Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Green Lantern: First Flight DVD Review

Just in time to capitalize on the hype of Blackest Night, the newest direct-to-DVD film from DC, Green Lantern: First Flight, was released last week. The film focuses on Hal Jordan’s “debut” as a Green Lantern in a story that puts him head-to-head with his mentor, Sinestro. Is this film a worth-successor to DC’s last film (and arguably its strongest), Wonder Woman? Will it be a fan favorite like Justice League - The New Frontier? Or will it fall flat like Superman: Doomsday? Well, I know the answer to that and I’m willing to share it with you. All you have to do is check out the review after the jump!


The film opens with an extremely brief overview of Hal Jordan’s origin, casually rushing through Hal’s career as a test pilot, his relationship with Carol Ferris, and the death of Abin Sur before the opening credits begin. This allows the film the most time possible to focus on Hal’s earliest missions as a Green Lantern and, not surprisingly, the pace slows once he is confronted by other Lanterns and escorted to Oa.

Once arriving on Oa, Hal finds that humans are not particularly well-liked by the Guardians of the Universe and the other Green Lanterns, making him an instant outsider. Sinestro immediately latches on to this as he takes Hal under his wing. As the two work together, Hal’s excitement over been a Green Lantern is replaced with trepidation over the extreme measures and mindset of Sinestro. If this sounds familiar, that’s because the plot progresses in a very similar fashion as the film Training Day.

As Hal’s ability as a Lantern develops, he begins to win over his peers and becomes part of a major mission to take down Kanjar Ro, who has come into possession of a “yellow element” that is the foil to the “green element” that powers the Green Lantern Corps and can be used as a weapon of immense destructive force. Sinestro’s true intentions are revealed during this mission, including his alliance with Ro. When it is unveiled that Sinestro intends to replace the Guardians by harnessing the power of the yellow element, things get expectedly heated and the film rockets towards the inevitable clash between Jordan and Sinestro for the fate of the Green Lantern Corps and the universe at large.

Design & Animation

As with the previous DC animated films, the designs for this film are deeply rooted in the original “Timm-verse” (Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, etc) approach to the characters, with refinements being made to the anatomy. Because of this, the film instantly has a DC “feel,” though the increased sense of realism and greater attention to physical proportions makes it more akin to the recent Wonder Woman DVD than any of the previous entries in the DC animated library.

All of the characters are easily recognizable, retaining much of their designs from the comic books. If you know your Green Lanterns, it will be no trouble for you to identify the large number of background characters that provide filler throughout the film. The main players—Hal Jordan, Sinestro, the Guardians, and Kilowog—are especially faithful to their comic book counterparts. Additionally, fans of the recent Green Lantern storylines will be pleased to see that Sinestro’s “villainous costume” is actually his Sinestro Corps uniform.

That’s not to say that there aren’t noticeable design changes. The central power battery on Oa looks more high-tech and less like something you’d find in Pride and Prejudice. Likewise, the Green Lantern Corps uniforms have been “beefed up” to look more armored—giving the characters less of a “superhero” appearance and more of space-police look. The most interesting change, however, were the updates to the designs of Kanjar-Ro and Abin Sur, both of whom look considerably more alien than they do in the comics. The reason for this is clear—when Hal Jordan is first inducted into the Corps, he and Sinestro (and later Arisia, who makes some cameo appearances) are the most human looking members of the Corps. They are also the standouts - Sinestro for his reputation and Hal for the various species unkind judgment on the human race.

The animation itself is clean, with a great sense of movement and fluidity. The characters show a wide range of motion and feature some of the best “body language” of any of DC’s animated films. It isn’t quite as flashy as Justice League: The New Frontier, but for what it lacks in style, it more than makes up for in general picture clarity, quality, and fluidity. The only problem I actually had with the animation is that the backgrounds tend to be sparse and static, which contrasts sharply with the foreground and character animation. I’d like to have seen these be considerably less limited.

Voice Acting

Once again, voice director Andrea Romano has assembled a dynamite cast. As with all of her work on nearly every DC cartoon or animated film, Romano perfectly casts nearly every character with bold and memorable voices that are perfectly suited for the script.

Law and Order’s Christopher Meloni provides the voice of Hal Jordan and does so with the garish bravado that fans of the character would expect. His tone has the perfect amount of cocky swagger for Jordan, but also excels at Jordan’s moments of self-doubt and fear. Though there isn’t anything tremendously distinctive about Meloni’s voice, his performance speaks volumes and does the character justice.

