Green Lantern: First Flight (2009 Video)
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I am very happy to have seen this movie and finally get the introduction to Green Lantern that I needed all these years. I am also glad that they chose to feature the Green Lantern I knew, Hal Jordan. (My kids are only familiar with the Jon Stewart incarnation of the recent Justice League Unlimited cartoon show. So I had to tell them some back story when we watched this together.) This is a great animated movie for adults. The story is very interesting. It is also the introduction to Sinestro and the Green Lantern Corp, as well as the Guardians. The animation is top-notch. The voice talents were well done by some well-known actors. Very much recommended for DC Comics fans.
Parental guidance is advised for young kids because of some gory images like characters being impaled or even beheaded! There were also some unexpected swear words scattered here and there.
It basically plops us into his origin story, or at least a solid re-telling of it. We get the story of Hal Jordan, who was a test pilot until he came across a dying alien with a green ring on his finger which he entrusted to Jordan. From then on, he's the Green Lantern, but not the only one: he's met on Earth by Sinestro, a red-skinned arrogant jerk, and a few other alien Green Lantern folk, who take him along into space to meet with the council that guides the Lanterns in their adventures. In this case, they have to find the "Yellow element", which is like a yellow machine that is the one weakness of the Green Lanterns: this color is the one thing that can block their power, and in the wrong hands it can wrought devastation on the whole universe. And, meanwhile, Sinestro maneuvers behind the scenes...
Oh, it's not exactly the 'easiest' sort of story and world, so to speak, to enter into on a first viewing with only limited experience to Jordan and the Lantern corp. But once one is acclimated to everything, the animators and filmmakers take it from there and make it a rollicking science fiction action story, with touches of the space opera (sometimes blatantly, like with the rip-off of the Cantina scene from Star Wars when Hal and Sinestro go to interrogate someone). While some of the supporting characters are quite stock-like (i.e. Madsen's honorable pig character), and the usage of CGI, especially during the back-story exposition on the Yellow Element, is sub-par, it's mostly compelling thanks to Jordan being a heroic hero and Sinestro being a complex enough villain in the story. In fact, Sinestro was what made this far better than I initially expected, as a character who is on the side of good, but has his very questionable methods - and then crosses that line where he can never go back from.
I imagine that for the die-hard fans of Lantern from the comics, who perhaps aside from the die-hard fans of WB/DC animation, this might not be anything too new storywise, but the best thing about it is it doesn't need to be. This is the first time we've seen any kind of direct-to-video, or just perhaps any, actual feature film version of the Lantern story (until the Martin Campbell film comes out anyway), and as an origin story it does what it needs to. It sets up its universe (again, so to speak), delivers us interesting characters (more or less), and is jam-packed with intense action and some very particular and amazing scenes of animation. Another Bruce Timm produced effort worth watching, if not an immediate must-see unless one is itching to learn more about one of DC's most popular characters (after, you know, Batman and Superman and maybe Wonder Woman too).
Fans already know the story... A dying aliens finds test pilot Hal Jordan (the second of five Green Lanterns) and bestows upon him the ring of the Green Lantern. He is teamed with Sinestro, a Green Lantern with ambitions of his own. Sinestro makes a deal with the Weaponers of Qwad to develop a Yellow Power Ring that gives him the ability to beat the Lantern Corps.
Okay, that's the basics, but this movie really elevates an old story into an art form. Christopher Meloni of Law and Order Fame does a respectable job as the voice of Jordan. The action scenes are quite intense for an animated film (almost being on par with Anime) and I'm almost inclined to say too intense for small children, but what do I know.
My Grade: C+
For an origin story, this movie comes across as very rushed. How Hal Jordan got the Green Lantern ring is over and done with in the first 5 minutes. By the next 5 minutes he is already in full control of his powers and being brought before the Green Lantern council of guardians and on his way to becoming a full fledged member.
This show tries to cram too much into too short a time. The effects of this cramming were not as jarring as with the previous direct to DVD animated features like Superman Doomsday. But for Green Lantern: First Flight, its story can easily span 6 standard TV episodes (20 minutes each, totaling at 120 minutes of material). More time could have been devoted to letting the suspense and intrigue play out so that the whole "cop drama in space" feel can be fully appreciated.
