Blu-ray Review: Green Lantern: First Flight (2009)

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The Green Lantern: First Flight

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Although many individuals would be known as the official DC Comics Green Lantern throughout its history from its origins during the Golden Age of Comics in the 1940s up through its many evolutions, test pilot Hal Jordan was the one selected for this new Warner Premiere.

Having also been "reborn" in the line of comics, it's Jordan who was originally
part of what's become considered the Silver Age of the comic movement,who is showcased in this superb seventy-seven minute feature length PG-13 production from Warner Brothers and DC Comics and voiced by Law & Order: Special Victims Unit actor Christopher Meloni.

Despite being given a contemporary storyline from scripter Alan Burnett (who has taken home four Emmy Awards for his writing in the past), like the previous Warner Premiere that came before in the form of the brilliant Wonder Woman also from director Lauren Montgomery, we're offered an origin tale.

And considering some of the main ingredients that comprise the Green Lantern mythology circa Hal Jordan, even before I began digging for more information about the superhero, it wasn't too hard to guess the era in which he began gracing the pages of DC comic books. Debuting in the Fall of 1959, just before the dawn of the space race, Jordan's occupation as a test pilot made him the ideal candidate for the task of overcoming fear on a regular basis.

And similarly the series also played with other trends and issues facing society such as the rise in popularity of science fiction films filled with alien life and more importantly some in which the aliens were shockingly-- to ticket buying suburbanites-- portrayed as far more peaceful in comparison to the humans who were capable of dropping bombs on one another.

Set during the Cold War scare and following the devastation of Pearl Harbor and World War II as well as the McCarthy witch-hunts and communist red-scares-- all of these issues find their way into the Green Lantern series as, unlike the lone, existential Batman, Green Lantern is able to and cheerfully hopeful to conform and work with others whenever possible as part of the intergalactic police-like force.

Similar to the other first-class Warner Brothers graphic novel adaptations in the DC Universe Animated Series of films, every frame is dripping with the most beautifully vivid artwork and I was thrilled that this time around I had my first opportunity to witness one in Blu-ray, having felt that director Montgomery's Wonder Woman was one of the best animated direct-to-disc features of the year so far.

While I wasn't as overly engrossed with this particular storyline since-- following the Roman and Greek mythology tinged Woman, Green Lantern seems a bit weak-- the intricacy of the animation, the fast-paced cinematic storyboarded action sequences and thankfully straightforward origin story make this one approachable for newbies including this reviewer.

It begins as Jordan's metamorphosis does as well when his flight simulation goes wrong and he finds himself crashing in the desert where he comes upon the dying alien, Abin Sur. When the alien's unusually powerful green ring "chooses" Jordan, he's told by Sur that it's no accident and Jordan becomes the first human ever selected by the ring to become a member of the Green Lantern Corps.

However, finding the ring and saying you're a member isn't as easy as that or it'd be essentially the superhero version of finding a prize in a box of Cracker Jack so he's quickly put on trial by the superior Guardians of the Universe (who in my eyes resembled what would have happened if the Ewoks and Yoda had had a baby... except, you know one that was blue).

Although Jordan is no stranger to the idea of on-the-job probation since his uncle was a cop, he's amazed to hear how prejudiced the Guardians are about the human race, as they note that the humans are so crude, base, and untrustworthy that it's a wonder they've lasted this long.

Informing Hal that humans are beneath them-- he's stunned when the experienced Lantern Sinestro (voiced by Victor Garber) offers to mentor Hal for awhile to keep an eye on him. Additionally, this decision annoys the alien character voiced by Michael Madsen since technically he's supposed to be the new trainer of Lantern members who are assigned to patrol one of the 3,600 sectors of the universe.

Grateful for Sinestro's help, Hal soon has second thoughts when Garber relishes in the line delivery that he likes humans but as he suddenly switches tone, he chides Hal, "you are on sacred ground, Earth boy. I own your ass" before the night becomes an animated version of Training Day when he'll extract information from a witness by any means necessary.

Making the most out of its PG-13 rating-- although it is violent throughout, more in the display of blood and in one particular Gladiator like sequence where a Lantern finds themselves impaled, mostly this film milks that rating in the profanity department which sometimes fits the characters and other times just makes you laugh in spite of yourself since it feels a bit thrown in simply "because they could."

Plot-wise, Green Lantern never challenges as there's a twist you see coming a mile away, especially given the name of the character and it occurs slightly past the thirty minute mark. And after this moment takes place, the rest of the film seems to follow that same thread for forty seven more minutes as other characters slowly get a ticket to the same clue bus.

Although to his credit, Burnett tries to get some unique mileage out of it by introducing the "yellow element" that weakens the Green Lantern Corps, which seemed like an interesting play on the colors involved to make green with blue as the superiors and yellow as the weakness.

However, one structural flaw involved the rushed explanations of key items including the Energi-Rod and a few plot twists that circled back to the Abin Sur arrival on Earth which made me wish that more time had been spent showing these events and less time just inserting "oh, by the way" monologues since, when it comes to comics, the visual presentation should be the driving force behind the telling of the story.

In this sense, at times it reminded me of a joke someone has just learned and is still practicing-- forgetting vital information needed for the punchline to work and then halfway through, realizing it as they burst out with "wait a minute, wait a minute, the guy was wearing clown shoes" before hoping we can just magically let all this flow ourselves.

Overall, it's successful and it does flow but every so often, the film plays as though important seeds of information were dropped into the script way too late and it may have helped to have known your Lantern beforehand just to have had the source there to assist in sheeding a bit more light on details while you experienced the First Flight.

Still, the work is one of beautiful clarity that proves once more that animation is best appreciated on Blu-ray disc along with enhanced TrueHD sound (and Dolby Digital options) and the film itself is delivered in full 1080 pixel widescreen that fills your screen although some of the special features did resort to a standard definition level.

Also offering fans the option of a PC digital download (unfortunately one that's not compatible with Apple or iPod devices, however), the Blu-ray boats more than four hours of extras including extensive behind-the-scenes featurettes. Likewise it serves up five bonus cartoons selected by the DC animation legend and film's producer Bruce Timm, an interview with New York Times best-selling writer Geoff Johns who analyzes the mythology of the series he's helping to rebirth, a Blu-ray exclusive focusing on the importance of ring symbolism in literature, glimpses at three other DC Universe titles, and additional tidbits.

However, fans including this reviewer whose favorite DC Comics character (or just plain superhero for that matter) happens to be Batman will want to jump directly to an exclusive sneak peek at the next title in the DC Universe line-- Superman/Batman: Public Enemies which looks unbelievably impressive.

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