Who is the best Green Lantern?
There have been many to wield the mystical ring over the decades, but ask any comic geek and nine times out of ten you'll hear the name Hal Jordan. The reasons are simple -- the Silver Age incarnation of the hero isn't way past his prime like Alan Scott, too green like Kyle Rayner, devoid of personality like John Stewart, or borderline psychotic like the walking bad haircut Guy Gardner. Simply put, Hal Jordan is the porridge that Goldilocks chose, and as rumors swirled that he might finally be getting his own live-action film in 2011 starring Ryan Reynolds (which now looks to be confirmed by the way), he was the ideal choice as the centerpiece of Warner's fifth direct-to-video animated feature 'Green Lantern: First Flight.'
On a routine mission, test pilot Hal Jordan (voiced by Christopher Meloni) encounters a mortally wounded alien named Abin Sur (voiced by Richard McGonagle). As a member of the Green Lantern Corps, Abin Sur's power is granted by a special ring to aid him in protecting the universe, and as fate would have it the dying alien's ring chooses Jordan as its next suitor. Shortly after slipping on the ring, Jordan is visited by a group of Corps members led by Sinestro (voiced by Victor Garber), who take Jordan back to their headquarters in outer space. The head honchos of the Corps -- short blue-skinned beings called the Guardians -- aren't too keen with a human taking over Sector 2814, but the highly respected Sinestro convinces them to let him take the newcomer under his wing on a trial basis. Their first assignment together is to investigate Abin Sur's death and bring the killer to justice. However, Jordan begins to notice Sinestro's dark side and ulterior motives, and slowly uncovers evidence that his very sponsor may even be connected with the demise of one of their own.
Alan Burnett's story for 'Green Lantern: First Flight' is actually pretty decent. Very little time is wasted on Hal Jordan's origins, as that was already hammered out in the 'Justice League: New Frontier.' We're given a quick refresher before the opening credits, and then after the brief recap the movie gets down to business. The plot itself is interesting as Jordan is instantly thrust into the world of these intergalactic protectors, and while learning the ropes during his first assignment, just like in 'Training Day' the rookie begins to see that his mentor isn't exactly wearing the white hat of a hero.
For a direct-to-video release, the 2-D animation is impressive and much tighter than any of the 'Justice League' episodes, although I wasn't crazy about the relatively basic nature of the CGI elements. The voiceover work was also hit-and-miss for me. Christopher Meloni ('Law & Order: Special Victims Unit') does a solid job on Hal Jordan, and we get the sense that he's honorable if a bit cocky. Even better is Garber as the show-stealing Sinestro, who brings a dark and brooding charisma to the character. Michael Madsen lends his gruff voice to the crusty Killowog, and Kurtwood Smith (best known as Red on 'That 70s Show') makes a fantastic whiny villain in Kanjar Ro. Unfortunately, Tricia Helfer ('Battlestar Galactica') who plays Boodikka, John Larroquette ('Boston Legal') as Tomar Re, and Larry Drake ('Darkman') as the wise and ancient Ganthet aren't necessarily bad, but they don't have that many lines and I never would have guessed it was them without checking the credits. Their parts were minimal, so pretty much anyone else could have been substituted in and it wouldn't have made a difference.
While I enjoyed the film overall, it gets too busy at times. Burnett crams in so much in the short seventy-seven minute runtime that it almost becomes a sensory overload. Viewers are invited into the realm of the Green Lantern universe for a crash course on the inner workings of the mythos and are introduced to a ton of characters both familiar and obscure -- and on top of this there are a few major battles to boot. Sure boredom never has a moment to set in, but the downside is that this and the extensive villainy coverage really cut down on Jordan's screen time. With Jordan basically becoming a second banana to his arch nemesis, in the end I couldn't help feeling a more appropriate title would have been 'Sinestro: Final Flight.'
Keep in mind that 'Green Lantern: First Flight' is rated PG-13 and there are a few violent scenes (such as snapping necks and a pretty gruesome impaling), so this one probably isn't suitable for little tykes that just want to watch a cartoon.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Brothers presents 'Green Lantern: First Flight' on a single layer BD-25 Blu-ray disc housed inside a lime green keepcase (similar to 'The Incredible Hulk'). My copy also came with a slick foil-embossed slipcover. The U.S. version of the Blu-ray is also reported to be region-free and therefore should play properly in all players (including the PlayStation 3).
Presented in a breathtakingly gorgeous 1080p/VC-1 (1.78:1) encode, 'Green Lantern: First Flight' takes high-definition 2-D animation to new heights -- easily outclassing all of its DC and Marvel brethren currently out on the market to date.
The film opens with Hal Jordan in the midst of an early morning test flight, and the deep navy blue of the sky and the soft wispy white clouds serve as a mere appetizer of what's to come. The image presents a wide spectrum of vibrant colors -- from the pinkish hues cast on the landscape from the rising sun, the oranges and yellows blanketing the desert sand, to the emerald greens of Corps costumes. Accenting the vivid palette are deep and inky black levels and bright whites that are impeccably clean, plus the strong contrast brings everything together magnificently. The animation lines are very smooth too, with just a hint of pixilation in some scenes. To be fair, though, these occasions are barely even noticeable. There are no signs of artifacts, digital noise, or mishandled edge enhancement, either. I did notice a few instances of very minor color banding, but that's the worst I can say about this striking presentation from Warner.
Warner offers a lossless English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track on this Blu-ray that is certainly capable, but not quite the bombastic soundtrack I had anticipated for this release.
Dialogue comes through crisp and the battles are lively, but what we primarily have here is a front-channel heavy mix. While there are some mild surround effects during the cantina sequence and multiple fight scenes, the rear speakers lie in a silent state of dormancy the rest of the time. The bass is competent, although somewhat underwhelming in places, too. 'Green Lantern: First Flight' sounds alright overall, I just feel it misses the opportunity to really shine in the audio department.
Also included is a secondary English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and optional English SDH subtitles.
The Blu-ray ports over all the bonus features found on the 2-Disc Special Edition DVD:
'Green Lantern: First Flight' is a welcome if a bit flawed direct-to-video effort that gives fan-favorite Hal Jordan his long overdue turn in the spotlight. For me I found it sort of a mixed bag -- bursting with action and chock full of Lantern-goodness, but lacking in character development including the main draw himself. If Burnett had only toned things down and put more focus on Jordan we could have had a real winner, but alas, like a wise frog once said, it just ain't easy being green I guess. The Blu-ray sports exceptional video, acceptable audio, and a battery of supplements so if you're passionate about comics or animation in general, this one is worth a look.