Green Lantern: First Flight (ratedÂ PG-13 forÂ its blood and violence)Â is the latest in DC’s ever-improving line of direct-to-DVD animated films. It doesn’t exactly surpass their previous outstanding release, Wonder Woman, but it does match it in terms of animation, intelligence in its storytelling, allowing its audience to deal with mature themes in a “comic book flick” and pure, overall enjoyment.
A brief rundown, for those not in the know:Â Untold ages ago, the Guardians of the Universe where the only beings in said reality. In order toÂ maintain peace and order, they created the Green Lantern Corps–an intergalacticÂ organization somewhat like the police–and everything was going along just fine. That is, untilÂ one of their best, Abin Sur (voice of Richard M. Conacle) is murdered by a traitor in the ranks…a traitor bent on controlling the Yellow Element–the only weakness fatal to the Guardians’ power, and the all-powerful rings the Lanterns wear–and thus destroying the Corps in order to establish their own twisted vision of what “justice”Â shall be in the universe.
As a character, DC Comics’ Green Lantern has always been one of the hardest folks in the company’s roster to tell consistently good stories about. The power ring worn by Lanterns are capable of doing literally anything–from time travel to creating life–yet for the most part, the character in its various iterations (Alan Scott was the first Lantern, with no mention of any Guardians or Corp, during the Golden Age of comics) has mostly been stuck as either a type of beat cop on Earth or fighting only semi-important menaces alongside the Justice League. There is also a varied and oftentimes confusing history to the character, especially the current Hal Jordan, who although he is well-known as the greatest of the Corps, has gone from hero to villain and back again. Reading through his history and the various personae he’s taken on throughout the years, one can’t be blamed for wanting to break out the score cards at any moment.
To its credit, GreenÂ Lantern: First Flight gets right to the heart of the story from the outset, giving usÂ a quick glimpse into Hal Jordan’s (voice of Christopher Meloni) playboy personality as he flirts with his boss Carol Ferris (voice of OliviaÂ d’Abo), shortly before his flight simulator is whisked away byÂ an energy beam from theÂ crash-landed and dying Abin Sur, whose ring has logically chosen the most worthy candidate to wield it upon its owner’sÂ death. Shortly afterward, Corps leader Sinestro (voice of Victor Garber) and several members arrive to transport Jordan to Oa, the Guardians’ home world, so he can be judged as to whether he truly deserves toÂ wear the ring and bear its responsibilities. While there however, Jordan becomes embroiled in aiding the Corps track downÂ Abin Sur’s killer, which leads to the revelation that the true threatÂ to theÂ Guardians’ peaceful regime may come from within rather than without.
Green Lantern: First Flight is many things: It’s first and foremost a solid story told with quick-witted, crisp dialogue and strong characterization. Although the setting is primarily outer space, the strong voice acting lends 100% credibility to the situations Jordan and the others find themselves in, and there’s not a “oh, come on!” moment to be found anywhere in the film. It works as well as both a great adventure story, an epic hero’s journey (with only one or two moderately predictable moments) and a rousing sci-fi adventure. TheÂ story by writer Alan Burnett(Freakazoid!, Batman: Gotham Knight)Â is capably directed by Lauren Montgomery(the aforementioned Wonder Woman, Superman/Doomsday), and remains easily accessible to anyone whoÂ isn’t a comic book fan or hasn’t got a clue as to who Hal Jordan, Kilowog, Katma Tui, Boodikka or anyone else may be.Â Comics fans however, will be pleased to see that almost every single well-known member of the Green Lantern Corps (with the exception of theÂ other human members…this isÂ Jordan’s first flight after all, and they don’t come until later in his history) is represented, and there are clever homages to various points in the character’s histroy, including a nod to the time well in the future when he becomes Parallax. There’s even a cute homage toÂ otherÂ Warner Bros. characters (DC is owned by Warner), as the squirrel-like GL, Ch’p, sounds just slightly like Bugs Bunny.
Sadly, DC Animated still hasn’t quite got theÂ hang of what types of bonus features to put on theirÂ DVDs. None, and I mean absolutelyÂ NONE of the bonus material–has anything to do with behind-the-scenes info onÂ how the film was made. There are several insights into who the various characters are on the four-color page, but nothingÂ at all to get excited about. Even an interview with legendary comic artist Neal Adams only takes a few quick seconds. There’s a mildly amusing Duck Dodgers episode attached; The Green Loontern, wherein Daffy Duck accidentally becomes a member of the Corps, and a two-part Justice League Unlimited episode, The Once and Future Thing, featuring GL John Stewart…but again, nothing to stop and write home about. There were definitely better JLU episodes executive producer Bruce Timm (Animaniacs,Â The New Batman Adventures) could have chosen for his favorite picks.
In spite of the second disc’s shortcomings, Green Lantern: First Flight is a wonder to behold. It is a virtually perfect intro to the Hal Jordan character, and should serve as a template for the live action film due outÂ in 2011. With masterworks such as Wonder Woman, First Flight and the promising-lookingÂ Superman/Batman: Public Enemies underÂ DC Animated’s belt, perhaps it’s time for Hollywood to look to the animated films as well as the comics for their inspiration.