Monday, June 20, 2011
Green Lantern First Flight (2009) direct-to-dvd Animation review
Overall verdict: 8/10
The Good: Encompasses all aspects that made the comics such a hit, extremely smooth animation, excellent voice acting, decent level of art detail, well developed villian, unique musical score,
The Bad: Rushed origin story, bland main character, short running time
Current Availability Status: on DVD and Blu Ray
With the Green Lantern Live action movie hitting cinemas and being met with less than enthusiastic reviews, it is high time we revisit "the other" Green Lantern origin story.
"Green Lantern: First Flight" is a direct to video animated feature from Warner Bros based on DC's Green Lantern characters. It presents a re-telling of the origin of Hal Jordan as Green Lantern, his recruitment into the Green Lantern Corp and subsequent first mission. Along the way he meets a variety of unique characters including Sinestro, a senior Green Lantern enforcer with a hidden agenda.
For an origin story, Green Lantern First Flight seems to be geared specifically toward the long time fans of the Green Lantern comic series. As soon as it gets the chance, it is bye bye earth, hello space faring adventures in a dangerous galaxy. Any fan of the comics would know that the more interesting and unique aspects of the Green Lantern mythos lie in the space adventures so First flight wastes no time over the actual origin tale and jumps straight into the think of things. How Hal Jordan got the Green Lantern ring is over and done with in the first 5 minutes. By the next 5 minutes he is already in full control of his powers and being brought before the Green Lantern council of guardians and on his way to becoming a full fledged member.
Running at a mere 77 minutes, This show tries to cram too much into too short a time. It has to believably develop the character of Hal Jordan, play out the plot involving Sinestro and the mysterious Yellow Lantern, AND familiarise the audience with the sometimes complicated mythos and backstory of side characters and the Green Lantern Corp itself. More time could have been devoted to letting the suspense and intrigue play out so that the whole "cop drama in space" feel can be fully appreciated. Sadly, the component that is hit hardest by the short running time is character development.
As the main character in his own origin movie, Hal Jordan is possibly the most under-developed character in the whole show. The only thing that sets him apart from the rest is his creativity with the power ring(and mind you, the things he makes with that ring are really cool and adds a little humor here and there.) Other than that, there is never any sense of Hal's story as a journey from "zero to hero". Sinestro on the other hand is given a refreshing take as a villain. His motives no longer come across as anything purely sinister. He is a soldier fed up with the indecisiveness of his superiors, the bureaucracy of the Corp and their unwillingness to take drastic action against criminals. With his Machiavellian philosophy acting as a perfect foil to Hal Jordan, Sinestro is a very well developed character overall; his motives leading very logically into his actions without the blakc and white simplicity of good and evil. Side characters like Kilowog and the Guardians are so much more interesting than main character Hal, punctuated by top notch acting all the way that lends to the believability and realism of the show.
Aside from a rather bland hero and a short running time, Green Lantern First Flight still manages to be highly entertaining. After the first 15 minutes or so, The story starts to shares a number of elements similar to "The Recruit". New guy gets recruited into a law enforcement organization, though there are those that do not quite trust him. What was thought to be a run-of-the-mill mission soon turns out to be something a lot deeper, encompassing betrayal, hostile takeover, and a bit of philosophical sparring. Accompanying the epic space action is a unique musical score that is quite different in feel from the other superhero animated features. This one uses an interesting mix of traditional instruments and electronic synthetic sounds, like a mixture of Star Trek with John William's influence.
What would stand out most of all is the gorgeous animation. The same high frame rate is applied here again, as with previous DC animated features. Characters movements are very fluid with none of the typical short cuts seen often, especially in japanese anime. The level of detail in the art has also been taken up a notch. One or two of the fight scenes could have been staged a little better though. The director, Lauren Montgomery, is good at what she does, except fight scenes which lack a sense of tension thanks to unimaginative shot angles in the storyboarding.
Character designs in Green Lantern are not as angular as previous DC animation styles. The men characters are more realistically proportioned, no longer overly muscle bound, and The Women characters bear a very feminine "European anime" look like in Totally Spies and Martin Mystery. The alien characters here are also something new for DC animation. They actually LOOK ALIEN, and not like humans wearing makeup and prosthetics like in the Justice league animated series. Most of the designs are really original though one or two look like they were ripped off from Ben 10.
A word of warning though. This film EARNS its NC16 rating. A little swearing in the dialog, some innuendo here and there and lots of violence. There are a couple of scenes that some people may find disturbing like a guy getting imploded and sucked out into space through a tiny hole for example. Definitely not for kids(and kids wont appreciate the complex story anyway).
All in all, Green Lantern: First flight is really a gem. A pity it was so short though, which seriously affected some character development and pacing issues. It plays out more true to the cosmic spanning feel of the comics than the live action Green Lantern movie does yet it is, to a certain extent, accessible for newcomers to the franchise.
Go For it: if you want to see a Green Lanter origin story that encompasses the cosmic level action of the comics instead of the rather dull and cliched earth-based superheroics
Avoid it: if aliens worlds, different races, and Star Wars style of locales in the spirity of solid science fiction put you off immediately.
Voice work (English): A
Replay Value: B+