Green Lantern: First Flight is a long, long time coming. For too long, Hal Jordan has gotten the shaft in the modern DC Animated arsenal. In recent years he has had some appearances in animated form as arguably the star of Justice League: The New Frontier, a guest appearance on The Batman and a great episode of Duck Dodgers (included on the 2-disc DVD of this film). But Hal was shafted and Kyle Rayner was essentially given his origin on Superman: The Animated Series and he was left out of Justice League Unlimited as well as its toy line. Granted, most of of Halís recent appearances come from the resurgence in his popularity due to the phenomenal run by Geoff Johns and the fact that Green Lantern is one of the best comic books available right now, especially with the Blackest Night event. This resurgence in Halís popularity has also fast tracked a live action film.
Long-time readers will know that Hal Jordan is one of my favorite fictional characters. One of my final screenplays in college was a Green Lantern film and at one point taking part in anything Green Lantern was a dream of mine, including in animated form. Due to a number of things I wonít get into, goals are altered and adjusted, but Hal Jordan has continued to be one of my all time favorites. Thus, when I found out Hal was finally getting the full-on animated treatment I was immediately excited. At the time, DC Animated had already put out a few great films and was really moving along strong. Then Wonder Woman came out and I was super-impressed and couldnít wait for Green Lantern: First Flight.
So letís get right into it. First Flight is a great tale of the Green Lantern Corps and the fall of Sinestro. I was entertained from beginning to end and really thought the animation as well done and the action was captured perfectly. While overall I did enjoy the film, being a huge Green Lantern fan, especially a Hal fan, I have to say that I certainly wanted more. The film leaves a lot of ground uncovered about Hal Jordan, and while I understand this is an animated film that is supposed to be enjoyed by the younger audiences as well, this film is a perfect example as to why these animated features need to be longer and more in depth. Justice League: The New Frontier suffered the same problem, thereís so much great story to tell that 77 minutes just doesnít cover it. Granted it is impossible to get into every nitpicky detail that Geoff Johns has introduced in the past five years, including the color spectrum, thereís so much great Green Lantern content that feels left out or under-developed. It is never really explained what the rings can do or how. But please donít get me wrong, I really loved this film and it is a very enjoyable and another well-done animated feature from DC Animated.
The story itself is fast paced and is indeed paced quite well. Within the first five minutes Hal is pulled into the desert inside of the flight simulator and Abin Sur hands off the ring. But after that there is very little about Hal first wielding the ring, what he does, why he decides he needs a mask, and tragically, hardly anything about his relationship with Carol Ferris. While the beginning of the film does have some great dialogue that offers insight to the relationship between the two, knowing the dynamic between them you canít help but want more. Even a five to ten minute scene where Hal fights some kind of super-villain and learns to use the ring before Sinestro and the other Lanterns come for him would have been perfect.
Halís character is a little under-developed. I know for an animated feature every detail canít be covered, but it would have been much more significant had it been explained that Hal was a fighter pilot who acted on instinct, thus making his ability to control the ring that much more natural. The dynamic and plot point between he and Boodikka could also have been better understood had Hal been shown as a womanizer. Regardless of what the haters say, Hal is a very complex character and while his arrogance does come out briefly in the intro, it is not as prominent as it probably should be, this could have also played into the needed element of Hal acting upon instinct. His resilience towards authority is certainly the main character point for this feature as evidence early on with Carol, then with Sinestro and also with the Guardians.
One of the major supporting characters is Kilowog. Kilowog is perfect in this film and Michael Madsen is perfect for the voice. The dynamic between Hal and Kilowog is prominent and very evident throughout the entire film. The tension and eventual respect founded between the characters felt very natural and fit in well with the story.
But Halís humanity is captured very well in this feature and when he is Green Lantern, as he is through most of the film, he is certainly done right. Heís the good cop, the hero who observes everything around him and finally enters the battle when he has examined every angle. The film does an excellent job capturing his strong sense of will-power and the important fact that Hal never backs down from a fight. The constructs he creates are fun and are appropriate for whatever situation he finds himself in. I am also a fan of Christopher Meloni and I do think he did a great job as Halís voice.
