. Additionally, the power is similar in its unquantifiable nature. So I think this is a good way of looking at the question, and understanding how God relates to our world.


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*Get it? "Watt not" instead of "what not"? It's a pun! No, not funny? Fine. Wattever.

April 5, 2014

A Call To Explaining Order

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One of the things that I have been thinking about lately is the accusation of "God of the gaps". Now, I don't think that this is true of theism in general. Theism concludes that God exists for philosophical reasons. I also do not think this is true of Christians in general either, for we usually conclude that God exists for personal reasons. However, I think this might be true of the ID movement, and I also think that it is a fair accusation of Creationism as well. Let me explain.

There are generally two types of causes*. The first is agent causation. This is when an intentional being decides to do or makes something. The other is process causation. This is that set of things and actions that are necessary (or simply that were used) to bring about a desired end. First instance, if I wished to talk about the agent cause of the Mono Lisa, that would be Leonardo Da Vinci. This is important since it can answer questions in terms of the Mono Lisa's purpose and influence. However, if I wished to talk about the process cause of the Mono Lisa I would have to discuss Leonardo's painting techniques, palette, model, etc. This is important if we wish to replicate the Mono Lisa or its style. The first question is of minimal importance to the forger, while the latter is of minimal importance to the historian**.

When we say that God created the cosmos, what we are proposing an agent cause, not a process cause. Meanwhile, science is only capable of asking about process causation and has no input in regards to agent causation. This is fair enough. So where is the accusation of God of the gaps?

I think it is with the lack of concern of process causation that I find in many Creationists and some ID people. It is certainly true that once we have God as an explanation, there is little need to have process causation because we can simply say that God did it. Atheists complain that this leads to scientific laziness on our part. And here is where I think at least anecdotally they have a point. In my experinence, Creationists and IDers (and no they are not the same thing) tend to be content with merely criticizing the alternate position. Even the YEC tend to be content with finding evidence which supports their position with little interest in exploring deeper issues and answering unanswered questions. And yes this is a problem.

But where I disagree with the atheists is that it doesn't have to be this way. I think the fundamental reason for it is because we tend to be on the defensive, so I don't think it is laziness. But it is something that we should think about, and actively avoid. Yes, OK, God made the universe, but how did He do it? We really don't know. Mind you, the atheist doesn't know how the universe came about either, so it is not like they are on better footing. But we should be interested not just in the agent causation, but also the process causation. How did God create the cosmos? What was His mechanism? Can we get more detailed than Genesis 1? I think if we are to be taken seriously, we have to start at least asking these questions.

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* Here I am using the world 'cause' to mean something which exists outside of something else which brings that thing to be, whether it be an object or an action. I am not using the more general meaning of explanation of a thing. It is also important to note that my names here are informal, and not to be taken as typical.

**Note that I said "minimal importance" not "no importance".

March 24, 2014

May I Have A Cookie?

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A question that we often hear from Calvinists is, "What is the difference between those that come to faith, and those that don't?" The context is the question of merit. Is faith meritorious? The question is intended to serve as a test for this, and if the answer is faith, than faith is meritorious. However, I think this is the wrong question. This question merely tests to see if faith is a condition, which is something that all Arminians admit. The real question is, are all conditions meritorious?

 Definitions

What does it mean for something to be meritorious anyway? This is really where we should start. Let us consider something which is obviously meritorious. When I work certain hours of my job, I earn of paycheck. Thus this work is meritorious for me. Because I have earned this paycheck, my boss is obligated to give the paycheck to me. I would consider this to be a good definition of something meritorious then: something which obligates the giver to give me something (such as honor, praise, or reward). If I merited it, then I deserve it, and if I deserve it, then something wrong has happened if I am not given it.

Let us compare this to the idea of condition. A condition is something necessary requirement for some action. Again, we can look at a paycheck. If I want to have the paycheck, then I need to do the work. Therefore, the work is a condition for the paycheck.

We can think of it this way: a merit places a requirement upon the giver, while a condition is a requirement for the receiver. In business relationships, it is normal for things to be defined by obligation. Very rarely does anyone enter into a business relationships without wanting to get something while giving up as little as possible. Therefore, business contracts often define the obligations of both parties. Therefore, they discuss both what is meritorious and what is conditioned. But are all relationships that way? For this question, we need to go outside the arena of business and into a family home.

