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‘Green Lantern: First Flight’ DVD review

2009 August 10

Light on character development. Heavy on the action.

Unlike its predecessors in the DC Animated Universe, “Green Lantern: First Flight” spends very little time letting the audience get to know its main character.

We (somewhat) get to know what kind of person Hal Jordan is by the film’s conclusion through what he does as a Green Lantern, not before he accepts the powerful ring from a dying Green Lantern who crash-lands his ship on Earth in order to “find him.” In other words, we have to infer why Jordan is chosen to be the new space cop since we’re not told otherwise.

And what kind of person is Hal Jordan?

A little cocky — he tells the Guardians of the Universe, those small wise aliens who oversee the Green Lantern Corp, he thinks he “has the hang” of his new ring when he is brought before the Guardians. He’s not afraid to jump into action, especially when it comes to saving or helping his fellow Green Lanterns. Jordan’s compassionate. More than once we see him ask if someone is OK after a skirmish. He’s also not afraid to stand up to authority and speak his mind; when the Guardians lament how the brilliant Sinestro charmed his one-time allies and turned on the Corp to bring about his own brand of peace and exert his power over the galaxy, Jordan tells them it was their idea to make Sinestro a Green Lantern in the first place.

With Sinestro being the Green Lantern who offers to take the rookie Jordan under his wing, “First Flight” almost becomes a feature with two main characters. In fact, there’s as much, or more, character development of Sinestro as there is of Jordan.The protagonist almost takes a back seat to the villain, as fans saw time and time again in the first live-action “Batman” film series.

Sure, it’s easy to root against Sinestro, whose very name exposes him as the brash, conniving person he is. It’s tough to learn a completely different Green Lantern who befriended Jordan has fallen prey to Sinestro’s charisma and vision. But it’s a bit of a challenge to root for the easily likable Jordan, especially when his character hasn’t been established before he becomes a Green Lantern.

Within four minutes of screen time or less, Jordan has been given the honor of overseeing his jurisdiction of the universe, Sector 2814. He’s already suited up and met other Corp members a few minutes later. Then it’s off to the races.

The 70-plus-minute time frame for each DC animated DVD makes it necessary for the story to plow ahead. But that same length left me wanting to know more about Jordan. Why was he the perfect replacement for the dying Abin Sur? How did the Guardians know he was the one? What set him apart from other Earthlings?

With the subtitle “First Flight,” I wrongly assumed the story would share some of Jordan’s growing pains as he learns to become a Green Lantern. We get that, through on-the-job training, but the feature would have been better served by devoting five to seven minutes of screen time to seeing Jordan learning how to use his ring or mastering the art of flying. That would have opened up some great comedic possibilities. And with humor greatly lacking in this space opera, a few laughs would have been a welcome break.

The DC animated features are stand-alone projects, with no continuity from one DVD to another. Ironically, to know more about Hal Jordan, “First Flight” viewers had to have watched “Justice League: New Frontier” beforehand (you can read my review by going to this link). My hope is that Warner Bros. will do more to establish who Jordan who is without boring us to death — or rushing through it as was done in “First Flight” — before jumping into a save-the-galaxy scenario in its 2011 “Green Lantern” live-action project. The balance is much better in the superb “Wonder Woman” (go here for my review), which ironically also is directed by Lauren Montgomery. As far as character development and overall entertainment, “Wonder Woman” is far superior.

Maybe there is a method to the “First Flight”creative team’s madness. Maybe the audience is supposed to realize that being a Green Lantern, a sworn protector of justice and fighting evil in the galaxy, means being thrown into the deep end of the space pool — with the good and the bad. Grade: B-

Extras: Overall, a bit on the light side, as far as content. GREEN LANTERN writer Geoff Johns, through the various interviews, shows why he’s one of the best in the comic book business, but DC comes off as being all about self-promoting its latest product in the “Blackest Night” featurette.

All of the GL-related ones tend to focus on recent publications and gloss over the character’s lengthy publishing history. Since we don’t get adequately acquainted with Jordan and the other Green Lanterns in “First Flight,” one in-depth history documentary with interviews with various GL writers, artists and editors would been welcomed — if not needed. That’s not to say any of the GL featurettes were poorly done, they just lacked depth and insight.

As was done in “New Frontier” and “Wonder Woman,” the DC Animated Universe crew once again has super producer Bruce Timm choose some “Justice League Unlimited” adventures that “feature” the DVD’s character(s). This time it’s a two-part episode with the John Stewart-Green Lantern in a time-traveling team setting with Batman and Wonder Woman. There must have been very few shows with the spotlight only on Green Lantern in them since this adventure does little to showcase what Stewart brings to the guise compared to Jordan or what Green Lantern does to complement the Justice League members.

And because we don’t get a lengthy Green Lantern history in the extras, viewers who are new to the GL mythology probably don’t know Stewart and Jordan are two of the five (!) Green Lanterns DC has had over the years. At least the “Duck Dodgers” episode is a hoot — but only worthy of one viewing for most fans. Grade: C-

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