In supporting roles, Michael Madsen (Kilowog), Tricia Helfer (Boodika), and Kurtwood Smith (Kanjar Ro) all do splendid jobs despite their limited involvement. Madsen’s gruff voice is the most instinctive fit of the three, though Helfer’s understated inflections and Smith’s brashness also bring a natural sense of character to their roles. The only problem is that if you are familiar with Smith’s role on That 70’s Show, his distinctive voice will have you expecting Ro to call at least one of his cronies a dumbass at some point during the film.

The wildcard of the cast (for me anyway) is Victor Garber as Sinestro. Garber’s calm voice has an incredibly likable and soothing quality, something that has made his live-action roles incredibly memorable. As a huge fan of his work on Eli Stone, I was unsure of how well he would come across as a villain. I’m pleased to say that not only did he manage to perform well as Sinestro, he eventually steals the show. Garber brings a sense of gravitas to the role, and the entire film as whole. His multilayered delivery perfectly conveys Sinestro’s confidence that he is right in his actions, but still manages to showcase Sinestro’s considerably more evil side. Were it not for Garber, Sinestro would come across as a one-dimensional villain and the film would be considerably less effective because of it.

Bonus Features

Aside from the strength of the film, this DVD justifies purchase for the great bonus features. The standard one-disc edition includes trailers for all of DC’s previous animated films, a great behind-the-scenes look at the next film in the series (an adaption of Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness’s Superman/Batman: Public Enemies), and a discussion of the Blackest Night storyline running through the Green Lantern comics. Cleary the Blackest Night discussion will be the highlight for comics fans, as it is an exciting look at the series featuring interviews with writers Geoff Johns and Peter Tomasi and DC editor-in-chief Dan Didio.

Fans willing to cough up the extra cash for the two-disc or Blu-Ray versions are further rewarded with a look at the history of the Green Lantern mythos led by Geoff Johns, handpicked episodes of Justice League Unlimited with commentary from Bruce Timm, some production featurettes, and, most importantly, the hilarious “Green Loontern” episode of Duck Dodgers. This is a must-see episode for Green Lantern fans.

Verdict - Don’t Miss this DVD. While this isn’t the strongest script or plot of the DC animated films, it does feature some of the slickest animation and the single best voice-acting performance to date (Victor Garber as Sinestro). Fans of the Green Lantern franchise and newbies alike will enjoy this brisk, action packed film. When you add in the strong set of bonus features, you’ve got a DVD that is essential to any comic fan’s collection. As with the other DC films, however, be warned that the language can get a bit strong and there will be more gore than you are expecting (including a fairly graphic impalement). The film earns its PG-13 rating, so be warned before you pick this one up for the lil’ Lanterns.

Like this review? Want to purchase Green Lantern: First Flight? Buy it from Amazon.com and help support The Weekly Crisis!

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Andrenn said...

A nice review though I myself don't really agree that it's a "Don't Miss" I myself was fairly disappointed with it and gave it a 5 out of 10. Still a good review and I totally agree that the voice acting and animation where top notch.

Daringd said...

I liked the Blackest Night thing on it...besides that...glad I rented it and didn't buy

aughndibi said...

I just realized that the guy who plays Green Lantern in this is the same guy who talked to a can of peas and smeared mud on his ass in "Wet Hot American Summer". Weird.

Tricia Helfer is always wonderful. Really, I approve of her anytime she's in anything. Michael Madsen as Kilowog is a VERY good casting decision as well.

This is hard to get on Netflix, and it's killing me inside. I MAY have to buy this.

Anonymous said...

This is a buy great DVD. Wonder Woman was better.

ModernTenshi04 said...

I felt that the story was really strong in the beginning, but ended up falling apart towards the end. There are some good pointers here that I feel those working on the live action film should pay attention to.

Really not happy with what they did to Boodikka.

Anonymous said...

It left me the same taste that superman-doomsday. A really rush plot, too many drastic changes on the history, Hal Jordan (while civilian) dont wore his trademark jacket, sinestro used a green ring to kill,the weaponers were just to weird, the guardians beside having names they also had personalities (just ghantet should have both at that point). Maybe they should stick more to the emerald dawn arc, and let all the sinestro corps references as a possible sequel.

Anonymous said...

