Movie/DVD Review—Green Lantern: First Flight
A member of the Online Film Critics Society, Peter writes for Twitch, the Financial Times, and Rue Morgue. A contributing editor at Metro magazine, and a columnist on blockbuster movies for Screen Education, he also blogs on pop culture at School Library Journal: http://blogs.slj.com/connect-the-pop/. Get too-frequent updates about comics, books, movies, and TV via Twitter: @Peter_GutierrezView all articles by Peter Gutiérrez
Starting with the familiar origin of Hal Jordan, test pilot, the film nonetheless doesn’t spend too much time earth-bound or with love interest Carol Ferris: he becomes GL at the four-minute mark, takes off to join the rest of the Corps, and literally never looks back until the closing seconds.
As usual, Andrea Romano has done a great job assembling a supporting voice cast—everyone from Michael Madsen to Tricia Helfer to William Shallert are effective in their roles. The problem is, most of the characters seem like “types” that you know from endless other sci-fi/action outings : the brusque comrade who eventually warms up, the sympathetic female, the wise elders. I suppose it’s unfair to compare First Flight to this year's superb Wonder Woman OAV, but I kept waiting for the same richness, texture, humor, and high drama. It never quite materialized. To be sure, First Flight comes close on several occasions, and the rousing battle sequences at the climax go a long way to providing Jordan with the kind of archetypal hero aura that surrounds Diana. Still, the movie spends far too much resembling a typical episode of a middle-of-the-road TV cartoon—nothing terrible, just nothing super-inspiring either.
With a pace that’s staggeringly fast, First Flight wastes no time moving its plot—which of course involves arch-enemy Sinestro and a “Yellow Element” mega-weapon—and one side effect is that Jordan’s character is itself not developed too well. Instead, imagine your typical “brash human” and that’s him. In the lead, Christopher Meloni does nice work, and in the process provides a slight edge to the character that I hadn’t seen before; it works, though. Unfortunately, the expressiveness of the animated GL doesn’t match: there’s a certain woodenness to many of the Lanterns, and the most personality actually comes across in the rendering of Sinestro. Poor Jordan, in contrast, sometimes looks like a bulked-up action figure, especially in several shots from the back in which his chest and shoulders seem like nothing so much as hard plastic inflated with steroids.
And that points to a bigger problem: the animation. There are too many backgrounds that lack details, too many expanses of a single color, for this kind of would-be lavish undertaking. Aside from the well-executed, well-designed action scenes of the second half, the production feels slightly rushed from an artistic standpoint.
Still, as mentioned above, the slam-bang ending is satisfying and almost leaves one with the sense that this feature is an undeniable winner. Not quite, though. With a movie less than eighty minutes in run time, there’s got to be a lot that grabs you in the opening half hour, and that doesn’t happen here. Yes, there are some intriguing genre elements in the first half, such as when the Lanterns act like noirish cops, but these don’t really have the space or time to be developed and so don’t come across as being deeply felt.
As for the DVD itself, it contains the usual wealth of materials, here intended for both GL fans specifically and DC Universe fans more generally; these include promos for upcoming movies and comics that I’m now looking forward to much as I once had been to this release.
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