MOVIE REVIEWS: “Green Lantern: First Flight (2009)

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Green Lantern: First Flight

The DC Comics direct to DVD animated spectaculars continue with the origin of Green Lantern. "Wait!" you say, "Didn't we just see the origin of Green Lantern two movies ago in 'Justice League:The New Frontier'"? Well, yes we did. And no we didn't....

(I'm going to try to make this as 'Spoiler Light' as possible, so I'm going to gloss a bit over the traditional Republibot Play by Play)

There are still spoilers, but I try to keep the particulars obscured...

PLAY BY PLAY (sortof):
Before the credits- Hal Jordan is 'flying' a simulator, with Carol Ferris in the control room. We learn that Hal is, well, Hal. Cocky, self assured, glib. We cut away to an alien crash landing in the desert and telling his ring "Find him". Back at Ferris Aerospace (or whatever it's calling itself these days), the simulator is ripped out of its moorings and sent skyward. Hal arrives at the spaceship's crash site and receives the ring from the dying Abin Sur, who tells Hal that he is now a Green Lantern, that he's a space cop and that the Guardians will send for him, and then promptly dies. The spaceship explodes, destroying all evidence of Abin Sur's existence (well, except for the smoking crater...) and Hal finds himself soaring above the desert.

Roll Opening Credits...

Gee! That was fast, efficient and to the point. In about two minutes, we get the complete concept and origin of Hal Jordan, Green Lantern. No navel gazing, no 'I had to kill someone in Korea/Vietnam/Desert Storm' nonsense. When the opening credits fade out, the story could go anywhere.

A team of Senior Green Lanterns are dispatched to find Abin Sur's body and recover the ring. Unfortunately for them, it appears that Jordan is attached to it. After a scuffle, they take Jordan to OA to meet the Guardians. After insulting the human race (apparently we smell bad in addition to all of our other faults...), they grudgingly allow Hal to be a probationary Green Lantern, under the training of a senior Lantern.

The Senior Lantern takes Hal to find Abin Sur's killer, using very questionable interrogation tactics and (in Hal's opinion) excessive force. Hal manages to subdue the alien gangster without the Senior's help, and in doing so incurs his wrath. It is abundantly clear that the Senior Lantern is disgruntled with the Guardians and with his place in the universe.

While Hal is picking at his food in the Green Lantern Commissary, another Senior Lantern explains to him why everyone is so on edge. It turns out that a power source that could destroy the Lanterns has been stolen from the Guardians. They are a bit uptight because of this. Hal is saved from the commissary food by a call to action- They think they've located the thief at a starport.

At the Starport, Hal is given scrub duty... which quickly turns into something more significant. He finds the fleeing gang of 'bugs' that were responsible for the power source theft. After a battle, a chase through Babylon 5-ish hyperspace. Hal begins to show his brilliance as a pilot by doing things that other Lanterns don't think of and he quickly boards the fleeing Bug ship, defeats Bug in Armored Suit and then confronts the Head Bug. The Head Bug knocks Hal out and we discover that there is a traitor among the Senior Lanterns- who instead of interrogating the Head Bug, blows a hole through him.

Next thing we know, Hal is brought up on charges. The Senior Lantern who has been training him defends Hal's actions, but the Guardians strip Hal of his ring anyway, and send him to the brig. He's visited in the brig by two Senior Lanterns, who tell him that they admire him, but they are to be his 'ride home'. Hal points up some inconsistencies, and they decide to delay that ride home. Instead, they do some snooping, and find the traitorous Senior Lantern interrogating the Head Bug's dead body. Treason is apparently contagious, and we find another Senior Lantern is in league with the bad guys. A battle ensues, that Hal barely survives and one of the traitors doesn't.

While this is going on, the primary treasonous Senior Lantern visits the aliens who are crafting a weapon from the stolen power source. The senior gets the weapon, and a costume change, and heads back to OA to wreak chaos in order to create order. (See, R3- it's the BAD GUY who wants to tear things down to make a new order!)

Hal is exonerated, but not given his ring back- he ends up getting it in the midst of the battle's chaos. The Traitor succeeds in disabling the central power battery, causing Lanterns to literally fall out of the sky. Hal makes his way to the power battery, giving himself a super-dose of power, just as a rain of Green Lantern rings fall from the sky- the rings of all those who were in space and died because their rings were depowered. Hal flies into battle with the doomsday-ish weapon and the Traitor and prevails...
... and the corps is saved.

Okay. First and foremost- this is labeled PG-13 for a reason. I was watching it with Republibot 2.3, and five minutes into it, he asks, "Dad, this movie isn't for kids, is it?"

No. It's not for kids. Believe the rating, folks. There's harsh language, violence, blood, gore and death.

That said, the filmmakers set out to make a gritty cop movie set in space- and in this, they succeed in spades. I've seen this movie compared to "Training Day". I can't speak to the comparison, I've not seen "Training Day", but if it's about corrupt cops thinking that they are justified in their corruption... then yes. It's that.

The character's development through all of this follow logical lines and arcs. I was very impressed with Jordan's growth and with the fall of the Senior Lantern. Other characters were sketchy, but fairly rounded. Although it almost smacks of stunt casting, I thought that Christopher Meloni's Hal Jordan was very well voiced. (For those who aren't familiar with Meloni, he plays a cop on Law and Order:SVU.) So they get a well known cop actor to voice a space cop- and it works. Meloni's acting grounds Hal Jordan, so that he's very identifiable. Likewise, the other actors do a great job. Even though he's not given nearly enough to do, Michael Madsen voices Kilowog with perfection, and Tricia Helfer does a nice job with Boodikka.

Now, because I took great pains to avoid spoilerish details in the above Play-by-Play, you may think that a)I'm ignorant of Green Lantern lore b)There isn't much Green Lantern lore in this movie.

You'd be oh-so-wrong on both counts.
We have all SORTs of Lanterns running through this:Tomar Re, Arisa, Kilowog, Ch'p ("Dad? Why is there a flying squirrel Green Lantern?"--R2.3).. in fact, the only Lantern that I didn't see was Mogo. But we all know that Mogo Doesn't Socialize. I even think I saw F# Bell (for those who don't know, F# Bell is a blind Green Lantern, who instead of perceiving his ring as a light, 'sees' it as a source of sound.)

And here lies one of the TINY nits I have to pick with the movie. Almost every alien Lantern that we know is seen in this movie, if you can recognize them through the redesign process. Abin Sur and Kilowog got quite the makeover. They are still (mostly) recognizable, but others...? The character design and animation seems to have been crafted in an almost Aeon Flux style, and although it's sort of cool, it's hard to find Easter Eggs when they don't look like themselves. Getting a major redesign are the Weaponers, who are now distinctly alien and rather frightening in their alienness. I have to give the production team some applause on this, these creatures are completely inscrutable and distinctly Alien. The reshaping of the traditional Green Lantern costumes into a sort of body armor makes sense, but is a little jarring at first. This is a cop movie, and cops wear vests. It makes sense.

There are some fanboyish quibbles that honestly, don't matter and would've impeded the story's flow (No, Comic Book Guy, it does NOT matter that the Green Lanterns don't have their portable power batteries....). All the essentials are here.

And it's good.

Will Conservatives like this movie? With the above caveats about language and violence, yes. And they should, for reasons that I'll detail tomorrow.

So I recommend it highly- but don't watch it with the crumb crunchers.