Warner Bros. // 2011 // 84 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // June 6th, 2011
Six legendary Green Lanterns. Six interlocking stories. One groundbreaking film.
"Now you have your own story."
A very big, very ancient, very evil force named Krona has re-appeared in space. Obviously, this is a problem that demands the services of the Green Lantern Corps. The Guardians of the Universe (the little blue guys who run the GLC) are forced to evacuate their home planet Oa and gather the entire forces of the Corps to prepare them for battle with Krona. During the preparation process, veteran Green Lantern Hal Jordan (Nathan Fillion, Castle) spends some time with a new recruit named Arisia (Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men). As the battle with Krona draws closer and closer, Jordan regales Arisia with tales of the Green Lantern Corp's history.
I'm a little puzzled by the fact that the phrase "groundbreaking film" is included in the tagline of Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. There's nothing groundbreaking about it: Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps have already been depicted in the stellar DCU Animated flick Green Lantern: First Flight, and the anthology format was previously employed in Batman: Gotham Knight. I guess the fact that this one offers some connective tissue between the stories makes it groundbreaking? Eh, who cares? What matters is that Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is a considerable improvement on the inconsistent Gotham Knight (still generally regarded as the weakest DCU Animated film).
The 84-minute film (the longest of the DCU Animated efforts to date) essentially offers five self-contained animated shorts wrapped within a slightly forced framing device (which is given about as much time as most of the shorts when all is said and done). Each of the sections was written and directed by a different team, giving each segment a unique tone even though the animation style doesn't alter much.
The first story is "The First Lantern," written by Michael Green & Marc Guggenheim. It's a decent start, detailing the origins of the Green Lantern Corps and giving those unfamiliar with the GLC an opportunity to learn a bit about how power rings work. The tale is simple and relies very heavily on narration from Hal Jordan (who otherwise remains a background player in this film, though Fillion is an exceptionally good fit for the role), but it delivers some terrific action sequences and benefits from strong pacing. It's a solid way to kick things off.
Things get even better with Peter J. Tomasi's "Kilowog," adapted and expanded from a tale Tomasi delivered in the "Tales of the Green Lantern Corps" miniseries. Kilowog (Henry Rollins, Sons of Anarchy) is generally regarded as the gruff drill sergeant of the corps, but this tale takes us back to his earliest days when he was taking orders from an exceptionally nasty commander named Deegan. It may be Full Metal Jacket-lite with a sci-fi twist, but it's immensely entertaining and features some top-notch character work. What the short lacks in subtlety it makes up for in sheer fun.
Eddie Berganza's "Laira" is a lengthy but rewarding tale, offering the story of a female Lantern who discovers that her father has transformed her home planet into a world of war and violence. Though it took a while to hook me, "Laira" proved to be the tale with the greatest measure of emotional weight. The primary tale is solid enough, but it also boasts an extended flashback-within-a-flashback which offers a striking look at the planet's history. In addition, the piece boasts some of the strongest action material Emerald Knights has to offer.
Next, Dave Gibbons adapts his classic short story "Mogo Doesn't Socialize" with somewhat mixed results. It's a good story and offers a generous sampling of humor that the rest of the shorts lack, but the fun twist is telegraphed way too far in advance. Why did Gibbons and director Jay Oliva feel a need to spoil the fun so early? DC Comics fans will know all about Mogo from the beginning, but attentive newcomers will have a delightful surprise ruined for them. Still, it's an entertaining piece.
DC heavy hitter Geoff Johns steps up to the plate for "Abin Sur," an engaging piece which spotlights an important chapter the deceased Green Lantern's history. Sinestro (Jason Isaacs, The Patriot) plays a key role in this short, and there's even a nod to Johns' "The Sinestro Corps War" saga (which would make a terrific animated film, if I may humbly make the suggestion). More than any other, this short is geared directly at well-informed Green Lantern fans, who will appreciate A) the participation of Johns and B) the many enjoyable references to various aspects of Green Lantern lore.
Things wraps up with the epic conclusion "Emerald Knights" (written by the combined forces of Geoff Johns, Alan Burnett and Todd Casey), which brings us back to the present and the epic battle against Krona. It's completely insubstantial in terms of plotting (a bunch of green lanterns fight a giant space demon), but it offers some striking visuals and things sure do blow up real good. I found the framing device to be the least compelling of the stories, as the battle plays out in a somewhat clumsy manner, but it's enjoyable enough.
For the most part, the 1080p/1.78:1 transfer is a winner. Colors are positively vibrant, the level of detail is pristine, blacks are deep and inky -- this is a well-animated flick and viewers are definitely given the opportunity to appreciate that fact. The only issue is banding, which proves a problem on a semi-regular basis. Some instances are more notable than others, but those who pay any attention at all to transfer quality are bound to notice it. The sound is fantastic during the action sequences, offering an immersive, hard-hitting experience that will give your speaker system quite a workout. The quieter moments are almost amusingly subdued in contrast, offering little in the way of sound design. Christopher Drake's score isn't quite given the strong mix it deserves (a problem with several DCU Animated films), but it's a worthy effort. Only a couple of techno-driven cues sound out-of-place.
Extras includes a commentary with Geoff Johns and DC Co-Publisher Dan Didio, both of whom focus more on the story elements than on the making of the film (as they weren't involved in much of that process). It's a solid track, though. "Only the Bravest: Tales of the Green Lantern Corps" (32 minutes) is an entertaining overview of the GLC's history, while "Why Green Lantern Matters: The Talent of Geoff Johns" (18 minutes) allows Mr. Johns to wax eloquent about his take on the franchise. "From Comic Book to Screen" (7 minutes) offers brief profiles of Abin Sur and Laira Omoto, and you also get an 11-minute sneak peek at the forthcoming Batman: Year One. In addition, there's a bonus episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold plus a brief clip from another episode, a virtual comic book and a behind-the-scenes look at the DCU Animated flick All-Star Superman. You also get a DVD and Digital Copy of the film.
I'm a little disappointed that DC chose not to offer a direct sequel to the enjoyable Green Lantern: First Flight. That film was unquestionably designed to kick off a series of films, but relatively poor sales prevented that from happening. As such, some viewers may watch this film and scratch their heads over some continuity issues (Sinestro is a good guy, for instance).
Energetic and entertaining, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights offers a fun way to warm up for the forthcoming live-action blockbuster. The Blu-ray release looks good (despite the banding issues), sounds good and offers a generous supply of engaging bonus features.
Review content copyright © 2011 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (German)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Italian)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
* German (SDH)
* Italian (SDH)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Bonus Cartoons
* Sneak Peeks
* Virtual Comic
* DVD Copy
* Digital Copy