This is a don't miss DVD and is hands down the best in the series of DC's Direct to DVD Animation Movies ( I have not seen Wonder Woman in all fairness ).

I knew that Victor had the chops to pull off the voice acting of a conflicted 'villain' who thought he was a good guy after his work on Alias and he delivered in spades. I was shocked at how much I enjoyed Meloni's work as Hal. The animation was spot on.

Was it 100% true to the source material no it wasn't but that isn't what these DVDs are about. I thought it was a great story that was 100% true to the heart and feel of Green Lantern.

My wife was able to watch this and was asking when the sequel was coming out because it was accessible to someone who has never read a comic. New Frontier suffered from being a great comic but a poor translation unto film ( she fell asleep during that movie from boredom ).

Great review ( now I feel like I should go watch Wonder Woman . . . )

Kirk Warren said...

"sinestro used a green ring to kill"

Not sure the context of this as I haven't watched the movie, but Sinestro originally killed some Weaponers of Qward when he first got his ring. A dying GL gave it to him alla Abin Sur, he used it to defend himself, but Weaponers died (think an archolgical dig site or something fell on them, forget) and Sinestro refused to give the ring back to the GL, who would have lived with it's aid now that the Weaponers were taken care of. The GL then died and Sinestro was a GL.

Now, if it was just Sinestro killing some random alien or whatever, that might be different. Of course, they could be using the post-GL's can kill laws fromt he current Green Lantern for the basis of this, despite not being the Sinestro Corps War. Again, didn't see the movie.

mrpeepants said...

Really happy that these are coming out for DC. I've enjoyed them all. Haven't watched this yet but Wonder Woman is great. Not sure if I've said this yet, but speaking of animated comic adaptions, have you guys checked out Spectacular Spider-Man yet. It really is the best animated comic take out there. Dare I say even better than Batman:TAS. arguable, but its damn good.

Anonymous said...

I dont think Spectacular Spiderman is better than Batman: TAS, it was/is a masterpiece and very acurated. Spectacular Spiderman is not even close in animation quality or loyalty to the original work from comics (even knowing this serie take a lot from ultimate spiderman, which i really dont like either)

Ryan Schrodt said...

I wouldn't say that Spectacular Spider-Man is better than Batman: TAS by any means. That series was simply the pinnacle of comic book animation and still stands as a major milestone. Not all of the episodes are as good as we remember, but those that can still stand up are simply unbelivable. "Heart of Ice" is still one of the single best television episodes I've ever seen.

I do enjoy the Spectacular Spider-Man show, though. It is on par with The Batman in my opinion. It's a fun series and, honestly, I love some of the revisions they've gone with (unlike Marvel's other "teen" cartoon, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, which sucks pretty hard).

Tromeritus said...

I still have to see this and Wonder Woman. By the way, can you guys try to be a bit more careful with the spoilers? Not just with the movie reviews, but the comics as well. An overview is fine, but you might want to leave out the details or at least mark those parts for spoilers. I enjoy the site, otherwise; I don't mean to offend.

Kirk Warren said...

@Tromeritus - The way I look at spoilers Tromeritus is that, unless the comic/movie/etc hasn't been released yet (say I have an advance copy or some such), then people aren't looking for generic, handwashing information.

For example, Big Event #1 just came out and has been hyped up as a major story with promise of a death. You come looking for a review, you obviously want to know a) what happened and b) if it's any good. Me saying, "well, without spoiling anything, someone dies and you may or may not like it, but I can't really discuss it. it was a graphic deatha nd not sure if it served the plot, though."

I guess that's kind of gets the point across, but it ends up being really vague, doesn't really tell you much about the death and I can't really say how it affects any characters or how much it affects the plot without outright saying "bill died" and then talking about how he died, how it affects people and what impact it has ont he story.

The way I've always looked at spoilers is that while, yes, it's nice to be surprised once in a while, if the story sucks or knowing a reveal/spoiler ruins the book for you, the book probably wasn't that good to begin with. Take Watchmen, everyone knows the end to that by now, yet it's still arguably the best comic ever made and no one complains about it. Same with many movies. Knowing the end to Fight Club might rob you of some shock (it's not that shocking an end though), but the movie will stillb e good either way. That's how I look at comic spoilers, too.

However, I'll try to run a Reader Question sometime in the next week or so and see what people want and whether there are some spoilers they'd rather left vague or if we should implement a spoiler tag and so on.

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