Getting A Cookie

Let's say two boys walk up to you and ask you for a cookie. Boy A says, "May I please have a cookie?" while Boy B says, "I want a cookie!" Afterwards, you give a cookie to Boy A. Why? This would be to answer the Calvinist question, "Why did Boy A receive the cookie, but Boy B did not?" The simple answer is that Boy A was polite. This demonstrates that politeness was a condition that the boys had to meet in order for them to convince you to give them a cookie.

Now, did Boy A earn the cookie? No, and I think this is obvious. After all, you have not done anything wrong if he didn't give a cookie to either boy. There is nothing about saying "please" which obligates you to give the cookie to Boy A. Now, it is certainly true that many children, while they are learning politeness, have trouble with this distinction. They know that saying please is necessary for them to get a cookie. But they often think that it merits them the cookie as well, which it doesn't. As a parent, I feel no requirement to give my son everything he asks for merely because he is polite. In fact, it would be irresponsible for me to do so.

So from this example, we can ask two questions. Question 1: "Why did Boy A receive a cookie and Boy B did not?" The answer to this question deals with conditionality. What was the condition that Boy A met that Boy B did not. Question 2: "Did you have to give Boy A a cookie?" The answer to this question deals with merit. If the answer is yes, then Boy A earned the cookie. If the answer is no, then Boy A did not.

Answering The Real Question

So let us ask these same two questions of salvation. "Why are the elect saved, and the reprobate damned? Why the difference?" Answer: the elect had faith. This demonstrates that faith is a condition of election/salvation. However, "Because I have faith, does God have to save me?" No. I could have all of the faith in the world and if God does not apply Christ's atonement to me, I would be condemned, and I would still deserve it. My faith does not obligate God.

This also means that my faith does not guarantee my salvation either. Then why am I confident that I am saved? Because God promised. It is grounded in His character, not my actions or condition. He promised to save the faithful. He did not have to though, and that is the point.

March 3, 2014

Playing With Action Figures

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Probably one of the poorer arguments that I think Arminians use is what is often referred to as the robot analogy. And I don't think it is poor for the reasons that Calvinist do. Calvinists seem to believe that it is inaccurate. Here I disagree: it is completely accurate. The problem is that if a Calvinist would simply own up to it, it would actually work to their defense... kinda. We can see this if we replace the notion of robots with action figures.

Now Calvinism's primary weak point is theodicy. Yes I know that Calvinists have a lot of answers to theodical questions, but that is because there are so many theodical questions which Calvinism invokes, and it is questionable if any of these responses really satisfy the objections. But let us consider Piper's argument that God brings about evil for the sake of demonstrating His glory. Now, in part, I think this doesn't really make sense because A)who is God demonstrating His glory to and B) the idea is really based off of 18th century political theory (if Grotius taught about the governmental theory of atonement, this argument can be called Edwards's governmental theory of election).

However, when I switched the word 'demonstrate' with 'express', it conjured up the image of myself as a young boy playing with  action figures. At the time, I was really into He-man. Now, often I would have Skeletor kidnap my sister's Barbie, and He-man would come rescue her (my sister often played this with me). Skeletor's base was in the closet on the third shelf or so. As he and He-man fought, Skeletor would be cast off of the ledge into the abyss of the bedroom floor, receiving his just reward for his treacherous activities.

However, did Skeletor actually deserve what happened to him? After all, he only did what I made him do. Indeed, the Skeletor figure was completely impotent unless I caused him to act. So who's really to blame, Skeletor or me?

But if it is me, then have I, as a 6 year old child, done something wrong? Clearly not. My actions were expressions of my sense of justice. The fact that I ultimately desired He-man to be victorious shows that I was indeed just. Though I caused Skeletor to kidnap Barbie, I only did so for the purpose of He-man vanquishing him. I can't express my sense of justice unless there is evil for justice to act upon. Therefore, that justifies the evil that I committed, correct? That is the Calvinists point! That is their argument after all. It is proven.

Except when I did this, I used action figures. Action figures have no worth apart from my use of them. To really get to the point, both Skeletor's and He-man's ultimate destinies were the same: some trash heap somewhere, long forgotten if not for a blog post written many years later. In the end there was no true justice.

There was no true evil either. After all, Barbie didn't suffer. Nor did she suffer indignity. Indeed, there is no standard of morality which would claim that something evil had taken place. The reason why I am not evil has less to do with the line of causation of the action, and more to do with the reality of the action itself. It was merely simulated evil.