The main villain is of course Sinestro and the characterís representation in this feature is spot on. While the featureís main storyline does involve classic DC space villain Kanjar Ro, Sinestro is captured amazingly in this film. He is more than the bad cop, more than the antagonist, Sinestro is one hell of an evil bastard in this film and the elements of his beliefs in fear are prominent. He wants power, he want to control the universe in his own way and he will do anything to get it, including killing and manipulating anyone in his way. This is brilliantly captured in this feature. There are also quite a few twists along the way that really make the main storyline involving Sinestro come together in a very poignant way. The storyline involving Sinestro and Kanjar Ro and how it is related to the death of Abin Sur is clear, concise and well told. And I should also mention that I thought one of the coolest scenes of this whole feature was when Sinestro confronts the Weaponers of Qward. The Weaponers are so creepy and so cool that I would seriously watch an entire feature simply about them. Sinestro of course ends up with a yellow ring and wears his current Sinestro Corps uniform, an aesthetically and marketability wise choice by the producers.
As far as the Green Lantern Corps are portrayed, the film indeed captures the Green Lanterns and the Guardians in all their glory. There are a number of fun cameos and if you are a reader of the Green Lantern comics, it is fun to pause the movie and see who you can pick out of the Corps. One minor spoiler I want to mention is that the way Hal learns everything he needs to know is quite clever. He plugs himself into the central battery and it essentially becomes the Book of Oa, giving him all of the crucial information he needs as a Green Lantern.
One thing that actually left me a little disappointed was the fact that the Green Lantern Oath is not said until the end of the film. I thought for sure Hal would recite it in the beginning, no. There are moments where the rings have no power and the oath should have been recited, no. There was a moment when the central battery needed to be recharged with the oath, no. Maybe Iím being a bit nitpicky, but as a big Hal Jordan and Green Lantern fan, I canít help it. The oath is a huge part of the mythology and I just felt it wasnít used in a number of appropriate places.
The production of this film is fantastic. The voice actors are great, the story is well-paced and covers the basics and includes many of the elements that create a great Green Lantern tale.
Disregarding my nitpicks, the story is very effective in telling the story of Hal becoming a Green Lantern and what happens when Sinestro betrays the Corps. The animation is very well done and I am a big fan of the character design. The final fight scene between Hal and Sinestro was simply awesome and it is really the type of space battle between the two that fans have been waiting for. Thereís so much to love about this film that it becomes difficult to ignore some of the things I have mentioned and the need, not only for a sequel to this feature taking place on Earth, but also the length of these animated flicks to be increased to over 90 minutes at least.
I picked up the 2 disc special edition at Best Buy and the DVD is chock full of extras. Also if you buy it at Best Buy you can get a DC Infinite Heroes Hal Jordan figure style after his uniform in the film. The figure is also a new mold, different than the regular Infinite Heroes Hal and features much more articulation. The DVD has great features including the Duck Dodgers episode, an in depth look at the Green Lantern character with Geoff Johns, a behind the scenes look at Blackest Night, a behind the scenes of the next DC Animated flick Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, character profiles and a couple Justice League Unlimited episodes. Trust me, the 2 disc DVD is well worth the price.
Overall, I am very satisfied with this film. It is certainly a film for the fans, the fans of Hal Jordan who have cried foul over his sparse animated appearances, and also for fans of the Green Lantern Corps. If you are a Green Lantern fan you will not be disappointed by this film. I am very nitpicky about it because I am a huge Hal Jordan fan, but the fact that I had my second viewing directly after the first and still loved the film should tell you that it is indeed pretty damn good. Hal Jordan certainly gets the proper animated treatment and the Green Lanterns, Sinestro, the action, the unexpected twists and the animation are all very well done. This film is easily watchable over and over and I it is certainly another hit for DC, so understand my rating for this film is simply based more in my desire for greater details as a big Hal Jordan fan.
I will end with a simple request to the animated producers at both DC and Marvel, these films have to be longer, they are too well done not to be and Green Lantern: First Flight, a great film that could be even better with a few more details, is a perfect example as to why the duration of these features has to increase in the future.
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