BLU-RAY REVIEW: Green Lantern Emerald Knights
Just in time for the feature film, catch up on the history of the Corps...
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Hal Jordan and the modern Green Lantern Corps have been around since 1959, and that means there’s a ton of great history behind the characters. That idea translates really well into the latest DC animated release from Warner Premiere, Green Lantern Emerald Knights. In it, Hal Jordan narrates several stories featuring Green Lanterns of the past and present, all the while preparing for an epic battle at the end. This movie is great jumping off point for those who might be new to the Green Lantern mythology, and at the same time packs in great stories (and tons of inside info) for those who have been reading for a long time. Either way, now is the perfect time for this animated adventure as it’ll bring you up to speed on a lot of the ideals and motivations behind the Green Lantern Corps just in time for the release of the feature film this week!
While the package art for the DC animated films is always good, Emerald Knights looks great. The Blu-ray combo pack comes in an outer sleeve with a great reflective and textured image of the main Corps members (it’s the same image as the front cover of the pack). The back has several small images and a description of the film plus the usual special features contents and other info. The discs themselves are pretty basic, decorated with the title, a bunch of logos, and one character apiece: Hal Jordan on the Blu-ray and Sinestro on the DVD/digital copy combo disc. The set also has two inserts, one with the digital copy code and the other advertising Mattel toys for the live action movie!
The previous GL animated film, First Flight, dealt with Hal Jordan’s induction into the Corps and his first missions, not to mention the fall of Sinestro. In Emerald Knights, Hal is a veteran Lantern with his own rookie to look after, the beautiful but naive Arisia. [Note for you comic readers - in this version Arisia is not a descendent of multiple Green Lanterns; she’s new to the whole deal.] Krona, the renegade Guardian (who’s everywhere these days including the War of the Green Lanterns series and the live action film), is attempting to return to exact his revenge on his fellows by destroying Oa. After being trapped in the anti-matter universe he’s breaking back into ours through Oa’s sun. The entire Green Lantern Corps is summoned to prepare for that eventuality, and during the preparations Hal finds time to tell Arisia some tales of the Corps.
These stories include “The First Lantern” about the scribe-turned-soldier Avra, “Kilowog” the rookie on his bootcamp, “Laira” the warrior woman, the famous classic “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize,” and “Abin Sur.” Each story, along with the “Emerald Knights” finale, highlights Green Lantern values like duty, honor, and selflessness through some very different characters. The aforementioned Avra is an archivist on Oa during the distribution of the first rings, beyond surprised when one of those chooses him. And yet in their first epic battle it is Avra who truly masters the ring and wills a construct into being, laying down the foundation for all GLs to come. Kilowog, known to most readers and viewers as the no nonsense drill instructor, appears instead as a raw recruit who must pass (and indeed survive) basic training. Laira returns to her homeworld and finds not everything as it should be, forced to battle her own royal family. Mogo the sentient planet is hunted by Bolphunga the Unrelenting who finally bites off more than he can chew. Finally, Abin Sur faces the brutality of Atrocitus with the help of Sinestro and learns of some terrible prophecies in the balance. Meanwhile, all of the Lanterns must band together and use their brains and willpower to confront and beat Krona!
The animation in Emerald Knights is very good, and even a step up from the sometimes inconsistent First Flight. There’s a really wide range of action scenes, from the epic space combat of “First Lantern” and “Emerald Knights” to the down and dirty one on one of “Laira.” Each segment has its own feel and rhythm (with different writers, directors, etc.), but they still all mesh together into one whole. And there’s plenty of emotion as well; just witness the sacrifice of Kilowog’s instructor Deegan or the wonder of Arisia in the midst of heroes. As with all of the animated films, the team at DC worked very hard at putting in plenty of nods to the comic book in Emerald Knights for the longtime fans. Atrocitus’ prophecies in the Abin Sur segment herald the Sinestro Corps War and the Blackest Night, while Sinestro has the best (foreshadowing) line in “if I had a power ring for every time I heard that, I’d have my own corps!”
The one thing that differs greatly between the animated films is the voice actors, as very few stick around to repeat their performances. In fact, there’s an all new cast in Emerald Knights and they only occasionally sound like the actors in First Flight. Fan favorite and geek god Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Buffy, Slither, animated Wonder Woman) gives Hal Jordan the swagger only he can, which in this film is relegated mostly to storytelling (hopefully he’ll come back for a sequel that gets Jordan in more of the action). Meanwhile, Elisabeth Moss (Get Him to the Greek, Mad Men) gives Arisia a “wide-eyed” innocence and Kelly Hu (X2, Batman: Under the Red Hood) does a mean, focused Laira. On the real life badass side of things you’ve got Henry Rollins as Kilowog and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as Bolphunga. The case rounds out with great voices like Jason Isaacs, Arnold Vosloo, Grey DeLisle, Steve Blum, and more.
If you’ve got a Blu-ray player, this is the next movie you should toss in. It looks great with dazzling colors and smooth animation, especially the space scenes in “First Lantern” and the big finale. The combo pack Blu-ray also has a host of special features. “Why Green Lantern Matters: the Talent of Geoff Johns” takes a look at how the writer has resurrected Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, leading directly to their popularity today. Similarly, “Only the Bravest: Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” goes over the history of the Corps and what it means to be a member. There’s a commentary track, a Green Lantern virtual comic book, two bonus cartoons from Bruce Timm’s picks, and two brief features on Abin Sur and Laira. Finally, there are two animated film previews: the already released All-Star Superman and the upcoming gritty Batman: Year One!
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is available everywhere now on DVD, Blu-ray, digital download, etc. Check it out as a primer before seeing the feature film, or grab it afterwards to keep the GL love going. It’s a heck of a ride and a must have for Green Lantern fans!
Review by Scott Rubin
Review Sample Courtesy of Warner Premiere