As the main character in his own origin movie, Hal Jordan is possibly the most under-developed character in the whole show. The only thing that sets him apart from the rest is his creativity with the power ring(and mind you, the things he makes with that ring are really cool and adds a little humor here and there.) Other than that, there is never any sense of Hal's story as a journey from "zero to hero". Sinestro on the other hand is given a refreshing take as a villain. His motives no longer come across as just purely "Bad guy" motives. He honestly wants the universe to change for the better, even if he has to take over the reins of power. Sounds like some of the antagonists from Gundam or something, but a very well developed character overall; his motives leading very logically into his actions. Side characters like Kilowog and the Guardians are so much more interesting than Hal Jordan, punctuated by top notch acting all the way that lends to the believability and realism of the show.
Aside from a less than interesting main character and a short running time, Green Lanter First Flight still manages to be highly entertaining. After the first 15 minutes or so, The story starts to shares a number of elements similar to "The Recruit". New guy gets recruited into a law enforcement organization, though there are those that do not quite trust him. What was thought to be a run-of-the-mill mission soon turns out to be something a lot deeper, encompassing betrayal and hostile takeover. Accompanying the action is an intense musical score that is quite different in feel from the other superhero animated features. This one uses an interesting mix of traditional instruments and electronic synthetic sounds to create a very unique theme for Green Lantern.
What would stand out most of all is the gorgeous animation. The same high frame rate is applied here again, as with previous DC animated features. Characters movements are very fluid and with some scenes looking as smooth as real life footage. The level of detail in the art has also been taken up a notch since "Wonder Woman". One or two of the fight scenes could have been staged a little better though. The director is good at what she does, except fight scenes. The final duel between Hal Jordan and Sinestro for example. What could have been a galaxy spanning duel of epic proportions with each combatant utilizing every trick in the book, turned into a simple fist fight in space.
Character designs in Green Lantern are not as angular as previous DC style designs. The men characters are more realistically proportioned, no longer overly muscle bound, and The Women characters bear a very feminine "European anime" look like in Totally Spies and Martin Mystery. The alien characters here are also something new for DC animation. They actually LOOK ALIEN, and not like humans wearing makeup and prosthetics like in the Justice league animated series. Most of the designs are really original though one or 2 look like they were ripped off from Ben 10.
A word of warning though. This film EARNS its PG13 rating. A little swearing in the dialog, some innuendo here and there and lots of violence. There are a couple of scenes that some people may find disturbing like a guy getting sucked out into space through a tiny hole for example. Definitely not for kids(and kids wont appreciate the complex story anyway).
Green Lantern: First flight is really a gem. A pity it was so short though, which seriously affected some character development and pacing issues. DC's DTV animated features have been improving with each installment. I just hope the next improvement they can make is to allow a longer running time.
Comments: An animated action movie that follows every standard steps and rather regretfully doesn't add anything new. It is actually so predictable it becomes boring, and as it is animated, not even the effects brightens the picture enough for it to become entertaining. It's highly rated, and maybe for fans this has something that me, as someone not familiar to the Green Lantern before, misses. But I can't see this movie recruiting any new fans anytime soon.
The thing is, from what I understand (not having read any of the comics) Green Lantern is a "space cop." What this film does right is that it focuses on those two things: being a cop...in space. The segment where Hal is out "on the beat" with Sinestro is a great, and other segments further work investigation and innocent/guilty questions into the plot line. Whereas the live-action film spent most of its duration on Earth, FIRST FLIGHT spends only about the first five minutes. Granted, a little more time could have helped to established who Hal is as a character beyond that he's a pilot. But that is forgivable, because time spent out elsewhere in the universe is much more exciting and makes more sense in the context of this telling of the origin-story.
I was very impressed by the writing for Sinestro character. What he says and does is genuinely thought-provoking. The voice acting was just fine; I didn't hardly find myself thinking about it, and that is the way it should be. Some of the CGI effects were pretty cheap looking, but for the most part the animation was clean and fluid.
Overall, FIRST FLIGHT was very entertaining, with an intelligent script, some plot twists and lots of action. The PG-13 rating is for some language and some fairly graphic animated violence. It strikes me as very strange that this direct-to-DVD production would be in almost every way superior to a huge-budget theatrical live-action film. Why couldn't they all be as good as FIRST FLIGHT? Sigh.
And I thoroughly enjoyed this take on his origin, feeding into his training and then a variant version of Sinestro's "turning to the dark side." But somehow it never quite seemed to achieve the full potential inherent in the character. Yes, it was good to see a fair proportion of the Corps on screen (and Michael Madsen's voice characterisation of Kilowog was exactly right), but perhaps the Guardians were highlighted at the Corps' expense. And Hal's earthside life was almost entirely irrelevant.
