In the Marvel universe Daredevil is the Man Without Fear. In DC Comics that label falls to Hal Jordan, who shows no fear and brandishes a will of friggin' iron. I'm not one to be on Hal Jordan's jock but I've been reading comic books long enough to know just how much this guy's been put thru the wringer. Not only did he have to put up with Oliver Queen in all those socially relevant stories, but years ago Hal Jordan went insane and turned to the dark side - but having your city murdered under your nose might do that. Dude became a mega-supervillain called Parallax and wreaked incalculable devastation. Later, Jordan sacrificed himself and eventually took up the mantle of the Spectre, after which he came back from the dead (coming back from the dead being only marginally more challenging than chewing gum IF you're a comic book character). In DC's line of direct-to-video original animated movies, it's only natural that the spotlight first focused on the Big Three. But, after Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, I can see why Green Lantern would receive the next animated feature film treatment. Hal Jordan, whether home on Earth or patrolling the perilous spaceways, happens to be one of DC's all-time big guns.
GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT spits on the slow burn set-up and instead plonks you straight into the thick of things. Within the first four minutes of the film the dying extra-terrestrial Abin Sur crash lands and bestows his power ring onto dashing test pilot Hal Jordan, and Hal then becomes the Green Lantern of Sector 2814. There's barely time to acknowledge Carol Ferris and her Ferris Air company before the new Lantern is whisked away to a hellacious deep space adventure. Cue the non-stop action. Just one of the reasons I dig this movie.
Hal Jordan is transported to the center of the universe, to the planet Oa, home to those immortal blue midgets known as the Guardians of the Universe. The Guardians, creators of the Green Lantern Corps, don't think much of humans. Sinestro, the intrepid Green Lantern of Sector 1417, has to talk fast to convince them to allow him to take Jordan under his wing. So off Sinestro and Jordan go, on a mission to learn the identity of Abin Sur's killer.
But there's an even bigger situation brewing. For a while now the Lanterns had been on the lookout for any sign of the yellow element, the only thing powerful enough to counter the green element, which is the source of the Green Lantern Corps' power rings. I don't think I'm spoilering things when I say that Sinestro isn't as noble as advertised, that dude actually leans closer to finkhood than to heroism. Near immeasurable power has corrupted Sinestro, to the point where he now believes that the end justifies the means and has no qualms at all about torturing prisoners for information. He doesn't think much of the Guardians and disparages them every chance he gets. In his new world order, there is no room for these immortal blue midgets. Sinestro very easily lives up to his rep as Hal Jordan's archnemesis. As a bonus, for those who've been reading up on recent Green Lantern stuff, Sinestro eventually dons his black and yellow outfit from the Sinestro Corps. He looks darkly resplendent in a fashionably despotic kind of way.
I'm so used to Hal Jordan being the experienced pro that it's sort of refreshing to see him being the newbie on the block and getting that rookie treatment. You know you're lowest on the totem pole when even the squirrel Green Lantern disses you. Still, soon enough, Hal Jordan is doing his thing, kicking space alien booty, piercing thru conspiracies, and generally proving his doubters wrong. I don't know that Hal's use of his ring is all that inventive or imaginative, but, man, there is such decisiveness and flourish to the way he puts his ring thru its paces. Surprisingly, my favorite ring manifestation was that giant golf club, although, since I'm old-school, I'm kinda glad there's a sequence in which the classic gigantic green fists come into play.
The pace is poppin', the thrills keep on comin', but not so much with the character development. Hal Jordan is Hal Jordan, brash and resourceful and brimming with bravado, even as a fresh-faced rookie and even when his ring is stripped away from him. But Hal just rolls with the punches. Sinestro is the most interesting person here, although not too many'll be startled with his good-to-evil arc. Several old GL favorites make the cut: Boodikka, Arisia, Ch'p, Tomar Re, and one of my all-time favorite Lanterns, Kilowog. Gratifyingly, Kilowog is given a big role and even gets to mutter "Poozer!" a couple of times.
The film takes advantage of its PG-13 rating. I liked the violence, but then again I'm a fairly sick mo-fo. Others might raise an eyebrow to scenes of impalements, necks being snapped, and even of a ring's energy beam lethally punching thru a body. The animation is mostly solid, but is at times shaky, and there's that one bothersome sequence in which Sinestro's normally magenta complexion mysteriously shifts to a more human color.
But, never mind, the animators do the job in conveying on film that epic cinemascope vibe that comes with Green Lantern's intergalactic exploits. GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT doesn't quite achieve Justice League - The New Frontier (Two-Disc Special Edition)
's level of excellence, but it still places third on my list of favorite DC direct-to-video animated films so far (right after Wonder Woman 2009 (Two-Disc Special Edition + Digital Copy)
). The yellow element battery, created by the creepy Weaponers of Qward, looks impressive and menacing, and Sinestro's supervillain street creds are established when he almost dismissively takes out gangfuls (Corpsfuls?) of Green Lanterns. Again, this is a PG-13 picture, so characters actually die in this one, and sometimes quite horribly. Nothing says "Oh crippitycrap" like a shower of defunct power rings ominously klunking on the floor at the Guardians' feet. But, just when things look bleakest, check out who reclaims his power ring (no, it's not G'nort).
The special features are... okay. Disc One has: the widescreen feature presentation; the very promising exclusive sneak peek (7:49 minutes long) at the next DC Universe animated film SUPERMAN/BATMAN: PUBLIC ENEMIES (based on Jeph Loeb's first story arc from the SUPERMAN/BATMAN comic book and starring the voices of Kevin Conroy, Tim Daly, & Clancy Brown); in-depth featurettes on three original DC animated films JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER (10:43 minutes), WONDER WOMAN (10:25 minutes), and BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT (10:08 minutes); and a behind-the-scenes look (8:50 minutes) at Blackest Night, the DC Comics mega-event which resurrects the dead and has them wielding corrupted black power rings.
Disc Two has: Behind the Story with Geoff Johns as he discusses Green Lantern's mythology; the pretty friggin' great DUCK DODGERS episode: "Green Loontern"; Green Lantern Corps Character Profiles on Sinestro and the Guardians of the Universe; and 2 bonus cartoons from JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED: the very, very awesome two-parter "The Once and Future Thing," in which Batman, Wonder Woman, and the John Stewart Green Lantern pursue Lord Chronos and end up first in the Old West and then 50 years into the future. Hal Jordan shows up for a nano-moment in the second part, which I guess is enough of a tie-in to include the two-parter on this DVD. Not that I'm complaining. Watching GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT has got me all kinds of excited to see the live action film. Bring it, Ryan Reynolds!!