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Green Lantern: First Flight(2009)
When Hal Jordan first becomes a Green Lantern, he is put under the supervision of senior Lantern, Sinestro, only to discover that his so-called mentor is part of a secret conspiracy that threatens the entire Green Lantern Corps.
In brightest day, in blackest night,
no evil shall escape my sight!
Let those who worship evil's might,
beware my power.. Green Lantern's light!
For more about Green Lantern: First Flight and the Green Lantern: First Flight Blu-ray release, see Green Lantern: First Flight Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on July 17, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Lauren Montgomery
Writer: Alan Burnett
Starring: Christopher Meloni, Victor Garber, Tricia Helfer, Michael Madsen, John Larroquette, Kurtwood Smith
» See full cast & crew
Green Lantern: First Flight Blu-ray Review
In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, July 17, 2009
Remember when "debating the issues" involved arguing about which 16-bit system offered the most satisfying experience? The Super Nintendo, with its Mode-7 graphics and colorful sprites, or the Sega Genesis, with its lightning-fast hedgehog and vast library of games? Outlining the key differences between Coke's crisp, refreshing bite and Pepsi's smooth, sugary goodness? Going toe to toe to determine which comics industry publisher -- Marvel, with its bruised and battered scrappers, or DC, with its flawed demi-gods -- offered the greatest stable of characters and the best lineup of books? Sigh... those were the days. It's these nostalgic debates of yesteryear (For the record: the Genesis, Pepsi, and Marvel. Flame on.) that flooded my brain as I sat down to watch the fifth DC Universe animated original movie, Green Lantern: First Flight. I was never a big Green Lantern fan in my youth -- space-faring heroics didn't thrill me as much as Earth-based scuffles -- but after warming up to Wonder Woman earlier this year, I decided to put aside my preconceived notions, and simply soak up everything First Flight had to offer. Having watched it twice now, once alone and once with my four-year-old son in tow, I'm happy to report it's a fantastic little flick.
Cleverly taking its cues from films like Training Day and shows like The Shield, First Flight presents the Lantern mythos in the guise of a police drama, one in which an upstart rookie Earthling by the name of Hal Jordan (voiced by Christopher Meloni) is given a probationary stint in the Green Lantern Corps under the watchful eye of a respected, albeit corrupt intergalactic peace officer named Sinestro (Victor Garber). After meeting fellow Lanterns Boodikka (Battlestar Galactica's Tricia Helfer), Kilowog (Michael Madsen), and Tomar Re (John Larroquette), and failing to impress any of them with his innate skills with his newfound power ring, Hal is dispatched alongside Sinestro to track down the criminal (Kurtwood Smith) responsible for killing his beloved and famed predecessor, Abin Sur. However, the young inductee invites Sinestro's fury when he publicly disagrees with his pink-skinned superior's questionable interrogation methods. Before long, Hal finds himself at odds with the Guardians of the Universe (a race of blue-hued immortals who govern the Corps), accused of a murder he didn't commit, and faced with the sudden revelation that Sinestro has been working behind the scenes to obtain a super-weapon capable of destroying everything the Corps holds dear.
After an extremely brief opener involving Jordan's encounter with Abin Sur, his acceptance of a power ring, and his "one week later" emergence as the Green Lantern, First Flight lurches forward and never lets up. I met Sinestro and his brothers in arms, visited the Guardians' chambers, received a full briefing on the universe's social and political unrest, and set off to accompany Hal on his first interstellar mission long before director Lauren Montgomery (Wonder Woman) and Emmy-winning screenwriter Alan Burnett (Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond) gave me a chance to catch my breath. Even so, I never felt confused or rushed. Breezy, effortless, and engrossing, the rapidfire pacing is exhilarating -- it not only allows viewers to digest a massive amount of information in a relatively short period of time, it makes all the necessary exposition feel like a natural extension of the tale (rather than a cheap storytelling device), and immediately bonds viewers to Jordan since both are being forced to absorb every detail in tandem. It helps that Sinestro is a thoroughly cerebral antagonist who, like every compelling villain, is convinced he's the good guy. His conquest is as much about principle as it is about power, and it provides Burnett with plenty of fertile thematic ground on which to plant seeds of betrayal, resentment, and pride. Sinestro's inevitable clash with the Lantern Corps is wonderfully conceived, and the third act becomes a rousing, at-times mesmerizing clash of the proverbial titans.