So it'll do, and it's much better than not having a GL movie at all, but I hope there will be another and it will realise more of the character's potential.
Incidentally, it wouldn't have taken much to trim the language and violence sufficiently to enable the movie to have been presented to a wider audience.
And fun he has! Hal takes to the ring like a duckling takes to water, and soon he is flying high with the other Green Lanterns, getting into trouble on alien worlds, and saving the day.
The pluses of the movie are many. The animation is smooth, and green never looked so good. The voices are excellent. Christopher Meloni excels as Hal, and Victor Garber is suavely evil as Sinestro. All the other voice roles are handled well; in fact, there are no slackers in the bunch.
The music is also excellent, providing drama when necessary, being playful and light at others. As always, the alien worlds were depicted imaginatively. Watching this movie might have been somewhat predictable, but it was a fun ride all the way.
Its only drawback was that Hal took to his power ring too quickly. No practice, no failures in forming constructs...nada. A little exposition might have made the screenplay work better, but all the same, it was enjoyable, and the ending fight between Hal and Sinestro was superbly staged. A worthy addition to any fan's animated collection.
I have watched this film on Netflix and I found it an awesome take on that origin story. This movie has great animation, excellent casting, thrilling sci-fi action and a shocking surprise. I thought Victor Garber voiced a convincing Sinestro. Overall I love this film from beginning to end. And I also love the live-action Green Lantern movie too.
Bottom line: it's a cartoon for kids. Nobody sings, thank you very much, but there isn't much humour in it either. A simple plot which explains the birth of the Green Lantern superhero. To their defense, I doubt they could have squeezed much in it anyway, as the plot was packed with action from beginning to start.
What's great is that the animation is nice. We also get to see so many Green Lanterns come together and contribute. This is probably the main flaw with the live-action "Green Lantern" movie. We got all this buildup to them working together but in the end it's just Hal Jordan who does all of the work. Okay, he technically does most of the work here, but we get a much better origin story with Sinestro featured as the villain. We get to see the other characters like the Guardians of the Universe partake in the story and it even takes a lot of risks with many characters flat out dying. While not as good as "Wonder Woman" a fine flick. ***
It gets an 8. No an 8.3 no an 8 wait... an 8.2 ..
Lets just give it an 8.
(for the people who don't know how to vote 7=watchable 8=pretty good 9=brilliant 10=I had an out of body experience while watching this film)
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Coming to the Green Lantern as a completely casual viewer with no knowledge of him I will say that this film didn't come over as quite abrupt to me because I was introduced into the creation of this character in about the first 30 seconds of the film! I guess this is a necessary evil since, unlike the forthcoming Hollywood film, many people picking up this animated film will already be at very least familiar with the character so backstory and development of the character might annoy them – and they are in the majority here so fair enough. That said, once it gets past this and the Green Lantern Corps are introduced, I did sort of forget that my initial feelings were that I had been thrown in at the deep end, because the plot became pretty simple, the characters pretty obvious and the action pretty engaging by virtue of keeping lots happening.
Although I came to it thinking it would be a kid's affair, it is actually pretty strong in terms of action and plot; OK it is still comic book material but I did like it and in a way not knowing the story actually helped me because I didn't already know what was happening. The motives of Sinestro were hardly a surprise (Hello? His name sounds like "sinister") but I was still reasonably engaged by it all. The animation worked well because it allowed me to accept all these little trolls and rings that make things of all shapes (Baseball bats! Fans!) because it was fantasy – I'd be interested to see how they pull this off in live action because I'm not sure if the story will be the same but the trailer looks so-so at best. The voice work is solid enough – reasonably big names but I wasn't really ever thinking "oh, who is that it's on the tip of my tongue", although Meloni, Garber, Madsen, Smith and others all do pretty good jobs.
I'm sure I'll see the live-action blockbuster at some point, but for this animated film I did rather enjoy it. It has a solid plot and although some of the powers of the Lanterns were daft, the animation and the pace of it all made it work pretty well. Solid little comic-book animation.
I thought I saw a few references to old sci-fi icons in this one -- Cooch looked like that cucumber alien from It Conquered the World, and I think the spaceship the GLs ferried Hal Jordan to Oa the first time resembled the Phantom Cruiser from Space Ghost.
I would have liked to see more of the actual weakness of the green ring to yellow, perhaps having it fizzle out somehow when it contacted that color. However, it seemed to have no weakness at all, even to the point of being able to damage the Yellow Lantern (albeit cleverly). Even if it was explained it was only affecting the black parts, it would have made sense.
