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Green Lantern: First Flight

Warner Bros. // PG-13 // July 28, 2009
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by John Sinnott | posted July 22, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:
Superheroes are hard to write well.  Just look at all of the really lousy comics that have been written over the years.  Making a movie is even more difficult since you have to bring in the new viewers who may not be familiar with the character while making sure not to bore the core fans.  Marvel has had a hard time with their direct-to-DVD releases, none of which have been spectacular, and though DC has done much better, I was unsure about how Green Lantern would translate to the small screen.  I needn't have worried.  The newest DC Universe movie, Green Lantern:  First Flight gets just about everything right.

Test pilot Hal Jordon is spending time in a flight simulator when a ray of green light rips the entire faux cockpit off of the ground and flies it miles away into the desert.  There a surprised Jordan finds a dying alien who gives him a ring, which just happens to be the most powerful weapon in the universe.  As Jordan dons the green metal ring, a jet of light shoots out from it and clothes him in the uniform of a Green Lantern, a sort of intergalactic police officer.  Just then the alien's ship explodes, destroying all evidence he was ever there.
Some time later Jordan a group of other Green Lanterns tracks Jordan down.  They take him to Oa, home of the Guardians of the Universe, creators of the Green Lantern Corps.  They small blue immortals aren't sure Jordan has what it takes to be a real GL, after all, he is from Earth.  Rather than strip him of the ring however, a fellow GL, Sinestro, offers to train the young rookie and see if he has what it takes.  Their first mission:  find the assassin who killed Jordan's predecessor and then track down his boss who has stolen the Yellow Element, the only thing in the universe more powerful than the Green Lantern rings.  Hal is more than willing to go along with Sinestro, but he soon starts to suspect that his red partner has more up his sleeve than he's letting on.

One of the problems with an origin story is it often takes a long time until the person in question gets their powers.  Take the first Fantastic Four movie for example.  Nothing really happens for the first 2/3s of the film.  This film gets over that hurdle by jumping right to the action.  They give Jordan his ring and transport him to Oa right away and fill in the details as they go. 
That's not to say that the show is all action.  The story is loyal to the Green Lantern mythos including a lot of GL members that long time comic fans will recognize (unfortunately that includes Ch'p, the squirrel GL.)  The story has the same grand scale as some of the best GL comic adventures and including the whole GL corps was a good choice.  Even better was the way the film avoided getting bogged down in a lot of exposition and background details.

The other thing that this does right is make Hal Jordan a hero right off the bat.  Yeah, he's a green rookie, but he stands up to Sinestro when he's torturing a suspect and doesn't give up even when all hope seems lost.  Having grown up reading GL comics staring Hal Jordan (there were several other characters who took on the mantle of Green Lantern over the years,) it brought a smile to my face to see the 'real' Lantern acting heroic once again.  The ending scene, when the entire corps holds up their rings and recites their oath, lead by Jordan, brought a smile to my face and made me wish the film was twice as long.  This is a fun film and I hope they follow it up with a sequel in short order.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The 1.78:1 1080p/VC-1 encoded disc looked very good, as the previous DC Direct titles have.  The first thing that jumps out at you is the bright vivid colors.  True to the character's four-color origins this movie is filled intense colors, naturally including a lot of green, that really make the movie fun to watch.  From the green energy trails that the Lanterns leave behind them while flying to the strong yellow energy blasts from the evil power battery the varied hues just jump off the screen.  The lines were very tight, nice and straight, even on the diagonals.  On the digital side of things the disc looked just as good.  There wasn't and significant banding, and aliasing and blocking, things that usually crop up in animation, weren't present.  Overall a nice looking disc.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track is fine but not outstanding.  While the full soundstage is used in the many battles, the mix collapses to what is basically a stereo track much of the rest of the time.  More ambient noises should be been thrown to the rear in the more sedate section of the movie.  The battles do sound impressive though, with Power Ring blasts firing all around the room and walls collapsing behind the viewer, it makes for in immersive experience.  The track could have demanded a little more from the subwoofer too.  Some of the explosions and large sound effects weren't as deep and didn't rumble as much as I was expecting.  Aside from this the disc sounds great.

One thing I'll give WB, they sure pack these DC Universe titles with some good extras, both in terms of quality and quantity.  My only complaint is that they are all presented in SD.  It starts off with Behind the Story with Geoff Johns (9 minutes), where the GL comic scribe gives an overview of the hero and his take on the character.  Comic fans will enjoy watching the Who's Who from the comic world discuss GL in I Am the Ring. This 23-minute featurette takes a closer look at Green Lantern and his comic history with such luminaries Neal Adams, Christopher and Paul Levitz among many others.
Then we get to some of the fluff.  Sinestro and The Guardians of the Universe are short, 4-minute clip pieces that talk about the show you've just seen.  Things pick up after that with Superman/Batman: Public Enemies First Look an 8-minute promo piece for the upcoming release.  The idea sound pretty stupid but the execution might make this a great release. 
In case you missed them, DC Animation Project Previews is a half hour look at the earlier DC Universe direct-to-DVD titles, Justice League: The New Frontier, Wonder Woman, and Batman: Gotham Knight.  The final featurette is Blackest Night a look at Geoff Johns' upcoming GL story.
But wait, there's more.  This disc also comes with a large assortment of bonus cartoons.  First off is an episode of  Duck Dodgers entitled The Green Loontern,  an amusing spoof of GL.  Then there are five (!) episodes of Justice League featuring Green Lantern:  Once and Future Thing parts 1 & 2, Hearts and Minds parts 1 & 2, and The Return.
As if that's not all, there is also a code for a downloadable digital copy of the film in case you have the urge to watch it on a really small iPod screen.
Final Thoughts:
A great story, a superb picture, and hours worth of entertaining bonus material.  What more could you ask for?  Green Lantern:  First Flight will please both old time fans of the comic and novices alike.  With an exciting plot that avoids most of the pitfalls of origin stories, this one is a winner.  Highly Recommended.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.
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Highly Recommended

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