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.
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.
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.
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