Robot 6

Abin Sur was only a few days away from retirement: A review of Green Lantern: First Flight

Green Lantern: First Flight

Green Lantern: First Flight

The new DC Universe Animated movie, Green Lantern First Flight, is basically a cop movie with a sci-fi setting. Its cast includes a wealth of strange-looking aliens and fantastic action scenes that defy the laws of physics (more on that later on) but the basic plot of the film comes out of a million other TV and movie police procedurals, right down to where the hotshot rookie is blamed for a crime he didn’t commit and forced to turn his badge in.

And really, that’s as it should be. That basic premise — “space cop with magic ring” — is one of the most appealing things about the character (really the most appealing thing if you ask me) so to focus on that aspect makes sense. What’s more, it remains a pretty sturdy premise, despite its age. You have to be either really lazy or incompetent to foul it up. Thankfully, the makers of this film are neither, making First Flight an entertaining, if somewhat shallow and unoriginal, film.

The film opens with a really brief and fast-paced take through GL’s secret origin and the death of Abin Sur. I was surprised initially that the filmmakers zipped through that material so quickly, with barely a nod to poor Carol Ferris, but pretty soon their reasons are made clear. No sooner does Hal (voice of Christopher Meloni) get the ring than a group of other Lanterns, led by Sinestro (voice of Victor Garber) come to haul his ass to Green Lantern training camp.

Insert 'Lord of the Rings' joke here please

Insert 'Lord of the Rings' joke here please

From here on in we’re in familiar territory. Sinestro takes Hal under his wing. They go to the local space bar to get info on who killed Abin Sur and — surprise, surprise — we discover that Sinestro is not a big fan of Miranda rights. In fact, he thinks the Guardians are a bunch of mollycoddlers who are tying his hands and preventing him from bringing some serious order to the galaxy. Is there any chance he could be behind Abin Sur’s death and the plot to nab the mysterious “yellow element” that could spell doom for the Green Lantern Corps? Perish, forbid!

Anyway, a lot of stuff blows up, Hal gets blamed for something he totally didn’t do, there’s a third act reveal that I actually didn’t see coming, and in the end only Jordan can stop the rampaging Sinestro from destroying the Guardians and taking over the galaxy.

So yes, it’s all very familiar, but there’s no denying it’s well-done. The computer animation looked a little on the cheap side, but everything else — the (I assume) hand-drawn animation, the voice work, the script — is top-notch. OK, there’s one “now wait a minute” moment towards the end where my credulity was pushed past the breaking point as Hal performed a feat of strength that defied every known law of physics, willpower or no willpower.

Still, The characters are engaging and developed enough to hold your attention for the length of the film (though any longer and you might start to see the seams showing, especially with “type A hero Hal”). Despite plodding in well-worn footsteps, First Flight manages to be a fun, diverting adventure.

Nice sneer Hal

Nice sneer Hal

I did, however, want to offer a word of criticism about the film’s rating. Simply put, there’s absolutely no reason this film needed to be rated PG-13. The few moments of gore come off as cursory pandering and could easily have been removed without hurting the story. I know at this point I sound like somebody’s grandpa waving his cane at the kids walking across his lawn, but it felt completely unnecessary and drew me out of the movie.

Should I say something about the special features? I suppose I should. They suck. No, seriously, they’re pretty useless and consist mainly of Geoff Johns going on and on about how awesome Hal Jordan is to the point where you want to throw things at him. A commentary by the filmmakers or actors would have been nice, or perhaps just a simple documentary detailing the history of the character from the Golden Age onward. Instead we get a lot of plugs for Blackest Night, not to mention other DC Universe films that you’ve probably seen before on other discs. Oh, there’s also a preview for the upcoming Superman/Batman movie, and a Duck Dodgers short, which just confirmed my long held belief that Warner Brothers should have retired the Looney Tunes characters as soon as Chuck Jones’ ass hit the pavement. Seriously WB, give it a rest already willya?

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Comments

8 Comments

I think the movie moved along pretty smoothly. I would have liked to see Hal in action on Earth – but then again he is a Space Cop. And there have been 40+ years of him applying the space cop approach to Earth super villains. I wonder if we would have looked at this differently if it had been released in the ’90’s around the time Timm and Dini were working on Batman? I’m hoping for a sequel in my lifetime.

David Gallaher

August 4, 2009 at 8:40 am

>> I did, however, want to offer a word of criticism about the film’s rating. Simply put, there’s absolutely no reason this film needed to be rated PG-13. The few moments of gore come off as cursory pandering and could easily have been removed without hurting the story >>

I think it was the cursing, that did it. Damn, Bastard, Ass, Hell – I think they are all in there. But, I saw no reason for the cursing, at all.

seconded on the cursing.
adds NOTHING to the story, and prevents me from watching it with our 8 and 9 year olds.

really a shame.
comics NEEDS to add more readers, hook the kids, what better way than through animation like this, so why the cursing?

at least the women were not all wearing g-strings.

Spot on review, Chris! Nice “cop movie” analogy… was wondering why it felt so familiar. And does every interstellar bar HAVE to reference Star Wars?

I watched it with my 7 year old nephew… that made it a lot of fun. His folks were right there and didn’t seem to mind the violence or the cussing, btw. He didn’t notice it. Awesome fun pointing out the lanterns… “Do you know all the lantern’s names, Uncle Mike?”

And the golf club was a big hit, too. Yup, pun intended.

As for the extras? Also right on. They suck. DiDio talking about how brilliant Johns is, and then Johns talking and talking and talking… I have a foam rubber brick I keep handy for such moments. Even the Duck Dodgers was sucky 2003 Duck Dogers. The Justice League Unlimited eps were cool, but I have those.

I didn’t really mind a lot of the violence, although I was kinda weirded out by the fact that the rings could kill. I thought that was part of why sinestro considered the corps no longer effective. It’d be nice if they used the PG13 rating to make these things actually more adult in a “kids wouldn’t understand the issues this movie raises” way rather than just to add cursing and some “neato!” kills, but i guess that’s not what this story was about. Guess ya can’t always hope for superior quality. Still liked it, though.

Agree with the unnecessary PG-13. The level of violence/blood seemed forced to get the higher rating, not as appropriate to the story as it was in the Hulk Vs and Superman Doomsday animated films. The cursing was completely random and unnecessary as well, even moreso than the violence. And the extras did indeed suck, the worst of any DC animated movie so far.

And yet…..I really enjoyed the film, have no regrets for buying it, and can’t wait for the next one. In fact the only one I didn’t care for so far was the anime Batman one.

Really enjoyed this movie. Thought they really did hit that Training Day vibe that they said they were going for. Hoping that the Superman/Batman cartoon is as good as this.

Bruce D. Spruce

August 6, 2009 at 7:43 am

This is my simple and clear review. My wife neither reads comics nor watches animation, and tends to fall asleep around 9:00pm. She stayed up with me until 11:30 and watched the WHOLE movie and cheered at the end.

The movie was fun and accessible, which speaks a lot for the product.

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