Part 1 of the 3 part Green Lantern blog series

Welcome to the first multiple part blog series on Four Colors. The first mini-series, if you will. The topic is Green Lantern, who is currently enjoying the spotlight over at DC, being at the center of the DC’s summer crossover, “Blackest Night,” and is the star of the most recent Warner Bros. Animated film “Green Lantern: First Flight.” The first part of this post will be about “First Flight,” which came out two weeks ago.

Following the end of the animated series, “Justice League Unlimited,” DC Comics and Warner Bros. launched the “DC Universe Original Animated Movies” line, which was meant to be free of the continuity established in the several shows produced over the last 10+ years and present stories from popular comics series, leading off with 2007’s “Superman: Doomsday,” a stream-lined retelling of “The Death of Superman” storyline from the early 90s. Wonder Woman, Batman, and The Justice League have received their own films, either adapting a previous story or inspired from several stories. Green Lantern finds himself being the fifth film in this line.green-lantern-first-flight

Hal Jordan is a cocky test pilot with a chip on his soldier, but he has the willpower of a line of oxen. That’s why, when alien Abin Sur crashes to his death, the ring he wears, the ring of the Green Lantern, chooses Jordan. Suddenly, Jordan is no longer just a test pilot, but an intergalactic cop, assigned to protect his home sector as a member of the Green Lantern Corps. But Jordan’s showboating and the esteem held for Sur causes him to come into conflict with his fellow Lanterns and his superiors, The Guardians of the Galaxy. Jordan displays himself as able to wield the ring and is brought under the wing of the greatest Lantern, Sinestro. Together, the two search for answers to Abin Sur’s death, but Jordan begins to suspect that there is more to Sinestro than meets the eye.

The trailer is here from YouTube

The characters in this film, like all DC’s animated films, are quickly engaging. The viewer can understand them within the first scene. That is really a credit to the writers, who have constantly delivered on this. Hal Jordan is cocky, but there is something deeper, something stronger. And there is a subtle charm to Sinestro, who comes off as sophisticated for the majority of the film.

The voice acting is superb as well. Andrea Romano is the best voice casting director in the business. Christopher Meloni as Hal Jordan plays him as arrogant, but Meloni’s voice makes him sound like there is something about him that he can back up that arrogance. Victor Garber adds to the sophistication of Sinestro and almost makes his world view as something that makes sense. My favorite actor though is Michael Madsen as Kilowog, a gruff alien who just wants to hit stuff, but is loyal to the end.

The design work, like all the DC animated films that have come out in the past few years, breaks away from the usual Bruce Timm style. I’m a fan of the Timm work, but the continual shift in style has been a boost for some of the films. For “First Flight,” it’s almost a wash. The Green Lanterns all look great, especially the redesigned Lantern uniforms that look like they actually have some sort of armor or padding and not just an adult pair of footy pajamas. But where it is less than stellar is in alien design work. The Guardians look like they are rejects from a Blue-Man Group production of “Willow.” When Jordan and Sinestro are searching for the killer of Abin Sur, the entire segment looks like it could’ve been lifted from the 90s film “Titan A.E.” or cult classic “Heavy Metal.” It is just not inspired. And, for whatever reason, I couldn’t stand the way Hal Jordan looked outside of his Lantern uniform.

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The problem with this film is that it assumes far too much. There is a lot left unexplained or just glossed over. Without any instructions from Abin Sur, Jordan knows how to use the ring like he has been doing this all his life. This could’ve been explained with some dialogue about how rare it is that a new person can use the ring that well or something like that, but it is just never brought up. According to an interview from worldsfinestonline.com with director Lauren Mongomery, she felt that since Jordan’s origin story had already been done in another DC animated film (last year’s “The New Frontier”) …we really didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time telling that same story over again. So in Green Lantern: First Flight, the origin story is over and done before the opening credits.” A valid point, but it still felt like there was something missing as a result of this decision.

This could be because the film just covers far too much ground. Maybe they just aren’t sure of the possibility of a sequel or what, but there was just too much information. Sinestro’s betrayal could’ve been spread over two films because the way it was done here was unsatisfying. He has always been a villain, introduced as a renegade Green Lantern, but the last decade or so has really gone back and looked at the shades of grey mentality he has, showing the decent as more gradual, as opposed to something that can be conveyed in under 80 minutes.

It is definitely not the strongest DC animated film out there. That title, in my opinion, belongs to the Japanese inspired Batman: Gotham Knight because of this simple formula:

Bruce Timm + Kevin Conroy as Batman = GOLD!

But it is still a good addition to the growing film library of DC and worth checking out, if only for the preview of the next DC animated film “Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.” Green Lantern is quickly cementing himself as an icon on par with Superman and Batman so it is only fitting that he is their lead-in.

Green Lantern: First Flight is available in stores now.

Images copyright of Warner Bros.