I think this is why Calvinists avoid the robot analogy. If accepted, it actually satisfies their need for protecting God's goodness and character. It supports their argument. But in doing so, they sacrifice the relevance of reality. It turns all of our lives, and all of God's actions in history as merely a show: a simulation for the sake of God working out His thoughts on the question of justice. This would apply not just to the acts of evil, but also to the acts of good and glory. Every endeavor of history, either human or divine would be destined to irrelevance, designating God's actions of salvation, power, mercy, wisdom, creation, and wonder as nothing more than a really well articulated play. I can't think of can't think of any more damage we could do to God's glory than that.

February 25, 2014

What If The Green Lantern Movie Was Good?
Part II

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So, last week I suggested a different version of the movie that was made, demonstrating that simplifying a story often makes for a better movie. I did so by keeping the movie on one planet and cutting back on the number of themes that needed to be introduced. However, what if we are not just interesting in the Green Lantern character, but really do want to see a movie about the Green Lantern Corps? Is that movie possible?

I think it is, and we can do it with some of the same principles. For instance, simplification would still be necessary. Perhaps even more necessary since there would be more things that we have to introduce this time around.

Another principle is one central villain. This is a bit more difficult thought, especially if we want to save Sinestro for a later film to make his betrayal more real (and I think we do want to do that). Parallax is too much of an epic villain and simply inappropriate for a first movie. Hector Hammond is also difficult if this is going to be a Corps focused movie since he is an Earth based villain. This leaves none of the villains that were in the movie, so we either have to go into the comics for a different villain, or try to make one of these work.

However, to try and stay with the theme of the project here, I do think that there is something we can do with an Earth based villain like Hector Hammond. It will also help introduce a theme that I think is really interesting.

Synopsis

So what is jist of this movie. First of all, we need to de-emphasize the Earth based characters. This would have to reduce Tommy down to basically a cameo, and reduce Carol down to more of a witness of things on Earth, but not a main character.

But the theme of the movie would  be loyalty. Think about this for a second: Hal Jordan is from a planet that has yet to have any experience with extra-terrestrial life. Then he is suddenly whisked away from this planet by some military organization that wants to recruit him. He is no sense of loyalty to this organization, and would have difficulty deciding to risk his life for this group. Additionally, if he had to choose between Earth and the Corps, what would he choose?

I personally love this theme a lot more than the common themes of power/responsibility (that I suggested last week) or fear/courage (which the actual movie used). Indeed I can only think of one other movie that has explored this theme, and that is The Last Star-fighter. I don't think we should use that movie exactly, but we can definitely use that movie as a sign that this film can work, especially since all of the obstacles a Green Lantern movie faced, that movie faced as well.

Opening

Cold open with Green Lantern Abin Sur. He is in a transport ship, and is reporting to some kind of superior about a sample that he is bringing back to some place called "Oa". A close up with the camera demonstrates that this sample is contained within some kind of heavily protected canister. In his report he mentions how the events on some planet was caused by a kind of substance.

Suddenly his ship is attacked without warning. Due to his need to protect the sample, he attempts to fight the foe from inside of the ship. However the precision of the attack causes him to lose control, and he attempts to escape by activating his engine (or an escape pod. Doesn't really matter as long as he is protecting the canister). Opening credits.

Cut to Hal waking up. The scene introducing Hal can be left pretty much unchanged, even up until he crashes the plane. The only changes are that A) no Daddy issues, and B) Hector Hammond is accompanying his father as his assistant (also Hammond does not know either Hal or Carol). We can also get some scenes of General Hammond being verbally abusive toward his son for the sake of establishing the character. They can also have a conversation on their way back to the car, to further establish their relationship. I would also want to add that instead of Hal defeating the plane by flying "too high", he instead actually out flies the thing. After all, that is what we actually want to establish, and it sets up a better argument between Hal and his boss.

Afterwards, Hal goes to the bar, and Carrol meets up with him. They have a conversation/argument about what happened, and about their former relationship, basically like the bar scene in the movie with better dialogue. Carrol leaves and Hal returns to his drink saying something about wanting things to be different.

Power Acquisition

Now we cut to Abin Sur crashing at the coast. Before he dies, he sends out his ring which we see zip away. We then cut to Hal leaving the bar and walking down the street for a bit. Then the ring finds him, and carries him off to Abin Sur's ship. He passes the lantern to Hal, but dies as he is about to tell him to safe guard the canister (so it gets left behind by Hal). Hal calls Carol to pick him up (since Tom isn't really part of this movie), which she does.We have the helicopters chase them away for the sake of action and suspense. Carol gets Hal home, leaves, and then Hal fidgets with the lantern. Finally, it activates, he says the oath, and then he is taken away to space. We cut as he passes the satellite.

