Sinestro & The Yellow Ring in the Comic Books
In the comic books, much like the movie, Sinestro was once a well-respected member of the Green Lantern Corps – and a very capable one at that. In fact, after Abin Sur’s death and before Hal Jordan’s ascension through the ranks, Sinestro was considered by many (himself especially) to be “the greatest Green Lantern” in the Corps. When Hal Jordan was inducted, Sinestro was assigned to be his mentor, much to his chagrin. If Green Lantern were, say, a buddy cop movie (and it sort of is, within the pages of a comic), Sinestro would’ve been the “corrupt veteran cop” to Hal’s “idealistic but cocky rookie cop.”
Eventually, it was discovered that Sinestro used his powers as a Lantern to transform his planet – Korugar – into a dictatorship, forcing all its citizens to worship him and stay in line. Hal Jordan found out, testified against him, and the vain, arrogant, and dictatorial Sinestro was banished to the planet Qward in the Anti-Matter universe. Needless to say, Sinestro held a grudge.
After convincing the people of Qward to craft a yellow power ring for him, Sinestro wore it as Hal Jordan’s most dangerous enemy (remember, this was at a time when yellow was a Green Lantern’s only weakness). Sinestro was defeated, like all rogues eventually are, and this time he was imprisoned inside Oa’s Battery. The yellow ring passed on to ex-Green Lantern and hothead Earth jock Guy Gardner, who used it for good in the Justice League International until Hal Jordan (as Parallax) destroyed it. The point being, the yellow ring of the comic books does not automatically make you evil.
Later, Sinestro – again, by way of the Qwardians – constructed countless yellow rings and amassed an army of Yellow Lanterns (The Sinestro Corps) to wage war against the Guardians and the Green Lanterns in a comic book crossover of epic proportions known as The Sinestro Corps Wars. (Which was, in my opinion, the best comic book crossover of the past ten years.) Anyone capable of inspiring great fear in others was a viable candidate, including Batman, who obviously rejected it outright. Because he’s awesome.
Sinestro & The Yellow Ring in the Movie
In the Green Lantern film, Sinestro is best friends with Abin Sur and one of the greatest, most capable members of the Corps. He also looks pretty much identical to his comic book counterpart (indeed, Mark Strong was born to play the guy). Unfortunately, this is where the similarities between the two versions end. Sure, the Sinestro of the film could be arrogant, vain, and even dictatorial, like Comic Book Sinestro, but we don’t see any of that onscreen, really. As far as we know, Cinematic Sinestro is as altruistic and kindhearted – if a little bit stern – as he appears to be.
Due to his desperation to defeat Parallax, Sinestro convinces the Guardians to craft a yellow power ring from the depths of the yellow energy chamber to “fight fear with fear.” As for how they craft such a ring, we don’t get to see that process. Sinestro asks for it, the blue Gnome-like Guardians nod their gigantic heads in agreement, and voila – yellow power ring! (Never mind how exactly fear is supposed to fight fear. Why would a yellow ring powered by fear and wielded by a Corps member be able to combat a gigantic yellow space cloud octopus also powered by fear?)
Hal Jordan stops Sinestro from placing the ring on his finger – because obviously he understands how all this fear and will energy stuff works after being introduced to it exactly twenty-four hours prior – and he runs off and defeats Parallax all by himself.
At the end of the film, Sinestro – who was concerned that Abin Sur’s replacement was no match for Abin Sur – shakes Jordan’s hand, indicating that they’ll be best friends forever. Perhaps we’ll see that buddy cop dynamic from the comic that I previously mentioned? Perhaps we’ll see Sinestro’s transition from good cop to corrupt cop? In a sequel? Maybe?
Doubtful. Instead, halfway through the credits of the film, we’re shown a brief scene of Sinestro placing the yellow power ring upon his finger for no discernable reason – remember, this is the yellow ring that was created to defeat the already-defeated Parallax – and his power suit suddenly transforms from green to black and yellow. His insignia suddenly changes to that of the one emblazoned on the outside of the fear energy chamber. He’s a Yellow Lantern now, in the exact suit he wore as the head of the Sinestro Corps in the comics.
The implication being: the yellow ring is what makes Sinestro a bad guy, not his own arrogance or control issues. A stupid, yellow power ring. Why use character development when you can use plot devices?
Advantage: The Comic Books – because Sinestro is genuinely cool, interesting and wonderfully complex in them.