I was also thoroughly pleased with casting director Andrea Romano's efforts, as well as each one of her actors' performances. Meloni infuses Hal with the same confident, no-nonsense temperament he brings to Detective Stabler on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. He doesn't simply read his lines, he puts his back into each one, transforming a two-dimensional cartoon into a living, breathing, occasionally desperate hero that, quite frankly, supersedes previous animated incarnations of the Big Three (Supes, Bats and... erm, Woms). Garber's portrayal of Sinestro is just as effective, offering fans a cold and calculating officer of the law who forges his own moral highground. Whether he's in control of an interrogation or losing control amidst a crumbling plan, Garber never allows Sinestro to become a one-note monster. Even when the script focuses on mundane plot details, the inflection and expressiveness of his voice adds another layer of villainy to each line. Helfer, Smith and, yes, even Madsen are excellent as well. Helfer brings a sultry throatiness to her lyrical intonations, Smith fully inhabits his gravel-tongued rogue, and Madsen injects genuine humor and soul into a character that could have been nothing more than a gruff block of lifeless muscle.
In fact, I only have a handful of complaints, most of which are connected to aspects of the Green Lantern universe fans of the comic will probably find terribly entertaining. I know it's part of the character's patented schtick, but every time Jordan would use a giant green flyswatter, boot, golf club, or baseball bat to smash an enemy, it made me cringe. Granted, these so-called "creative" uses of his power are few and far between, but they suck all of the intensity and drama out of an action scene when they appear. Likewise, Hal's near-instant mastery of his power ring is a stretch, regardless of the film's limited runtime. It seems to me his fellow Lanterns would have picked up quite a few tricks over their years Hal wouldn't think of within a week's time. Yet, miraculously, he's able to stand his own against a pack of venerable veterans, even surprising them with the manner in which he uses his ring. Last but not least, the animators occasionally rely on CG animation -- specifically to render battle mechs, space ships, and massive lantern power sources -- that looks completely out of place with the film's hand-drawn elements. I adore the animation style, particularly the manga-influenced character designs and the fluidity of the various showdowns, so I have a hard time understanding why the animators felt certain objects would be best served in the hands of a computer.
Regardless, I had a blast watching First Flight. It even made me want to pick up a few Green Lantern comics to see if writer Geoff Johns (who's featured prominently in the supplemental package) is handling the characters as well as Montgomery and Burnett have. And what of my second viewing with my son? Just like his dear old dad, he loved the non-stop action, the flashy endgame, and the budding conflict. The film works on a variety of levels, allowing younger viewers to easily follow the gist of its seemingly simplistic story, and giving more mature minds the opportunity to sink their teeth into its more subtle nuances. And despite the MPAA's PG-13 rating, I didn't encounter anything kids couldn't handle -- there are some minor cuts and wounds, a brief but admittedly bloody impalement, and a few choice words in Madsen's vocabulary, but Coraline was far, far more frightening, graphic, and unnerving. I have a feeling we'll be popping this one in again before the week is over.
Surprised as I was to enjoy it as much as I did, First Flight is a remarkable animated superhero adventure that should entertain comic fans and mythos-newcomers of all ages. Give it a spin and see if it resonates with you as much as it did me.
Green Lantern: First Flight Blu-ray, Video Quality
Green Lantern: First Flight not only delivers some of the finest animation to grace any DC Universe animated movie (or, for that matter, any Marvel Comics animated production), it features a bold and beautiful 1080p/VC-1 encoded transfer that assaults the senses with gorgeous greens and blinding yellows in a truly spectacular fashion. The palette itself is awash with vivid splashes of color and inky blacks, and contrast remains strong and stable throughout. Line detail is a tad softer than DC animated regulars might be used to, but the slight (I stress slight) reduction in clarity finally eliminates the distracting aliasing and fine-line pixelation issues that have plagued every other DC Universe Blu-ray release to date. The film's artwork is rendered with care, as are the starfields, crowded space bars, and shuffling assemblies that dot the backgrounds. Even though long distance shots reveal the limitations of the simplistic character designs, the technical transfer doesn't falter.