Now we cut to General Hammond's bed room. He is awoken by a phone call telling him that he needs to come to some site. We then see the Hammonds arrive at the crash site, and a solider greets the general (no Amanda Waller since we are trying to simplify things). The solider then explains that there this is an alien crash, that there is a dead alien who was buried not far from here, and a set of footprints and tire tracks belonging to person or persons unknown. As he is explaining this, we see Hector finding the canister on the ground and fiddling with it. He opens it to find some kind of substance that is immediately absorbed into his skin, and drops the canister. Hammond immediately chastises him, tells Hector to stay by his side. We see either his eyes or his hands shine a little before the scene cuts away.

Oa

The next scene opens with Hal waking up at Oa (because who needs scenes of Hal in pain while he is being "tested"). Tomar-Re's introduction, and his tour of Oa can be kept pretty much the same as in the movie, except there would be a quick conversation about Hal questioning his "abduction". Perhaps, "I don't like being brought here against my will," followed by Tomar-Re saying, "Don't worry. If there is one thing we respect, it is someone's will." However, when he starts his training with Kiliwog, there are some major changes to be made. First of all, the instruction from Kiliwog would be longer. Second, it should be a montage so that we know that he is being trained more than just what we see. The montage ends with Hal questioning what he is doing there.

When then get a cut to Earth. This shows Carol going to Hal's apartment since she has not seen him since the night he found the ring. She finds that he is not there, and wonders where he is. She turns on the news (or she goes home to turn on the news), and sees a news story about Hector Hammond attacking people. She then wonders to herself what in the world is going on.

We go back to Oa, and Hal is sitting out on some ledge thinking to himself. Sinestro comes over and speaks to him. Hal tells him that he feels unsure about all of this. Sure there are aliens, that's fine. Sure, he's being asked to risk his life; he's done that before. But he doesn't really know what the Corps is. Is it a military? Is it a police-force? What gives the Corps the right to do what it does? Is it just a shame being used to eventually do harm? So Sinestro talks about his friendship with Abin Sur a bit, and maybe tells an adventure or two. His point is that the Green Lantern Corps is good. It stands for order and peace. Sure, the Guardians can be a bit weak on a few things, and things don't always go according to plan, but the Corps does more good than ill.

Hal then asks him, if he ever had to choose between his homeworld and the Corps, what would he choose? Sinestro says Korugar, but then adds that he doesn't see that happening. It is the Corps that allowed there to be peace at Korugar, and that the Guardians honor our commitment to our homeworlds.

Sinestro then tells Hal that he was actually looking for him because he has an important question to ask. "When you found Abin Sur, was he carrying anything?" Hal says no, and asks why. Sinestro says that Abin Sur was on a ship taking something to Oa. They have found the ship, but havn't found what it was he was carrying. Hal suggests that maybe it is on Earth. Sinestro says, "Perhaps. Your training will be done in a couple of weeks. It may be your first mission to investigate this. But that isn't up to me." Hal says thanks for the talk, tells Sinestro that he is a good friend and flies off.

Now perhaps now is a good time to cut back to Earth, and show some direct scene of Hector reking havoc. If we do, perhaps we can show him taking over Ferris Aircraft, with a bunch of followers behind him. He can make some grandiose speach about a new order, or some other hogwash. The point though would be to establish his goal of absolute power, and that currently he is unstoppable. I would have this at Ferris mostly because I want Carol to by our eyes and ears for what is happening on Earth. However, I would not make her a damsel in distress. Mostly, she would keep her head down. If she does retaliate at all, I would have her get away, and not be kidnapped or anything.

Graduation

So now it is a couple of weeks later and it is time for Hal's graduation from training. He is brought before the Guardians. They ask him some basic formal questions that he answers. They then ask him to demonstrate his skill, and he spars for a bit with Sinestro or Kiliwog. They say he is ready, give some formal induction speak, everyone says the oath, and yay!

Then the guardians give him his first mission. They tell him of the substance that Abin Sur was carrying, describe what it looks like and its effects. They have searched for it, but have not found it. They suspect that it is on Earth, but due to Earth still being young, there are regulations limiting their ability to enter into it. As an earthling, Hal is not bound by this restrictions. They tell him to find it, and bring it back to Oa. They then warn him that if someone else on Earth has found it, there may be a fight, and to prepare himself for it. Then they dismiss him.

