Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Release Review
by James Harvey
To get it out of the way, I have a feeling that life-long Green Lantern fans will love this movie. It just drips in the mythology of the excellent comic series and brings it to life quite vividly, improving over the previous animated release, Green Lantern: First Flight. What makes this movie fly so high is how it strikes that perfect balance for both the new viewer and the long-time fan. Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is a great primer for those new to the emerald lore, whether you’re just learning of the character since a blockbuster movie is looming, or just want to see what all the fuss is about. The anthology approach really opens this film up to newcomers. And to the die-hards? Those who have followed Hal Jordan’s adventures for years? Well, you’re going to love how they bring it all to animated glory. No doubt about it.
With stories by acclaimed writers including Geoff Johns, Alan Burnett and Dave Gibbons, Emerald Knights explores the rich mythology of the Green Lantern universe through six interlocking chapters. While awaiting a battle with Krona, an ancient enemy of the Guardians of the Universe, Earth’s Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Kilowog, Sinestro and other members of the Green Lantern Corps recount their greatest adventures to new recruit Arisia – everything from tales of the first Lantern to the ominous events that led to the Corps’ Blackest Night! The power-packed voice cast includes Nathan Fillion, Jason Isaacs, Elisabeth Moss, Henry Rollins and Arnold Vosloo.
Tales range from the adventure of the very first lantern to the surprising rookie days of a fan-favorite character, and each story tells a full tale. No one really seems short-changed here. It seems that the production crew learned from their mistakes on 2008′s Batman: Gotham Knight and, as a result, have produced a mighty fine movie. What you get is, for the most, great action fueled by some very memorable characters. Some shine brighter than others, sure, but you can’t argue with the final results.
Among the six included stories, the highlights are definitely “Abin Sur,” “Kilowog” and “The First Lantern.” I found these three tales to be the most entertaining, the most engaging, and just well-done across the board, with “Abin Sur” as the overall standout. This story seems to be the most fleshed out tale out of all the short stories included. It moves at a brisk pace, but never seems to come up short. Sur is teased by a captured fugitive that the Corps darkest days are ahead, and Sur will die in the line of duty. Naturally, Sur rebuffs this. This all leads to a great moment at the end where we get to see a vision of what is to come and, boy, what a great moment. This is the one fans will likely latch onto the most, and rightfully so. The vision that Abin sees? What – and spoil something truly amazing?
“Kilowog” is a great little short that throws new light on this great character and, while nothing really new is explored, is a fun yarn of a tale. The short explores the relationship between Kilowog and his drill sergeant, providing enough background so when Kilowog has to inevitably stand up on his own, it’s not groan-inducing. The script work is solid enough, the voice acting perfect; selling the pathos and helps make the predictable conclusion fresh. Very enjoyable.
“The First Lantern” serves its purpose to spell out the backstory of the Guardians and how the Corps got started, but by no means does this just rehash the same tired dialogue. Allowing the viewer to experience first hand adds a nice fresh take to it. We get to see the first lantern in action and, admittedly, it’s pretty cool. By no means is this ground-breaking, but it does firmly set-up what someone new to the franchise should know in an enjoyable fashion. A great introduction to the Corp made possible by a pretty enjoyable tale.
After that we get the very brief “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize,” “Laira,” and the overarching story “Emerald Knights.” “Mogo” is a good tale that likely works best if you don’t know the twist at the end (which, actually, the majority of viewers watching it likely will), and “Emerald Knights” is an action-packed yarn that brings everything together. “Knights” connects the other five tales together, and it has some great action beats toward the end. Thankfully the story, while nothing revolutionary, is strong enough to keep it all together. Plus, it manages to have a few thrills of its own and should keep the viewer glued between each new Corp tale.
With six stories total, you’re bound to have at least one weak link. For this anthology that befalls “Laira.” It’s a predictable little yarn that focuses more on the fisticuffs over the family drama (despite said drama fueling said fisticuffs). It moves along well enough but doesn’t really leave any impression, and the somewhat weak animation hinders some really excellently choreographed fight scenes. Viewers will definitely notice some tactics used here are remarkably similar to the Wonder Woman & Barda/Female Furies battle in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse. It just didn’t grab me like the others.
