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Green Lantern: First Flight (Two-Disc Special Edition)
A worthy fifth entry in the DC Universe/Warner Animation series of direct-to-DVD features, Green Lantern - First Flight is a nonstop, entertaining take on the enduring character of Hal Jordan, DC's second Green Lantern. The story is an amalgam of pieces from the character's mythos, with a brief recap of Jordan's origin story leading us into a plotline that incorporates material from the recent "Sinestro Corps War" comic book series.
Test pilot Hal Jordan is at work in a flight simulator when an alien being crash-lands on earth. The dying alien, one of the Green Lantern Corps, commands his ring to seek the next Green Lantern. The ring locates Jordan, who is quickly thrust into a new life. Summoned by his Lantern colleagues to the council chambers of the Guardians of the Universe, who direct the Lantern Corps, Jordan is viewed with skepticism as an untrustworthy human. A fellow Lantern, the charismatic Sinestro, offers to take Jordan under his wing - to test his mettle, and report back to the Guardians as to his suitability for the Corps. The Lanterns set off in search of the killer responsible for the death of their colleague - Jordan's predecessor. In pursuing him, the Lanterns eventually discover Sinestro's true intentions - to secure a weapon capable of neutralizing the Green Element, the source of the Lantern Corps' special powers.
None of the feature's 77-minute running time is wasted. Director Lauren Montgomery and writer Alan Burnett keep the story rushing ahead with rapid verve, briskly touching upon character points as Jordan's predicament deepens with each successive scene. There is even an opportunity to address what seems like a topical theme: the use of illegal means to ensure the security of a sovereign entity. Before we realize the extent of Sinestro's sinister motives, he is challenged by the Guardians, who question his methods of investigation, which lead to the death of the alien believed to be the killer of Jordan's predecessor in the Corps. Sinestro shrugs such challenges off, believing the Guardians to be weak-willed, incapable of fully confronting the "threats" to the Lantern Corps. It is the natural outcome of this kind of argument, though, that the ultimate threat comes from Sinestro himself.
It's too bad we don't get to know Hal Jordan terribly well in Green Lantern - First Flight. Psychological profiles of our heroes are key staples of the DC world, and I was disappointed by the lack of depth here. The flipside of that coin, however, is that whereas most comic-book adaptations tend to be heavy on expository dialogue, we are spared such unnatural posturing here. Economical visual storytelling does the job handily. The animation here is colorful and slick, if not utterly stunning. The film has a fluid look that raises it a few notches above comparable television animation. Backgrounds are particularly well-designed, and character movement is smooth, devoid of those jerky shortcuts we see so often on TV.
The review is of the Two-Disc Special Edition, although a single disc version is available. The discs are housed in a standard single-width keepcase, with a card slipcover. Inside is a small insert with instruction on how to download a digital copy of the feature (expires in July of 2010).
The anamorphic transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The animation is served extremely well. There is very good separation between foreground action and backgrounds, with considerable thought having been given to the interaction between "in-focus" and "out-of-focus" areas of the frame. Colors are bold, dense and balanced, with blacks at their deepest. Noise and artifact-free, the image is stellar.
The primary English-language track is provided in Dolby Digital 5.1. The mix is clear and sharp, with some active surround sequences, particularly in the climactic battle against Sinestro. It's an enveloping track that is exceptionally well-edited. A major factor here is the engaging music score by Robert Kral, which is particularly well-represented on the soundtrack.
The Extra Features
Generally speaking, the features are plentiful and worth watching - but I must emphasize the caveat that they have absolutely nothing to do with the production of the feature itself. This is a major disappointment, as I was looking for some guidance within the extras as to how the production team cobbled together this story from disparate Green Lantern elements. But I found absolutely nothing on either disc pertaining to the making of the film. Instead, it's all rather general stuff about the historical world of GL and the DC universe.
Disc One's features consist of short featurettes on the other DC Universe features - but not this one! We have a look at the upcoming sixth installment - A First Look at Batman/Superman: Public Enemies (7:49). Then we go back the previous films. From Graphic Novel to Original Animated Movie - Justice League: A New Frontier (10:44), Wonder Woman: The Amazon Princess (10:25), and Batman: Gotham Knight - An Anime Evolution (10:08). From there, we have a preview of a new comic book series called Blackest Night: Inside the DC Comics Event (8:51). Blackest Night will be published starting later this year; the story revolves around several well-]known dead superheroes being resurrected by a dark force. Sounds interesting.
Also included are trailers for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Ben 10 Alien Force, Bakugan, and Batman: Gotham Night.
Moving on to Disc Two, the features focus more on the Green Lantern - but, again, nothing about First Flight. Green Lantern: Behind the Story with Geoff Johns (8:41) deals not with the feature, but with Johns' experiences as a writer at DC. An amusing episode of Duck Dodgers is included - a parody of the Green Lantern called The Green Loontern (22:22) - a nice double pun. A section called In the Brightest Day, In the Blackest Night: The Green Lantern Corps is broken into two sections on the supporting characters: Sinestro (4:01) and The Guardians of the Universe (3:39). Finally, a section called Bruce Timm's Top Picks: The Green Lantern features two episodes of Justice League Unlimited that, strangely, aren't terribly GL-focused: Once and Future Thing, Parts One and Two (totaling 45:58).
Finally, a digital copy is available for download (PC only!) for a limited time. Just follow the instructions on the aforementioned insert.
Green Lantern - First Flight is a very entertaining entry in the substantial and very welcome DC Universe series of features. A bullet-paced plot and attractive production values make this well worth checking out, even though the considerable extra features don't discuss the film itself. Recommended.