After the ceremony, Hal meets with Tomar-Re, Kiliwog, and Sinestro. They congratulate in each their own way. Sinestro says that he may not be there when Hal comes back. They have been trying to track down the one who they believe killed Abin Sur, and it looks like he is in Sinestro's sector. Hal asks if he can help. Sinestro says no, he prefers to handle his sector himself. Besides, Hal's sector has been without a Lantern for a month. A lot can happen in a month. Hal says OK, and then flies off.

Return Home

We can watch Hal fly through space a bit, since he hasn't really done much of this, but then he gets home and first flies to his apartment. He notes that there are a lot of overdue bills, and rolls his eyes, realizing that he doesn't have a job, and that he should talk to the Guardians about his paycheck. He then turns on the TV, and it doesn't work. He tries to phone Carol, and this the phone line is dead. He goes down to his apartment's office to see what is going on, only to find the residents in the office, huddled together with blankets. Hal asks what is going on. There has apparently been no power for a few days, ever since Hector Hammond attacked the power station. "Who is Hector Hammond?" Hal says. "Where have you been Jordan? Hector Hammond is the guy that has been terrorizing the city for the past few weeks! Even the national guard couldn't stop the guy." "Where is he?" "How should I know? Besides, what you are going to do about it?"

Hal ignores him, and runs out of the building, and then flies looking for Carol. He then find her somehow. They have a quick argument about where he has been. Perhaps her saying, "And don't tell me it has to do with that stupid ring!" "Fine, I won't tell you then". He then says that Hammond has set himself up at a local military installation, and that the military is encamped somewhere near there. Currently, there appears to be a ceasefire between the two. Hal thanks her, and says he is going to see if he can help. She tells him know. He says, "Well I am a pretty good flyer." "Hal, you have not seen what this guys can do to planes." "Oh don't worry". He then holds up his ring and activates it. "I don't need to use a plane anymore." With that he flies off.

He first goes to the military encampment where he meets up with General Hammond. He introduces himself as a member of the intergalactic Green Lantern Corps. "So you are an alien." "No I am human. I was recently inducted to deal directly with this situation." "That dead alien we found. He had a suit just like that." "Yes he was transporting what has now infected that man out there when he was attacked and crash landed here. That is why Hammond has to be captured and cleansed. He will then be returned to you." "How do we know we can trust you." "I am still of Earth sir. This uniform doesn't change that." And with that, he flies off to fight against Hammond.

First Hal has to fight through the men who have joined up with Hammond, including fighting tanks and planes. And then we get a really cool battle of the GL and Hector fighting. At some point, Hector offers Hal to join him. With their combined power, the two of them can unite the Earth, and have the Earth advance to the stars. Hal says that isn't going to happen; he will bring Hammond to the Corps. Hammond says, "You would choose a bunch of aliens over Earth?" And then Hal says, "I don't have to choose. I am the Green Lantern OF Earth." And with that, Hal kicks Hammond's butt. However, rather than be taken captive, Hector takes his own life. The substance oozes out of him, and Hal picks it up with his ring. He returns Hector's body to the general and says, "Sorry. There wasn't anything more I could do." Perhaps some kind of additional chat and then Hal flies off.

Later on, he meets up with Carol. He can have the same conversation with Carol that he had at the end of the actual movie. I think it would still work (perhaps even better). They kiss, he flies off, Tomar-Re gives and epilogue, and close of movie.

After Credits

After the credits, we see a scene with Sinestro having been captured by Parralax.
Parallax: I was drawn to this region of space. There is so much fear here. It smells so... sweet. I smell the fear in you too.
Sinestro: I know no fear.
Parallax: I AM FEAR! Do not lie to me. You may not be afraid of me, but you are afraid. "What if they find out?" "What if I am caught?" "What if I lose everything I have gained here?" I am sure that the Guardians would not be happy with you when they discover how you have been keeping peace in your sector.
Sinestro: The ring is will. I have done nothing more than allow my will to bring order.
Parallax: You have not used will to bring order but fear. Fear is greater than will. Fear keeps things simple, and keeps people in line. You know Sinestro, I like you. And I think with enough time, you'll like me too.
Evil smile, and cut.

Concluding Thoughts

I'm not sure which of the two movies I would like better, last week's or this one. Last week's I think is more relationally involved, but this one would have more eye candy and probably more action. However, I do think that both movies are better than what we actually got, which was over extended, unfocused, and full of plot holes.