Voice acting is solid across the board. Nathan Fillion brings a warmth to Hal Jordan that makes him an immediately likable character who is easy to listen to. And you’ll hear Fillion’s narration for the majority of the movie, as he narrates a good chunk of the film. While I do miss Victor Garber’s excellent Sinestro from GL: First Flight, Jason Issacs is a great replacement who brings a hint of danger to Sinestro’s voice. Additionally, Henry Rollins brings a surprising dose of humanity to Kilowog and Elizabeth Moss is very likable as newbie Arisia. Also of note is the spectacular score work by Christopher Drake, a regular contributor to the DC Universe Animated Original Movie line. Once again, he does an excellent job with the score work, bringing in a powerful score that boosts the onscreen action. Once again, just simply solid work.
GL: Emerald Knights is definitely something I would consider a success, both in terms of an anthology and just a regular movie. All of the short stories work as both separate adventures and within the context of the movie itself; the stories providing nice background to some of the lanterns we may see only in passing during the battle with Krona. The consistent look to the character designs, etc., also serves the film quite well. The movie feels refined with no excessive baggage. Every moment seems to have a purpose, and even stories seems to serve the larger story well.
And, on another note, given the expansive lore of the Green Lantern Corp, I really like that this movie could open the door for more Green Lantern anthologies down the line. There’s so many stories to be told, and I hope this is only the beginning.
Digging into this Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Blu-ray Combo release, fans should be pretty happy about the spoils they find within. It’s not a home-run across the board, but I’d say that Warner Home Video has brought their usual solid (if somewhat flawed) standard to the latest DC Universe Animated Original Movie title.
Looking first at the audio and video quality we get a fairly solid though somewhat flawed presentation. As with previous releases in the DC Universe Animated Original Movie line, this latest installment finds itself at the mercy of color banding. Some macroblocking and pixilation also seem present, but hardly noticeable. The color banding, however, I imagine will be noticed from time to time. It can get distracting, admittedly. Thankfully, the transfer still looks good all things considered. Colors are vibrant and lush, and blacks are very solid and deep. Everything looks relatively sharp and clear, with some pretty excellent detailing on display. Thankfully, the same can’t be said about the audio track, which is pretty much flawless! DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is just stupendous on all counts. The action scenes will rattle your speakers, and the dialogue-driven moments sound as clear as day. All the speakers get a hefty workout, bringing you right into the action (especially during the bombastic finale). It’s a very aggressive track, and step up from some of the previous DC Universe Animated Original Movie releases.
And now….the special features. Warner Home Video has provided a healthy selection of bonus content. First up is a pretty interesting audio commentary featuring Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns and DC Comics co-publisher Dan Didio. It’s a pretty enjoyable track, the two creators talking about the Green Lantern mythos and comics as a large, though they do discuss the movie now and again. It’s a pretty lively discussion, all things considered, and worth a listen.
Up next are two featurettes, both looking at different aspects of the Green Latern mythos. The first one, Only the Bravest: Tales of the Green Lantern Corps, is a 30-minute featurette that examines the nature of bravery and how it related to the Green Lantern comics. It’s a pretty fascinating watch that brings some interesting ideas to the tables. A host of comic creators and professionals are interviewed. Up next is Why Green Lantern Matters: The Talent of Geoff Johns, a roughly 20-minute featurette that looks at the John’s work on the Green Lantern comics. Also pretty interesting stuff, though long-time readers won’t really take away anything new. Rounding off the featurettes are two brief pods, looking at how the characters Abin Sur and Laira Omoto made the jump from the comic page to the small screen, both of which are fairly basic and brief.
Wrapping things up on this special Blu-ray release, Warner has also tossed in one full length Batman: The Brave and The Bold episode, “Revenge of the Reach,” and a 3-minute except from the episode “The Siege of Starro, Part One” (which basically acts as a promo for the Batman: The Brave and The Bold DVD releases). Also included are two sneak peeks, one for the upcoming (and amazing looking) Batman: Year One animated feature and the other for the divisive All-Star Superman animated flick. The disc is topped off with a hard to read Green Lantern Virtual Comic and a couple promos.
Additionally, a second disc includes a DVD and Digital Copy of Green Lantern: Emerald Knights.
Warner Bros. and DC Comics have delivered a solid Blu-ray release for a solid movie, plain and simple. Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is just fun from start to finish, full of great stories and excellent animation. Finding that middle ground that makes it appealing to both long-time fans and newbies, this release isn’t without its faults. The video presentation does have a couple issues, but is redeemed with some healthy bonus features (trust me, you will want to watch the preview of Batman: Year One). I highly recommend checking it out.
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