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Green Lantern: Emerald Knights(2011)
As the home planet of the Green Lantern Corps faces a battle with an ancient enemy, Hal Jordan prepares new recruit Arisia for the coming conflict by relating stories of the first Green Lantern and several of Hal's comrades.
For more about Green Lantern: Emerald Knights and the Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Blu-ray release, see Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on June 1, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Nathan Fillion
» See full cast & crew
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Blu-ray Review
"In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, June 1, 2011
With director Martin Campbell's Green Lantern hurtling toward theaters, Warner Bros. Animation is readying the release of its second animated anthology film, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. Scorned Batman fans will no doubt hesitate at the mere mention of Emerald Knights; recalling the animated anthology that came before it, The Dark Knight's poorly received, similarly titled 2008 tie-in, Batman: Gotham Knight. Many are wondering whether Warner Bros. Animation and executive producer Bruce Timm are about to repeat the same mistakes or if Emerald Knights will finally, finally take away some of the sting of Gotham Knight.
Based on the three-issue DC Comics limited series, "Tales of the Green Lantern Corps," Emerald Knights opens with the resurrection of an ancient evil -- a ruthless rogue Oan named Krona -- that the Guardians of the Universe once transformed into pure energy, long before the Guardians established the Green Lantern Corps and began policing thousands of sectors across the cosmos. Now, as the Guardians evacuate their homeworld and send the entire Corps to face Krona, Hal Jordan (voiced by Nathan Fillion) takes a nervous recruit named Arisia Rrab (Elisabeth Moss) under his wing and tries to ease her fears. Deprived of the luxury of training the young girl, Hal decides to tell her a series of stories from Corps lore involving the Guardians, the first ring bearers and other legendary Lanterns, among them Kilowog, Laira, Abin Sur and Sinestro.
The First Lantern
Written by Michael Green & Marc Guggenheim
Directed by Christopher Berkeley
Hal's first story begins shortly after Krona's original defeat and dispersement; before the Green Lanterns began patrolling the universe en masse. The Guardians, in an effort to establish further order in the cosmos, assemble the greatest warriors in the universe and allow the first four power rings to choose their bearers. The first three rings choose a trio of renowned champions, but the fourth ring does the unexpected, choosing the Guardians' unassuming scribe, Avra (Mitchell Whitfield). No, Avra wasn't the first Green Lantern according to comics lore; that honor goes to Rori Dag. Regardless, Emerald Knights' opening volley is an excellent one, setting the tone for everything that will follow. Character development is kept to the barest of minimums, but it doesn't derail the short at all. The First Lantern's climactic battles come courtesy of a compelling short story with a distinct beginning, middle and end. The dialogue is succinct but satisfying, Fillion's narration keeps the story hurtling along, and the action is fierce, fiery and fantastic. Avra and his comrades not only learn the extent of their rings' power, they forge the Corps that is to come, accomplishing things even the Guardians didn't anticipate. It's a fitting introduction to Green Lantern history (despite some departures from comicbook canon) that makes the most of its hard-hitting animation, breakneck pacing and light-bending plot. Besides, alien ships are ripped to pieces in spectacular fashion. What more could you ask for?
Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Directed by Lauren Montgomery
Was Kilowog always the gruff, no-nonsense block of bad attitude he is today? Not quite, at least according to the next story Hal tells Arisia. It turns out Kilowog (Henry Rollins) was once little more than a recruit himself, struggling to earn the respect of his boot camp sergeant, a -- surprise! -- gruff, no-nonsense block of bad attitude named Deegan (Wade Williams). Like The First Lantern, Kilowog is designed from the ground up to appeal to mythos newcomers and longtime Green Lantern fanboys alike. And it does everything it should and more, easing rookies into the culture of the Corps while giving comicshop regulars exactly what they would want from a quick dip into Kilowog's past. It's a smartly penned tale too; one that pulses with a character-driven energy all its own, scrapping narration in favor of an extra helping of top-notch voice acting and large-scale showdowns. Seeing Kilowog finally step out of Deegan's shadow, predictable a step as it might be, is rooted in just enough pathos, heroism and well-deserved chest-puffing to make it all a blunt-force blast to watch unfold.
Written by Eddie Berganza
Directed by Jay Oliva
On her first solo mission, female Lantern Laira (Kelly Hu) returns to her home planet to discover her childhood kingdom in the throes of interstellar chaos. But the enemy she encounters isn't at all the enemy she expected to fight when she left Oa. In the ensuing battle, Laira is left with little choice but to choose between her past and her future, and make a decision that, in many ways, will haunt her forever. While debate will no doubt ensue as to which short resonates the most, Laira stands, in my humble opinion, as the best vignette Emerald Knights has to offer. It's bristling with more rock-em, sock-em throwdowns than its brethren and it delves more deeply into its near-Shakespearean cast of characters than any other short. Yes, Berganza truncates and alters a number of crucial details in Ruben Diaz and Travis Charest's "What Price Honor," the original post-Crisis on Infinite Earths comic arc upon which Laira is based. But I would argue almost every change makes the rapidfire narrative stronger and more rewarding, and Hal's third tale is all the more commanding, tragic and memorable for it.
