So first off, no, this isn’t a review for the new Green lantern movie starring Ryan Reynolds. By some lucky stars in alignment sort of chance the animated Green Lantern movie First Flight came in the post this morning from Lovefilm. So I watched it and am now reviewing it kind of making this now an unofficial green Lantern Week hereon The Film Dump because on Friday i will be seeing the aforementioned Ryan Reynolds film and reviewing it on that night. So if you found this review because you were searching for Green Lantern movie reviews go forward a few pages and you should find it. So… on with the show.
Green Lantern First Flight is part of the DC Animated movies series which has been a fairly mixed bag overall. Superman: Doomsday was decent enough, as was Wonder Woman, but New Frontier was just exceptional. How’s First Flight? A bit of a mixed bag really.It’s main problem is that it’s kind of unnecessary. The origin of the Green lantern in the form of Hal Jordan had already been handled pretty well by the Justice League New Frontier movie. To add to that it’s a story that’s going to be told again in the live action film. As such they decided to not waste any time with Hal Jordan’s origin. Literally within 5 minutes he has the ring and is using it’s powers. Now this may seem like the smart thing to do, why waste time telling a story that’s been told many times over? Trouble is no time is spent getting to know Hal.
Now the average Green lantern fan knows him well but when you don’t take the time to establish his character for anyone who doesn’t know him you’re left with a character that only the fans are gonna relate to. To add to that he has nothing he brings with him on this adventure. Because no time is spent establishing who he is the writers have nothing to work with for the rest of the plot. Hal Jordan is pretty much there to just stand around and do things with the ring. You get a little of his cocky nature and his love of adventure but it’s handled in throw away lines. There’s no sense of wonder from him about the world he has been drawn into. it’s one thing to waste no time getting the Green lantern ring on his finger but to spend no time on character is something you can’t skimp on. As a result the film feels as though it’s more about Sinestro than Hal Jordan.
The plot follows Hal’s first adventure.. or flight if you will.. as a member of the Green lanterns Corps. They’re essentially intergalactic police who utilise a ring, powered by the essence of willpower, to build constructs such as weaponry, shields and even their uniforms. The rings only weakness is the elemental yellow energy of fear. Hal is teamed with Sinestro for training but he quickly realises that Sinestro may not be the best teacher he could have. Despite this film being about Hal Jordan it’s pretty clear that a lot more time is spent fleshing out Sinestro and his desire to use obtain the Yellow fear element to construct his own ring to strike back at the Guardians that run the Green lantern Corps. Sinestro believes they have been failing the galaxy and that he can do a better job.
Essentially the story of Green lantern is about Willpower and hope overcoming fear. We get a little of that in this film. in one sequence, whilst training Hal, Sinestro uses his Green lantern ring to force a alien woman into overdosing on some sort of space drug. Hal stops him and despite capturing ho they were after Sinestro berates Hal for not realising that it is fear that gives power. Obviously Sinestro missed an important lesson from the GL handbook. It’s likely this will be at the crux of the new GL film so it’s best I don’t delve into it too much.
What the film lacks in character and connection to it’s viewer it makes up for with it’s action. Each action sequence is progressively bigger than the last and each one is staged in a similar progressive manner. A bar fight turns into a fight through a cities sewers, a struggle at a space port turns into a mission to stop a shuttle crashing and the finale starts off with a bang and ends with an even bigger bang. First Flight also doesn’t flinch at the sight of blood which is refreshing to see in a US made animation. It’s not an outright bloodbath but when it needs to be that little bit extra violent it will be.
Visually they’ve done a good job presenting the large space opera universe that is the world of the Green Lantern. We see Oa, a few other alien planets and plenty of random Cantina bar style aliens. Killowog, Tomarr-Re and various other Green Lanterns get their chance to be on screen, some contributing more than others. Even Ch’p (a sort of squirrel based alien) get’s a few lines in. I imagine this may be an issue the average audience will have trouble with in the Ryan Reynolds film. It’s clear they’re going all out for a full blown Lantern Corps which may end up looking a bit Ben 10/Spy Kids for the casual audience to accept.
There’s one little gripe I have with the films use of the ring. Towards the end Sinestro forces a load of the Lanterns to give up their rings to him. They all do except Killowog and Hal. Now earlier on it is established, as it should be, that the suit is a construct of the ring. That’s why Ryan Reynolds is covered in CGI in the film. After these lanterns give up their rings they don’t lose their suits. Slight oversight and likely there just to save on animation time but kind of an odd one to allow considering the amount of times the suits existence was established and being part of the ring.
To me this feels like it was part of a secret Green Lantern tv series. As though they stuck an abridged origin on at the start and then strung a few episodes together and called it a film. It covers the basics of what Hal Jordan’s story requires but doesn’t delve into them. It largely feels irrelevant by the end but it would be pretty cool to see an animated series come from this as it’s basically done the work a pilot would need to. It’s established the hero, the story’s universe and the main villain and left you prepared for more. It could have done with 15-20 minutes extra spent establishing Hal Jordan in order to give his character something on an emotional level to work with for the rest of the film. It’s not a bad entry in the animated series. it’s just not an engaging one.