One thing that I really like about this particular movie is the theme of loyalty, as well as establishing a better relationship with Sinestro. It also corrects a major problem in the movie, that is the complete lack of training that Hal goes through. While it may be one of the more enjoyable action scenes in the movie, which is sad, it doesn't quite make sense. Why would Sinestro complain that a new recruit is raw? Why would Kiliwog just throw those three lessons at him one after another? How is Hal capable of being competent with the ring after five seconds of training? It just makes no sense, and the version above does.

It also shows off on of the major appeals of Green Lantern stories: aliens. Lots of weird aliens. It is just fun.

So I think I might prefer this one a little, but I think the first one has a tad more substance to it. Anyway, what do you think? Leave your own thoughts in the comments section.

February 17, 2014

What If The Green Lantern Movie Was Good?
Part I

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So last month I watched two videos about alternate scripts for Star Wars episodes one and two. While a little vulgar in certain places, his fundamental ideas showed a real awareness for what Star Wars was as well as what makes for a good movie.

So this got me thinking about other movies that could get the same kind of make-over. Certainly there are plenty of bad movies out there, but a lot of times we see a bad movie that we know didn't have to be bad. The top of my list with this is Green Lantern. I was really looking forward to seeing GL on screen due to the sheer spectacle of it. But he is also an interesting character due to his double loyalties (to Earth and to the Corps) and his rebellious nature despite being in a military organization.

The basic problem with the film is that attempted to do too much (a common problem in comic book movies). With this basic rule, I can think of two stories which are much simpler and would leave room for better character and plot development.

There are two aesthetic changes I would make as well. One is around the character of Hector Hammond. First of all his make-up was just awful, destroying his human features. Second of all, they made him too sympathetic (or pathetic), making him feel more like a victim than a villain, and more like a whiner than a threat. The other aesthetic change would be Green Lantern's costume. I actually like the idea of having glowing lines on the costume. However, having those lines accentuate muscles as opposed to the emblems on the costume is a bit like nippling the batsuit. It doesn't really work, and is more of a distraction in more dramatic scenes later on.

Green Lantern on Earth

Probably the simpler modification you can make is to keep the whole movie on Earth. The audience only needs to understand the ring as much as Hal does, and if Hal only knows what it can do, than that is all the audience needs to know as well. This story would be a story of an ordinary man who suddenly has a large amount of power fall into his lap. This would parallel very will with Hammond who would find himself in the same situation. The plot will go like this:

Opening

Cold open with Green Lantern Abin Sur. He is in a transport ship, and is reporting to some kind of superior about a sample that he is bringing back to some place called "Oa". A close up with the camera demonstrates that this sample is contained within some kind of heavily protected canister. In his report he mentions how the events on some planet was caused by a kind of substance. Also, it appears that this substance was introduced from off-world, and that the culprit is...

Suddenly his ship is attacked without warning. Due to his need to protect the sample, he attempts to fight the foe from inside of the ship. However the precision of the attack causes him to lose control, and he attempts to escape by activating his engine (or an escape pod. Doesn't really matter as long as he is protecting the canister). Opening credits.

Cut to Hal waking up. The scene introducing Hal can be left pretty much unchanged, even up until he crashes the plane. The only changes is that A) Hal isn't fired at the end, B) no Daddy issues, and C) Hector Hammond is accompanying his father as his assistant (also Hammond does not know either Hal or Carrol). We can also get some scenes of General Hammond being verbally abusive toward his son for the sake of establishing the character. They can also have a conversation on their way back to the car, to further establish their relationship. Afterwards, Hal goes to the bar, and Carrol meets up with him. They have a conversation/argument about what happened, and about their former relationship, basically like the bar scene in the movie with better dialogue. Carrol leaves and Hal returns to his drink saying something about wanting things to be different.

Fantastic Abilities

Now we cut to Abin Sur crashing at the coast. Before he dies, he sends out his ring which we see zip away. We then cut to Hal leaving the bar and walking down the street for a bit. Then the ring finds him, and carries him off to Abin Sur's ship. He passes the lantern to Hal, but dies as he is about to tell him to safe guard the canister (so it gets left behind by Hal). Hal calls Tom to pick him up, which he does.We have the helicopters chase them away for the sake of action and suspense. Tom gets Hal home, where Hal fidgets with the lantern. However, afterwards he merely passes out.