Mogo Doesn't Socialize
Written by Dave Gibbons
Directed by Jay Oliva
Which brings me to the least effective short. Mogo Doesn't Socialize is capably written and admirably animated, sure, but its twist can be spotted half a light year away. Mogo, as Hal wryly describes him, is the most reclusive of all Lanterns, but also the most powerful; a fact a merciless brute called Bolphunga the Unrelenting (Roddy Piper) finds out the hard way when he decides to prove he's the "greatest warrior in the galaxy!" (Cue maniacal laughter.) While it all starts out well enough I suppose, it soon slows to a crawl as Bolphunga traipses across a planet in search of a Lantern who has little reason to fear his tree-toppling challenger. Unfortunately, Gibbons isn't quite the writer Alan Moore was when the Watchmen duo created Mogo in 1985. Gibbons may have illustrated the original comic, but between the jokes that proceed Hal's tale, the Lantern's all-too-revealing narration and the animation's telegraphed punches, Gibbons' belabored mystery wears out its welcome long before it plays its most obvious hand. That said, the short isn't a failure at all -- its presence actually pays off later in the film -- it just isn't as polished as the rest of Emerald Knights.
Written by Geoff Johns
Directed by Christopher Berkeley
What will surely be many a Green Lantern fan's favorite short -- Abin Sur -- comes courtesy of the man most often credited with rejuvenating the Green Lantern comic series: Geoff Johns. And it's an excellent one. Years before Abin Sur (Arnold Vosloo) crashed on Earth and gave his ring to a bewildered test pilot, years before Sinestro (Jason Isaacs) embraced his dark side and turned on the Corps, the two Lanterns fought side by side, bringing some of the universe's most notorious criminals to justice. But in the wake of their latest mission, Abin Sur is warned of Sinestro's fall from grace. The question is, will he believe it? Or will his loyalty to his comrade blind him to the truth? Abin Sur doesn't quite signal the end of Emerald Knights -- Hal and the Corps still need to deal with Krona, of course -- but it is its darkest, most dramatic vignette. Tension is apparent from the outset. We all know Sinestro will turn on his friends one day. The question is how close is he to that day? It only helps that Abin Sur features the most seasoned voice acting in the film. Vosloo and Isaacs are terrific and accomplish more in ten minutes than poor Fillion is given the opportunity to do in an hour. (Nothing against dear Captain Mal. He does a fine job, he's just saddled with narration duties for the majority of Emerald Knights.) The animation itself rarely falters either, and the whole of Abin Sur is exceedingly satisfying.
Written by Alan Burnett, Geoff Johns & Todd Casey
Directed by Christopher Berkeley
It all comes to a head as Hal and legions of Lanterns join forces to stop Krona. Unfortunately, Jordan never really earns time in the spotlight, the film's lumbering, planet-dwarfing Big Bad doesn't bring much to the table (other than some flashy pyrotechnics and peripheral mayhem), the climactic battle that erupts isn't very gripping or inventive, and the overarching story proves to be little more than a framing device. Even so, Emerald Knights is a more refined, reliable and absorbing anthology than Batman: Gotham Knight, if for no other reason than both its animation and storytelling are consistent and cohesive from beginning to end. Whereas Gotham Knight took its patchwork cues from The Animatrix, Emerald Knights actively blurs any lines that exist between the various writers' scripts and eliminates the use of multiple animation houses altogether. The result is a more substantial film with stronger shorts and tighter animation. It isn't the best DCU animated original movie, but it certainly isn't the worst. Far from it. It marks a significant leap forward from Gotham Knight and another solid 80-minute feature from Bruce Timm and Warner Bros. Animation.
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Blu-ray, Video Quality
The true enemy of the Emerald Knights? Apparently, unsightly banding. Color bands split the skies, assault the backgrounds, disrupt light sources and even attack the heroes directly, rending their uniforms and faces. It isn't entirely unexpected -- nearly every DCU animation release suffers from varying degrees of banding -- but it is, as always, a distraction. That said, I still suspect most of it traces back to the animation itself. Other minor issues (infrequent pixelation among them) suggest the problems lie with the source, not Warner's 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation. Thankfully, little else disappoints. The film's colors are powerful, primaries pack devastating punch, contrast is bright and bold, and black levels are rich and inky. Every crisp line, green glow, erupting sun, shard of space debris and blazing detail looks fantastic, with few exceptions. Better still, the Blu-ray presentation obliterates its DVD counterpart. Now if only something could be done about all that banding...
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warner's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is far more exhilarating, flat and front-heavy as it sometimes is. Dialogue is clean, clear and impeccably prioritized, the LFE channel lunges headlong into every fray and the rear speakers drop listeners in the middle of every battle the Lanterns fight. When the action grinds to a halt, there isn't much to rave about. But when power rings fire up and alien warships close in, look out. Directionality is engaging (if not entirely precise), dynamics are aggressive, Christopher Drake's music doesn't flounder (even if it's a bit too subdued in the soundscape) and energy blasts, shadow demons and explosions tear across the soundfield with ease. Most of the issues I have with the mix, minor as they are, trace back to the film's original sound design, though, meaning those with appropriate expectations will be thrilled with the results.
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Green Lantern: Emerald Knights has a generous selection of special features, among them an excellent audio commentary, two worthwhile Green Lantern documentaries, a sneak peek at Batman: Year One and an episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold presented in high definition. A standard DVD and Digital Copy are included as well.
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights isn't the second coming of animated anthologies, but it is an energetic, action-packed appetizer of cosmic proportions sure to whet comic and film fans' appetites for Green Lantern's theatrical debut in June. And while Warner's Blu-ray release is haunted by banding, its video presentation still stands as a significant improvement over its DVD counterpart, its DTS-HD Master Audio surround mix is excellent and its supplemental package has a number of high-quality special features on tap, including an audio commentary with Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio and two high definition documentaries. Ultimately, it isn't the stunning be-all, end-all anthology I was hoping for, but it's much better than Batman: Gotham Knight and a solid DCU original animated movie release overall.
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