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Green Lantern: First Flight
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by Mel Valentin

"The Green Lantern mythos as it should be."
4 stars

If "Green Lantern: First Flight," the fifth feature-length animated film in the DCU Animated Universe ("Superman: Doomsday," "Justice League: The New Frontier," "Batman: Gotham Knight." "Wonder Woman" from Warner Bros. direct-to-DVD label, Warner Premiere, and Warner Animation, is any indication of the upcoming live-action adaptation, then Green Lantern fans have much to celebrate (not to mention anticipate). Produced, once again, by Bruce Timm ("Justice League: Unlimited," "Justice League," "Superman: The Animated Series," "Batman: The Animated Series") and directed by Lauren Montgomery ("Wonder Woman," "Superman: Doomsday") from a script by veteran writer Alan Burnett, "Green Lantern: First Flight" has everything thatís made the Green Lantern one of DCís most consistently popular characters: action, character, humor, and drama wrapped up in space opera super-heroics.

Green Lantern: First Flight kicks off quickly, with Hal Jordanís (voiced by Christopher Meloni) transformation into the Green Lantern, a super-powered space cop, handled in a brisk, efficient pre-credits sequence. In mid-flight simulation, Jordan finds himself transported to the crash site of an alien, Abin Sur (Richard McGonagle). Sur, dying from his wounds, bequeaths the source of his power, the green ring, to Jordan, and dies before giving him specific directions. Jordan returns to the airfield and his sometime lover and the head of Ferris Airlines, Carol Ferris (Olivia d'Abo). Before long, Halís testing out the ringís resources. Four Green Lanterns, Sinestro (Victor Garber), Boodikka (Tricia Helfer), Kilowog (Michael Madsen), and Tomar Re (John Larroquette), arrive on Earth and confront Jordan. Sinestro gives Jordan little choice: either relinquish the ring or accompany the other Green Lanterns, to Oa, the home of the Green Lantern Corps and the so-called Guardians of the Universe, diminutive, blue-skinned immortals.

On Oa, Jordan faces anti-human prejudice from some of the Guardians. They see humans as a primitive, violent race, unsuitable for membership in the Green Lantern Corps. Sinestro, a senior officer in the Corps respected by the Guardians, offers to mentor Jordan. They agree and just as quickly Jordan and Sinestro leave Oa to track down Abin Surís killer. Jordan begins to chafe under Sinestroís leadership. Sinestro openly disrespects the Guardians and, in one incident, tortures an alien, Labella (Juliet Landau), to reveal the whereabouts of Abin Surís killer, Cuch (Richard Green), a low-level enforcer for a galactic warlord, Kanjar Ro (Kurtwood Smith). Kanjar Ro, of course, isnít the ďrealĒ or primary villain. As anyone even casually familiar with the Green Lantern mythos knows the villainís identity and his rationale for subverting the Green Lantern Corps: to bring law and order to the chaotic universe. The villain, however, needs a weapon comparable to the Green Lanternsí clean, green power source: a weapon drawn from the one flaw in that power source: a weakness to yellow light.

Montgomery and Burnett use Green Lantern: First Flightís 75-minute running time (a running time imposed by the direct-to-DVD budget) efficiently, admirably keeping exposition to a minimum. The exposition is there for anyone unfamiliar with Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, but thereís nothing like the information dumps that can typically undermine even the better animation efforts from DC or Marvel Comics. Abin Sur arrives (and dies) and Jordan becomes the new Green Lantern at the four-minute mark. Sinestro and the other Green Lanterns arrive at the seven-minute mark (including the opening credits). They arrive at Oa only two minutes later and Jordan and Sinestro are offworld investigating Abin Surís murder two or three minutes after Jordanís arrival on Oa.

But Green Lantern: First Flight has more to offer than just brisk, efficient action. It also has a compelling story to tell of Jordanís first ďmissionĒ as a Green Lantern and the friendships (including one that goes sour) that define Jordan as a superhero and define the Green Lantern Corps and their corner of the DC universe. Montgomery might have been working on a direct-to-DVD budget, but she doesnít skimp on the awe and wonder that the Green Lantern stories set in space or offworld typically provide. Green Lantern fans will be pleased to see Corps favorites as supporting characters (e.g., Kilowog, Tomar Re) or as background characters, but theyíll be equally pleased with the comic book inspired depiction of Oa, the Guardians of the Universe, and the use of the Green Lanternsí power rings which are, in part, an extension of the wearerís will and imagination.

"Green Lantern: First Flightís" animation style also takes its cues from the comic book series (currently written by Geoff Johns with a rotating series of artists, including Ethan Van Sciver and Ivan Reis). The character designs bear a close resemblance to their comic book counterparts, making them easy to identify for even casual Green Lantern fans. Non-fans are at only a slight disadvantage in not knowing the identities of backstories of the Green Lantern Corps, a disadvantage that quickly disappears once they, like Green Lantern fans, become immersed in the action Montgomery choreographs seconds into [i]Green Lantern: First Flight[/i]. Montgomery, an animation director with a background as a storyboard artist, has an impressive eye for visual composition and camera moves, making "Green Lantern: First Flight" second only to "Justice League: The New Frontier," the animated adaptation of Darwyn Cookeís Eisner-award winning mini-series.

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originally posted: 07/29/09 06:01:18
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  N/A (PG-13)
  DVD: 28-Jul-2009


  DVD: 28-Jul-2009

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