No evil shall escape Judge Dan Mancini's sight...provided he's wearing his glasses.
Our review of Green Lantern: First Flight, published July 28th, 2009, is also available.
"In brightest day, in blackest night,
DC Comics may play second banana to Marvel in the print world, but its ventures into animation have blown their chief competitor out of the water. Marvel has never had an animated television series as artful and fun as producer Bruce Timm's Batman: The Animated Series. And its feature-length superhero team-up epics Ultimate Avengers and Ultimate Avengers 2 don't hold a candle to DC's Justice League: The New Frontier—neither in style nor substance. Now, DC Universe Original Animated Movies is back with its fifth direct-to-video feature, Green Lantern: First Flight. Produced by Timm and directed by Lauren Montgomery (Wonder Woman), the movie is a straight-up origin story that remains (relatively) faithful to the comic book continuity, while distilling Silver Age Green Lantern Hal Jordan's story down to a 77-minute mini-epic that's accessible to comic neophytes.
Facts of the Case
When Abin Sur of the Green Lantern Corps dies after crashing on Earth, his power ring chooses test pilot Hal Jordan (Christopher Meloni, Bound) to become protector of Sector 2814 of the universe. Soon other members of the intergalactic police force that is the Green Lantern Corps arrive to take Jordan to the planet Oa where little blue men known as the Guardians of the Universe will decide whether he is worthy to wear the ring. Jordan is placed under the tutelage of a rebellious, iconoclastic Green Lantern named Sinestro (Victor Garber, Titanic). Jordan and his mentor learn that Abin Sur was killed while pursuing an alien named Kanjar Ro (Kurtwood Smith, RoboCop), who had purportedly found and hidden the yellow element, an energy source capable of neutralizing the Green Lantern Corps. Detective work and space battles abound, as the duo tries to recover the yellow element from enemy hands. But something is amiss: Jordan begins to suspect Sinestro may have designs on seizing the yellow element for himself. Soon enough, Hal is squaring off against Sinestro, with the help of Green Lanterns Kilowog (Michael Madsen, Kill Bill: Volume 2), Boodikka (Tricia Helfer, Battlestar Galactica), and Tomar Re (John Laroquette, Stripes).
Truth be told, First Flight isn't the first Green Lantern movie. For all intents and purposes, Justice League: The New Frontier was the first feature about everyone's favorite ring-wearing superhero. With Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman side-lined by plot contrivances, Hal Jordan was the star of that show (with the Barry Allen version of the Flash placing a close second). The New Frontier even presented Green Lantern's origin story and did so in a much more satisfying fashion. The New Frontier had the advantage of being a period piece set in the late 1950s, the time that the Hal Jordan Green Lantern originally premiered in the pages of comic books. By moving Jordan's origin to the present day, First Flight loses some key textural elements of the mythos. In the '50s and early '60s, no one was cooler or sexier than a test pilot—okay, maybe Elvis Presley was cooler, but Chuck Yeager crapped bigger than Elvis. The 21st century version of Jordan is still a test pilot, but the job is decidedly not cool. When the power ring selects him to be the next Green Lantern, it kidnaps him from a flight simulator—yeah, a flight simulator. We only ever see him at the controls of an expensive and sophisticated video game, never a real jet. In The New Frontier, Jordan is shot down in enemy territory and has to kill a Korean soldier with his bare hands before the power ring decides he's badass enough to play cop to an entire sector of the universe. It's easy for us to believe he has the mettle to do the job. In First Flight, we have to take the power ring's word for it.
Despite these nagging anachronisms, when Green Lantern: First Flight kicks into gear, it's like Star Wars with superheroes—two great tastes that taste great together. A sequence in which a platoon of Green Lanterns flies through a space vortex while fighting Kanjar Ro's lackeys is great fun. So is the climax in which the thoroughly defeated Lantern Corps are rescued by a fully energized Hal ready to wreak havoc in an earth-shattering throw-down with Sinestro. The presence of Kilowog (excellently voiced by Michael Madsen), Arisia Rrab, and other Lantern Corps stalwarts only adds to the muscular, action-packed fun. Unfortunately, these moments of epic spectacle are tempered by too many scenes of the Guardians of the Universe tediously reviewing Green Lantern Corp policies and procedures, spewing page after page of expository dialogue, burying the audience in goofy sounding space jargon and implausible pap about the galaxy's toughest warriors being entirely vulnerable to the color yellow. First Flight is a well-made 30-minute action epic, surrounded by almost an hour of dull, awkwardly staged set-up. It looks like the show is going to hit the ground running, when the Green Lantern power ring chooses Hal Jordan to be the universe's newest space cop in an abbreviated pre-credits sequence. Then Jordan is whisked away to Oa where the new employee orientation begins and the fun grinds to a halt. The movie never quite recovers, until its third act. Thankfully, it does so in fine fashion.
Green Lantern: First Flight comes to Blu-ray in a beautiful 1080p VC-1 transfer that delivers bold colors, fluid motion, and nothing in the way of compression artifacts, combing, macro-blocking, or other digital flaws that often plague transfers of animated features. Forget DVD. Blu-ray is the way to watch First Flight. Audio is presented in a Dolby TrueHD mix that delivers clean dialogue and effects, but doesn't bring sufficient noise during the large-scale action sequences.
The movie is accompanied by a number of lightweight video featurettes:
The only Blu-ray exclusive is I Am the Ring, a 22-minute examination of the history of Green Lantern and comic books' connection to ancient myths. In Green Lantern: Behind the Story with Geoff Johns (8:41), the comic book writer talks about his resurrection of Hal Jordan in 2005, as well as his general love of the Green Lantern mythos. A section called In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night: The Green Lantern Corps contains two brief video featurettes that provide profiles of Sinestro and the Guardians of the Universe. Blackest Night: Inside the DC Comics Event (8:52) offers an in-depth teaser of the Green Lantern-based crossover story conceived by Geoff Johns for the pages of a variety of DC Comics publications.
The disc also contains a collection of Green Lantern-related animated shorts. First up is Duck Dodgers episode "The Green Loontern." Next, producer Bruce Timm selects five Green Lantern episodes from Justice League Unlimited: "Once and Future King, Parts 1 and 2," "Hearts and Minds, Parts 1 and 2," and "The Return."
A First Look at Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (7:49) gives us a sneak peek at the next DC animated feature in the pipeline. There are also promotional featurettes for past releases, Justice League: The New Frontier, Wonder Woman, and Batman: Gotham Knight.
Disc Two of this release is a DVD with a downloadable digital copy of the feature.
Green Lantern: First Flight is the weakest DC animated feature yet, but still reasonably entertaining. It's relative faithfulness to comic book continuity will please hardcore fans, while the well-staged action sequences are fun for casual viewers. Some clunky exposition makes the movie more worthy of a rental than a purchase, but it's still worth checking out—and still better than anything released by Marvel Animation Studios.
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