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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.
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.
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?