Now we cut to General Hammond's bed room. He is awoken by a phone call from Hector telling him that he needs to come to some site. Hammond chews Hector out for waking him and then asks him who it was that requested his presence. Hector says, "Somebody named Waller." To this, Hammond tells Hector to pick him up in the car immediately. We then see the Hammonds arrive at the crash site, and Waller greets the general. She asks who Hector is and Hammond introduces him as an assistant who knows how to be discreet. She then explains that there this is an alien crash, that there is a dead alien who was buried not far from here, and a set of footprints and tire tracks belonging to person or persons unknown. As she is explaining this, we see Hector finding the canister on the ground and fiddling with it. He opens it to find some kind of substance that is immediately absorbed into his skin, and drops the canister. Hammond immediately chastises him, tells Hector to stay by his side, and apologizes to Waller. We see either his eyes or his hands shine a little before the scene cuts away.

The next morning, Carrol comes to Hal's apartment furious because he didn't come to work. She can say something about responsibility and a hangover being no excuse, etc with Hal trying to explain without explaining. As she is about to leave, Tom comes in. After an awkward moment, Carrol leaves and Tom asks Hal if he got it to work. Hal smiles and it cuts to him and Tom in the desert, ready to experiment. Well, this scene would be fun, it should also demonstrate Hal's skills in test piloting: thinking about applications, limitations, and pushing boundaries.

Meanwhile, we have Hector discovering his abilities around the office, hearing people's thoughts about him (including his father), and accidentally knocking things off of shelves. He starts manipulating people, and enjoying himself doing it.

After this, we move on to the party. This scene can remain mostly intact. I actually like the idea of saving everyone from the crashing helicopter with the racecar. The fundamental difference being that Hector would be revealing things to Carrol but instead would simply lose control of his abilities. Would simply lose control of his abilities. Also show him having some real fun with it. Don't just have him do one small thing, but have him messing stuff up all around him: complete udder chaos. But no one knows where the source chaos is.

Things Are Getting Real

We can have the same scene where Tommy finds out about the Green Lantern suit and then Carrol finds out about the Green Lantern suit. But naturally when Hal and Carol are talking they're not going to talk about the Green Lantern Corps since Hal doesn't know about them. Instead they'll just talk about whether or not Hal is responsible and how crazy the whole idea is.

Meanwhile Hammond is suspecting Hector of a lot of things that are going on around the office. He confronts him about it and Hector denies everything while having something accidentally attack his father. His father survives but goes to Waller to inform her that something strange seems to be going Hector follows him there and then we get the fight between him Waller and Hammond. This causes some explosion that happen which how Hal is going to be able to notice. So Hal goes it investigates and we get our first fight to them which ends up in some kind of a draw. Likely Hector would have some kind of advantage at the end which causes Hal to retreat, but saving Waller. Hammond can die though.

In the aftermath of this fight, Hal is principally concerned with not being sure about whether he should be doing anything like this at all. It  is not that he fears death, but that he fears himself. The power that he is wielding is unprecedented, and he doesn't really know he is a good enough person to be trusted with it. At the end of the conversation he decides not the wear the ring, because he doesn't want to be the monster that he saw in Hammond. Tommy and Carol attempt to argue with him, but he is resolute.

Meanwhile Hector wants Hal's ring, and plans on the typical world domination. Why? Because Hector Hammond is a threat in his own right and doesn't need some other villain to make him dangerous. This is also who Hector Hammond really is. He is someone who wants power and respect, but has no idea what he would do if he ever got them. Think of Titan from Megamind. That who Hector Hammond is. He's a buffoon with a really dangerous toy. And that is what makes him so dangerous: he doesn't think out the consequences of what he is doing and why. He's not pure evil, but incredibly selfish and immature.

Back At Ferris Aircraft

So the next day, Hal goes back to Ferris Aircraft. Why? Because he works there. Carol approaches him, and attempts to bring the subject of the ring back up, but Hal says, "Not now. I'm here to fly, not talk" or something to that effect.

As Hal is getting ready to test an aircraft, suddenly Hector Hammond comes in. Why? Because it is a military institution that he knows about and he is seeking to acquire power. In other words, he comes for control of the planes, specifically the drone planes we saw Hal combating at the beginning of the movie. Also, Hal doesn't have his ring at this point, so he, Carol, and Tommy have to try to deal with him powerless. They ultimately fail, and have to abandon Ferris Aircraft, while Hector takes control of the planes, and brings them to the local military base that his father was commanding.

