6 Aug 2009

Screen Time: GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT

By Stewart R

GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT
Cast: Christopher Meloni, Victor Garber, Tricia Helfer, Michael Madsen, Kurtwood Smith, Richard McGonagle
Director: Lauren Montgomery
Runtime: 77 mins
Release date: 28 July 2009

Green Lantern as a character has recently gone through a heralded rebirth with an applauded return for Hal Jordan in the comic book, and now with Blackest Night creeping into the public eye and Ryan Reynolds freshly cast as the live-action lead this is the perfect time to push the character’s profile further. DC have been making big strides into the animated feature market in the past few years with the likes of Superman: Doomsday and this years’ Wonder Woman impressing greatly. Having had her full feature directorial debut with Wonder Woman last time out, Lauren Montgomery gets the opportunity here to handle the company’s hot property of the moment and translate Hal Jordan’s initial adventures to film.

Realising acutely that audiences are tiring of long and protracted origin stories, Montgomery elects to deal with Jordan’s deputising pre-credits in a quick, tidy fashion allowing the film to get off of Earth and on to Oa where the real fun begins. This is a shrewd move and the film works all the better for it. Once on Oa we’re introduced to all of the major players - the Guardians, Sinestro, Kilowog, Boodikka and a slew of other Lanterns who fanboys out there will spot – and the role of the Green Lantern Corps is explained. Then, concentrating squarely on the mentor/pupil relationship between Sinestro and Hal, we’re then whisked off across the galaxy on a mission as the Corps investigates the murder of Jordan’s predecessor, Abin Sur.

There’s fantastic characterisation here as Meloni nails Hal’s compassionate and capable ‘fish out of water’ rookie and Victor Garber revels in his role as Sinestro. All of the arrogance and superiority that defines Sinestro oozes out of every line as his disgust for his task and the Guardians is steadily brought to the fore. Montgomery, confirming once more that she won’t shy away from the more violent and adult themes that present themselves in the comics, allows brief demonstrations of Sinestro’s viciousness as he threatens and tortures ‘perps’ and suspects for information. Any violence is always necessary for the advancement of the plot and is never over the top despite the science fiction setting.

The quality of the animation on show is incredibly high with accomplished portrayals of ring power constructs and some of the best explosions to be seen in traditional animation. As a lover of animation I often judge a film’s action sequences upon the willingness of the animators to throw their best and most varied explosion and smoke effects at an audience as well as their ability to convey speed. Here they simply don’t hold back with a host of different camera angles and effects utilised to their potential. There’s even a smattering of CGI which doesn’t look at all out place amongst the traditional cell-work. Of course it’s not all about the visual side…

The plot has been tailored for the runtime and an awful lot gets covered over the course of 80 minutes but halfway through watching I was already in awe of what I had seen – Oa, seedy backworld bars and their varied and bizarre customers, galactic space stations and an array of ring powers – and never once does the story suffer because of the pacing. Writer Burnett, I believe, has taken everything that was necessary for a Green Lantern film to be viewable for newcomer and veteran fan alike and placed it all with care into a single script. Some may bemoan the missed opportunity to include the recent development of Geoff Johns’ Spectrum of Emotions that power the varying coloured lanterns but should this feature prove popular enough to inspire sequels – and I truly hope that it will – then this plot thread will surely be picked up.

Overall this is an outstanding comic book movie, a shining example of how to make an animated film and a terrific introduction to the Green Lantern if you’ve been languishing in the dark before now. Everyone involved with its creation should be immensely proud of themselves. 9/10

2 comments:

Matt C said...

Watched this last night - it was pretty good overall although I wouldn't rate it as highly as Stewart.

Think Hal Jordan was lacking in the characterization department, and I probably could've used a bit more of him getting to grips with his new "job". Sinestro had the meatier role by far.

From what I've seen (which admittedly isn't much) DC have the upper hand over Marvel when it comes to animated output.

Stewart R said...

Hmmmm, I'm not sure there's an upper hand being held by anyone at present as The Doc Strange and Hulk Vs titles were very good for Marvel...