More importantly, I didn't run into any significant artifacting, errant source noise, intrusive edge enhancement, crush, or debilitating color banding (which still pops up, albeit very faintly and only on a few, rare occasions). All things considered, I couldn't be much happier with the results. Warner's presentation boasts the sort of 2D eye-candy I hope all DC and Marvel animated productions strive to achieve.
Green Lantern: First Flight Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Unfortunately, Green Lantern's somewhat limp Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track lacks the power and punch its emerald knight brandishes on-screen. First the good. Dialogue is crisp, clear, and perfectly intelligible -- whether Hal is being bombarded by laserfire, helping his cohorts slow a crashing space shuttle, or clashing with Sinestro, the actors' voice work is never overwhelmed in the resulting chaos. Likewise, rear speaker activity is prominent and persistent, enhancing both the original sound design's lackluster acoustics and overcooked ambient effects. Crumbling buildings topple around the listener, and space scuffles erupt from every direction. It's a testament to the track's relatively precise directionality and smooth pans that, more often than not, I forgot I was watching a modestly budgeted animated production.
That being said, there are definitely a few problems. LFE output, while impressive at times (particularly when it comes to Hal and Sinestro's climactic battle, the massive-lantern's third-act blasts, and some of the film's other larger scale conflicts), is often weak and watery. Several times throughout the movie, explosions and other weighty elements were suddenly reduced to muffled rumbles to allow a character's voice to dominate the soundscape. Granted, losing dialogue in the mix would be the greater of two prioritization evils, but the abrupt and extreme disparity between the track's bass-laden effects and the actors' voices yanked me out of the film every time. Moreover, the aforementioned rear speaker activity is at the mercy of its indecisive designers. Many scenes offer little background ambience, making for a rather flat, at-times front-heavy listening experience. I know, I know... we're essentially talking about a cartoon here, but I've heard much better from other DC Universe animated releases.
All in all, Green Lantern: First Flight sounds pretty good -- for those with appropriate expectations, I'd even go so far as to say "great" -- but it doesn't always showcase the same sonic prowess, consistency, or oomph as some of its animated brethren.
Green Lantern: First Flight Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Green Lantern: First Flight arrives on Blu-ray with all of the special features that appear on its concurrently released DVD sidekick, as well as a few exclusives (chiefly a 23-minute mythos documentary that's easily the best feature on the disc). However, the supplemental package doesn't amount to much. For the most part, it's loaded with episodes of older animated series, extended previews for other DC Universe animated projects, and promos for Geoff Johns' run on the comic. Fans hoping for additional hero-scouring featurettes or an audio commentary (similar to those on Wonder Woman, Gotham Knight, and The New Frontier) will be disappointed.
Green Lantern: First Flight Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Green Lantern: First Flight sheds any unnecessary baggage to deliver a thrilling jaunt across a crime-ridden universe. Its hero is engaging, its villain is memorable, and its story is strong. The Blu-ray edition runs into a few problems -- namely a less-than-perfect TrueHD track and a weak collection of supplements -- but a stunning video transfer redeems the weaker aspects of the release. Whether you're a Lantern junkie or a casual animation fan, First Flight deserves a chance to win you over. It isn't perfect, but it's yet another step in the right direction for DC's animated division. Here's hoping Superman/Batman: Public Enemies is just as impressive.
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Green Lantern: First Flight Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Green Lantern Blu-ray Revealed - March 2, 2009
Warner Home Video has announced that they will bring the next direct-to-video DC Comic feature 'Green Lantern: First Flight' to Blu-ray on July 28th, day-and-date with the DVD release. This two disc set will feature 1.78:1 1080p VC-1 video. No audio spec has been ...
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