Watching Hector leave, Hal, Carol, and Tommy have the rather obvious discussion of whether or not Hal should use the ring. This discussion is of course quite short since Hal wouldn't really need convincing. He immediately recognizes that while he is not sure he can be trusted with his power, he is confident that Hector can't be trusted with his and needs stopping. So he rushes home to get the ring.

Climax

As Hal rushes home, Hector begins his attack on the army base. The aircraft remain unstoppable, and Hector is easily able to take care of combatants on the ground. As he goes, he collects weapons that he is able to use with his telekinesis. He has, off screen. Perhaps he could also have some "soldiers" with him who he had convinced that he was a god using his telepathy. These "soldiers" could be gathering various weapons as they advance. Hector intends to take over the base and use it as a castle: a place of defense that he can use to establish a kingdom in the surrounding area. The base also has missile silos that he is hoping to use.

When Hal finally gets home, he discovers that his ring is out of power. So he says the oath, charges it, activates, and flies away to the base. His first course of action is to take out the aircraft, which shouldn't be too easy, but shouldn't be too hard either. He then lands in the base, and states that he is here to help. He discovers that Waller is currently in charge there. While she doesn't entirely trust him, she says that she accepts his assistance for the time being, since he saved her once before, and just took out two of Hector's planes. However, she insists on have "a talk" afterward.

From here, we see Hal flying out of the base, and attacking Hector's soldiers. Eventually, he confronts Hector himself. They have a big awesome battle which is fun to watch. I don't think we really need a break-down of this, we just want it to be big and flashy. Lots of things being thrown around by Hector (the bigger the better), and lots of interesting light-constructs made by Hal. Hal of course wins, apprehends Hector, and takes him back to Waller.

Waller is able to ask him a couple of questions, about the body of Abin Sur and the ring, which Hal answers to the best of his ability. She then asks him what the symbol means, and before Hal answers, an unknown voice says, "It means he is a Green Lantern." Everyone looks up and reveals three Green Lanterns: Sinestro, Tomar-Re, and a third Lantern from the comics, maybe Kilowog. Tomar-Re turns to Sinestro and says, "Sinestro, perhaps I should handle the negotiations." He tells Waller that the Green Lantern Corps is an intergalactic police force, and that one of their soldiers crashed here along with a dangerous substance that he had in his custody. They came here to investigate what had happened to him, but had trouble finding the ring since it was not being used. The battle had attracted their attention.

He says that they must take Hector into custody to purge his body of the substance. Afterwards, they will return him to the Earth for judgement. Waller attempts to argue with him, and Tomar-Re gives a brief argument about the Earth not being able to properly confine Hector in his current state, but then Sinestro says that they need to take him anyway. he says that telling her is a matter of politeness and respect, but they'll take him by force is necessary. They will also return him regardless as well since this is Green Lantern law. Waller doesn't like this but must acquiesce.

The conversation then shifts to Hal. They invite him to Oa to undergo training and officially join the corps. Hal states his loyalties are to Earth, and Tomar-Re says that he will not have to give up those loyalties. He would be stationed here, and recognizing local planet sovereignty is part of Green Lantern law. Hal eventually agrees, but states there are some people he needs to see first.

This cuts to him coming to talk to Carol and Tommy. He explains briefly what happened, and his resolution to his internal conflict regarding power. He kisses Carol goodbye for now, gives Tommy a hug, and flies off. We get the Geoffrey Rush ending monologue, and credits.

At the end of the credits, we get a Sinestro scene as well. Except this one is Sinestro standing over Abin Sur's graving, revealing that he attacked Sur, that he is here to cover up the attack, and that he was the one that planted the substance on whatever planet Abin Sur was coming from (and that the attack on Sur was to cover that up). End movie.

Final Thoughts

The basic theory behind the movie is to establish Hal as a character rather than the Corps. We can save the full revelation of the Corps and aliens and the rest of the mythology in a later movie. By keeping the film about Hal on Earth you simplify the plot and cut back on exposition, allowing for a greater focus on character. Also, we keep the movie to one villain, since there is enough that the movie already has to cover.

The other basic theory is to keep Hector Hammond as the villain since that was the villain used in the movie, and that is the movie that I am trying to fix. I don't just want to say, this is the Green Lantern movie I would really want to do. Instead, this is one way to fix the movie that they already made. However, I think there is another way to do this, and I think the other way is ultimately be better. But I will save that description for next week.