First off, the animation and character design was superb. Hal Jordan and company looked great. I liked how Sinestro's appearance was more grounded and less "gaze upon my forehead". Kilowog's design enabled him to look jovial and, in the next frame, highly menacing. Visually, the Guardians stood apart from each other (with different facial types, receding hair lines, etc). The rest of the Corp also had minor revisions to their design that further emphasized their extraterrestrial nature from past incarnations. But, when these characters moved, this is when it became how visually lush this production was. There are only two words that come to mind for describing it—fluid and seamless.
The action scenes were very well directed, gripping, and pulled no punches. They always said it in "Justice League", but this is the first time I've ever really seen anything to make me see the power ring as a devastating weapon. Kanjar Ro gets a greenish hole punched through his middle by Sinestro. Later, Sinestro uses the ring to briefly reanimate Ro by reconnecting his neural pathways. Boodikka and Kilowog get into a fight and proceed to tear up a rather spacious and sturdy environment. The scene culminates in a character dying in a very graphic and almost R-rated manner. Then there's the fight between Jordan and Sinestro. It starts off as a really cool, bi-color outer space dogfight. But, before long, devolves into a brutal, no holds barred slugfest. I could almost feel the pain coming off each landed blow. However, there's a problem with "GL: FF". And this would have to be Hal Jordan and, by extension, the script.
When we're introduced to the lead, he's in a flight simulator. Then it gets pulled from its housing and dragged miles through the air to a crashed spaceship. When Hal is faced with this and the alien Abin Sur, he doesn't even raise an eyebrow. Most people would probably freak out just a little bit. When Hal is charged with being a Green Lantern, he doesn't seem to really care. Even when he's faced with Kilowog, Tomar Re, and Boodikka, the weight of his predicament never seems to register with him. Then, of all things, without any training, Jordan is operating his ring at expert levels. The script should've handled this better and made the lead more human. But, beholden to a truncated time limit, it glossed over some highly needed plot points. However, it's not all the script's fault.
I was surprised with Christopher Meloni, who is a really solid actor. I've seen him on the big screen and in "SVU". Yet, in this, he fell kind of flat. The scene which really displayed this is when it was being decided if he would be a Green Lantern. The Guardians were just ripping on him "...and then there's the smell " Hal's defense of himself and the human race against these humorous and scathing charges just came off as halfhearted. Half of the time Meloni's delivery felt this way, like it was more of an afterthought. This really stuck out since every other actor, especially Garber and Madsen, brought their A-game—if they didn't, damned if I could tell.
In my review of "Wonder Woman", I said these films need a longer running time. Well most of what was wrong with "GL: FF" probably could've been fixed with another ten to fifteen minutes of length. This way Hal would've had the time to be appropriately unnerved by the vast and dangerous world he was abruptly pulled into. It wouldn't have hurt to see him spend a minute or two on Earth, trying to figure out how he was going to handle the immense responsibility dropped in his lap. We also could've seen him properly earn his skills in a training montage (clichéd, but effective). These changes would've enabled me to better empathize with his story. But as it stands, Hal was more of a cipher for the nobler aspects of humanity than an actual human. In short, he was not relatable.
"Green Lantern: First Flight" is just an okay film which should've been a great one. It looks beautiful. It has truly outstanding action. Sadly, it's dragged down into mediocrity by an extremely abridged story and a lackluster lead character. It's definitely one to rent first and, assuming you're not too disappointed, buy later.
On another note, to the producers (should one of them ever read this), it's time. These DTV films are pulling in some respectable cash, so more money should be poured into them. I'm not talking about doubling or tripling the budget, just a little bit more cash. This could increase the running time, enable more satisfying story lines, and help create the kind of production that makes the mainstream, which is normally dismissive of animation, finally take notice of your work. At any rate, I hope "Batman/Superman: Enemies of the State" is handled better than "GL: FF" was. And I really hope the DTV after that (Suicide Squad, Suicide Squad, Suicide Squad) finally sees a change for the better in how these films are structured.
I'll be quick:
The animation is OK. Not great. Not horrible. Lacks the detail that other DC films have and relies a little too much on very average CGI effects.
The story is similar to the comic but adds in silly rip-offs from better science fiction films such as "Star Wars" and "The Fifth Element".
The action scenes are few and nothing special.
Voice acting is fine.
All up, worth a watch if you like G.L. but honestly - he is portrayed better in the 'Justice League' series and films.
Not up to standard of some of DC's previous works.