Monday, June 13, 2011
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (Blu-ray Review)
To coincide with (a.k.a "milk every drop from") the release of the live action Green Lantern movie, the DC animation studios have released another Green Lantern animated movie on DVD and Blu-ray. This time, instead of focusing on Hal Jordan as "Green Lantern: First Flight" did, "Green Lantern: Emerald Knights" tells a handful of stories from the history of the Green Lantern Corps in anthology format. The Corps is about to fight an extremely powerful enemy, and to encourage a rookie, Hal Jordan and some other Green Lanterns tell stories that highlight interesting facets of the Corps' history.
When I heard they were going with an anthology format for this release, I had major reservations. I found "Batman: Gotham Knight" to be an odd assortment of different storytelling styles that had no momentum driving it. Although "Emerald Knights" also lacks a strong and consistent build from beginning to end, each story is packed with action and the animation style remains consistent throughout. The rings are used creatively and the animation in action sequences is beautiful and busy. The battles are fierce and fast-paced. I'll need to watch this multiple times to appreciate it all. There is a lot to see in these action scenes and they are a significant improvement over "First Flight".
The voice acting is solid almost across the board. Nathan Fillion("Firefly") has been a fan favorite for the Green Lantern live action movies for years. But since he didn't get the gig for the live action flick, fans can at least hear him in this version. Unfortunately, he doesn't get near as much humor to work with compared to his performance as Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman animated movie. Jason Isaacs replaces Victor Garber as Sinestro, and does a fine job, even though I personally prefer Garber's version. The casting that missed the mark for me was Henry Rollins as Kilowog. Although he has the raspy tone appropriate for a drill instructor, he sounds inappropriately small in Kilowog's bulky frame.
Each story is memorable. No strange duds in this bunch as in "Gotham Knight" or "The Animatrix". And the writing in each segment is great. One moment between a father and daughter even threatened to blur my vision with tears. But newcomers to the Green Lantern mythos may feel a little lost, as only a very basic introduction to the concept occurs at the beginning before throwing us into the stories.
An odd point to note is that the animation models are identical to those used in "First Flight", giving the strong visual impression that this movie shares the same continuity with First Flight. The trouble is that Sinestro went rogue in First Flight, and even after that story it was clear Hal Jordan was still a rookie in the Green Lantern Corps. But in "Emerald Knights", Sinestro is a respected member of the Corps and Hal Jordan is a veteran.
My guess is that they used the same models to cut corners in the development cycle so they could get this release to time with the live action movie. But they could have created this project without Sinestro by modifying the script slightly, resulting in a story that fits with the previous animated release as well as the visuals so obviously do.
The Blu-ray extras are great, starting with a 30 minute documentary that delves into the psychological nature of bravery that hits on the strong moral component involved. Some very thought-provoking stuff that could easily lead to worthwhile conversation!
There is also a commentary to the movie featuring Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio, who talk about Green Lantern comics in general as elements of the animation trigger memories and topics. I’m no fan of what DiDio has been responsible for in the DC universe, but it was a lot of fun to listen to him and Geoff Johns talk Green Lantern for 80 minutes. (Even if DiDio didn’t know the difference between Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner when describing his “favorite” Geoff Johns Green Lantern scene.)
This movie is a “must see” for Green Lantern fans and also shouldn’t be missed by the average fan of sci-fi animation.
Rated PG for sci-fi action violence throughout, and for some language.
Please note that the “Relevance” score in particular takes the blu-ray special features into account.
Listen to this review this weekend at- spiritblade.net/podcast
As an added bonus, if you’re looking for some more animated Green Lantern to watch before seeing the live-action movie this weekend, here is my short list of essential Green Lantern animation.
Green Lantern: First Flight- This flick might spend a little too much time developing the “mystery” aspects of the plot, but it captures Hal Jordan’s origin really well and the climax is about as cool, and massively cosmic as Green Lantern stories get!
“In Blackest Night”- This two part episode from season 1 of the Justice League animated series takes a little time to get going, but it’s got some great Green Lantern Corps action and classic Green Lantern villains, The Manhunters!
“In Brightest Day”- This classic episode from season 2 of “Superman: The Animated Series” is still my favorite on this list. In a little over 20 minutes, this episode introduces the character concept with a great origin story and features some extremely cool Green Lantern action.