Ah Green Lantern (or “GL” to those familiar with the Justice League’s incarnation of the beloved superhero); has there ever been so solid a character with so sketchy a mainstream persona? Rhetorical question, sure, but I dare go as far as to say this animated feature film may in fact be the definitive entry into the rich universe of the titular character and the Lantern Corps to which he belongs. Such a praiseful declaration may not seem like a big deal until you realize that Green Lantern himself, in this case the Hal Jordan version, serves merely as a narrative hub that strings together a multitude of story threads concerning many of the lesser known members of the Corps here.
For those seeking origin story, there is certainly no shortage of sources to turn to that have been released in recent years. Among the notables, the DC Universe animated feature titled Green Lantern First Flight, the 2011 live-action film starring Ryan Reynolds, the DC Universe animated feature Justice League: The New Frontier, it’s even given a severely simplified once-over in an episode of the early 1980s Hanna-Barbara show Superfriends. As such, this film is free of the burden of rehashing the fateful events leading to test-pilot Hal Jordan’s inheriting the ring from a mortally wounded Abin Sur, and with that freedom came a pretty clever concept.
I had heard rumor going in that Emerald Knights consists of a collection of tales but what I didn’t expect was for the tales to have been weaved a single motion picture; literally held together by an action-driven plot. In this case five-tales are spawned from that central story of Hal Jordan’s recounting of Lantern Corps legend to new recruit Arisia.
Among the stories visited The First Lantern (a telling of the origin of the Lantern Corps), Kilowag (the history of the Corps’ lovable drill sergeant’s own time in boot camp), Laira (a princess’ homecoming after having become a Green Lantern), Mogo Doesn’t Socialize (a tale that proves once and for all that the Lantern Corps does not discriminate) and finally Abin Sur (prior to Hal Jordan entering the picture, Abin Sir receives a crypic prediction from an alien terrorist).
Of course all of these short tales are held together by the Emerald Knights angle; whereby the Corps members unite to face the threat of the antimatter creature Krona, who is poised to arrive through the Oan sun.
Looking back on the project, it’s interesting to note that with the most relatable character (Jordan/ GL) serving as merely a narrator, the science fiction heavy brilliance of the Lantern Corps mythos comes into very clear focus. In fact, a very strong argument could be made that Emerald Knights comes off like a small-scale animated variation of the Star Wars saga; complete with intergalactic conflict, massive space battles, a dose of politics and a strong thread of fantasy woven amidst the technological slant.
Another unexpected bonus (not to mention deeper tie to my Star Wars comparison) is the fleshing out of the rather complex character of Sinestro here. While his fall from glory is chronicled within the aforementioned Green Lantern First Flight feature, the depth of his empathy and true tragedy of the character’s descent into darkness is far better realized here. All of this is perhaps even more impressive once you realize that not unlike Batman: Gotham Knight, Warner Brothers makes use of the technique of breaking up up the individual stories among various production teams. While going as far as to the call the transitions between the segments “seamless” may be stretching it a bit, it is truthful to say that the format works successfully here and absolute decimates everything about the substandard presentation that is Gotham Knight.
Of course the only disadvantage to be found in all of this is that some story threads simply resonate better with a given viewer than others and because the 84-minute runtime has to be divided among six separate stories, there’s only a taste of each account to savor. It could stand to reason that each tale contained within is certainly strong enough to warrant an animated feature release in and of themselves (if only a market existed for such obscure characters).
In all Green Lantern Emerald Knights is a highly enjoyable experience throughout and will certainly appeal to fans of the source material for its attention to detail and non-fans alike (as the stories are self-explanatory and loaded with action). Many reviewers feel the need to pit this release against the generally-considered inferior Green Lantern First Flight animated feature but it really stands to mention that without GL’s own story presented here, the two projects don’t compete against so much as compliment one another. The fact of the matter is that Hal Jordan or Alan Scott, or Guy Gardner, John Stewart, or Jade, or Kyle Rayner’s earthen ties to all that is the Green Lantern mythos are surprisingly narrow-scoped. Such a massive and interesting universe just begs for deeper examination and that is precisely what Green Lantern Emerald Knights delivers.
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