Let me begin this review by confessing my infatuation with the DC Animated Universe. When Bruce Timm and Paul Dini came on the scene with Batman the Animated Series back in September of 1992, I concluded that animated comic franchises would never be the same. The team proved me correct on through Superman the Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League and of course most recently, Justice League Unlimited (with pretty solid animated film releases all along the way). I still enjoy Mask of the Phantasm and Justice League: The New Frontier the most with Batman Gotham Night and some of the Superman films falling into the second tier (meaning good for any other production group but falling short to the level of excellence the animated series have provided). All of this rambling leads me to the most recent rash of releases, which includes Green Lantern: First Flight. I had the opportunity to watch First Flight almost directly after Wonder Woman and while WW was solid in many ways and certainly entertaining, GL took the cake as far as I was concerned.
Before we get to the plot summary, I must warn that those looking for back-story on Hal Jordan’s life before taking possession of the ring need not apply. In fact the transformation from mere test pilot to galactic guardian takes place before the opening credits even roll. In my opinion one of the grittier and certainly darker Hal Jordan origin tales occupies much of the Justice League: The New Frontier story arc and fans with such expectations would probably be wise to start there.
Centering on the first mission of Hal Jordan as a Green Lantern, First Flight could almost be described as being as much a back-story of Sinestro as it could the first human to be inducted into the Green Lantern Corps.
The film was written by veteran DC Comics animation collaborator Alan Burnett, produced by Bruce Timm, and directed by Wonder Woman’s Lauren Montgomery. It should also be noted that this title marks the fifth in the line of DC Universe Original Animated Movies released by Warner Premiere and Warner Bros. Animation.
The plot could best be summarized as a “cops in space” affair where Jordan is recruited to join the Green Lantern Corps after the death of Abin Sur. He is placed under the supervision of respected senior officer Sinestro who is charged with the task of investigating Abin's murder. It turns out Abin was killed in the line of duty while doing an undercover investigation of insect-like gangster Kanjar Ro, who managed to locate and steal the only element that even the Green Lanterns fear (the yellow element).
Not to worry, this summary really doesn’t give away any of the plot twists and turns but rather sets things up nicely for some intergalactic locales, alien cultures, and the concept that even the most vile of villains often start with good intentions.
Green Lantern: First Flight is available as a standard DVD in both single and double disc editions along with a high definition Blu-ray release.
All of the versions offer an exclusive sneak peek of the highly-anticipated next DC Universe animated film Superman/ Batman Public Enemies as well as featurettes on three other DC animated films (Justice League: The new Frontier, Wonder Woman, and Batman: Gotham Knight). Finally they all include a behind-the-scenes look at Blackest Night, the DC Comics series that ambitiously resurrects the dead with black power rings.
Back to the feature, though- this is very close to a 5-star property in my opinion. The acting, art direction and just general flow of the prose are truly second to none. In fact the 75-minute runtime and PG rating allow for some pretty cool action sequences and for the first time in DCAU film history, a story that doesn’t feel rushed or compressed to fit into a time slot. The one subtracted star comes from the fact that unfortunately to make the premise work; the show’s writers were forced to severely downgrade the clairvoyance ability and just general vigor of the Guardians. Sinestro, though beautifully crafted and developed here, is simply a bit too powerful for my tastes. While I do advocate the fact that any hero is only as good as the villain he fights against, the trouble is that the Lantern Corp. (especially with the Guardians at their back) should really be nearly invincible. Sinestro nearly single-handedly woops the whole lot of them as if he were swatting flies. Although I should confess that the action in these segments is pretty darn intense if that means anything to you.
In all another solid entry from a team who has spoiled us nearly continually for the past two decades. The film is just rife with the type of action and quality that we’ve come to expect in a Warner Premiere production. Some may find the lack of a dedicated back-story a bit disappointing, but the formula as presented here does allow for very little time wasted setting up the story. It’s a roller coaster ride from beginning to end. Best of all the featurette devoted to Justice League: The New Frontier was interesting enough to spur me into digging out my copy of the film and revisiting it. As such I came away impressed with how well the two stories compliment each other.
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