Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
To support The Dark Knight, Warner Premiere offered up Batman: Gotham Knight, a collection of stories from various animators that were dark and largely uninteresting. It’s gratifying to see that they have learned from this rare misfire and have offered up a companion to this month’s The Green Lantern feature film with Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, on sale Tuesday. There are five stories, largely culled from the comic books, with a sixth tale connecting everything together. Essentially, Krona, the fallen Guardian, has come back from banishment as an enormous, angry form, having coalesced within a star. Summoning Shadow Demons from the Anti-Matter Universe of Qward, Krona threatens the Guardians and their world of Oa.
The entire Green Lantern Corps has been summoned to deal with this cosmic danger but they pause to stand in line to take their turn recharging their rings. While waiting patiently to save all of reality, Hal Jordan (Nathan Fillion) spins tales for his latest recruit, the young, idealistic Arisia (Elisabeth Moss). On the one hand, Krona is a big menace and the climactic scenes are incredibly strong and powerful. There’s a scope to his rising from within the sun that is what animation and comics is all about. That sense of scope, though, is missing from the frame in that in the comics, the central Power Battery was large enough that scores of the Corps could float before it and recharge en masse. Watching them stand in a queue is absurd.
The frame and five stories along with the characterization and visualization of the Corps and Guardians are cherry-picked and modified from the fifty years comics featuring the second incarnation of the Green Lantern. It’s nice to see that several people with comic book roots, including GL editor Eddie Berganza, got a shot at penning some of these stories. About the oddest juxtaposition of realities is seeing Sinestro (Jason Isaacs) still a member of the corps in good standing. Why he’s here is clearly a nod to his role in the live-action film, done so as not to confuse viewers.
We’re told the story of “The First Lantern” (written by Michael Green & Marc Guggenheim) which tells us a variant version of how the Corps was formed. It’s still a solid story showing how anyone can become a hero and show others the way to act. There are mammoth space battles and lots of ring-slinging but why the planet is under attack and the motives of the attackers are never even questioned, let alone explored.
There’s another variant tale in the story of “Kilowog” (written by Peter J. Tomasi) which details how the recruit became Kilowog (Henry Rollins), the feared trainer of new Corpsmen. It’s a little predictable but still an entertaining story of courage and teamwork.
Eddie writes “Laira”, a galactic martial arts tale that’s also a character study about Laira (Kelly Hu), who has to return to her homeworld and deal with family issues. Adapted from Ruben Diaz and Travis Charest’s “What Price Honor”, the story is nicely handled and provides the most characterization, making for a satisfying adventure.
Of all the hundreds of stories told about the Corps, the best loved may well be the Alan Moore ditty “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize” which inspired the framing sequence used here. Adapted for the screen by the original artist Dave Gibbons, we watch with mirth as Bolphunga the Unrelenting (Roddy Piper) tries to conquer the warrior named Mogo. It also nicely sets up the climactic moment of the movie. Gibbons does a reasonable job, but his dialogue becomes a bit belabored with each passing scene.
The final story spotlights “Abin Sur”, written by Geoff Johns, who restored Hal Jordan to fame as the greatest Green Lantern of them all. This is a pivotal tale since it foreshadows Sinestro’s eventual betrayal and introduces Jordan’s predecessor, Abin Sur (Arnold Vosloo). Everything from script to animation vocal work is top-notch and ends things on a most satisfying note.
Then we move into the “Emerald Knights” finale (written by Alan Burnett, Geoff Johns & Todd Casey). Finally recharged, the Corps takes on Krona and everyone introduced to date gets a chance to shine for a moment before the entire team confronts their greatest threat.
It’s a shame Jordan doesn’t get a solo story because his narration robs Fillion of a chance to shine as the Emerald Crusader but we can hope for next time. Meanwhile, the overall 1:22 film is entertaining, thrilling at times and never dull. The animation is superb throughout and this is a very strong addition to the growing DC library.
The movie is available in a variety of formats with some common extras, including some fun audio commentary from Johns and DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio. There’s also the somewhat ponderous “Only the Bravest: Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” (32 minutes) as various talking heads discuss heroism through the ages and how it applies to the GL Corps.
The Blu-ray edition offers up “Why Green Lantern Matters: The Talent of Geoff Johns” an 18-minute self-congratulatory look at how the writer revamped the franchise. “From Comicbook to Screen” (7 minutes) shows how two of the stories moved from the four-color page to animation. As usual, Executive producer Bruce Timm offers up GL-centric choices from Batman: The Brave and the Bold: three minutes from “The Siege of Starro! Part 1” and “Revenge of the Reach”.
There’s also a 13-page excerpt from Johns’ Green Lantern #1, which brings me to my only real gripe: Green Lantern was created by Martin Nodell and Bill Finger in 1940, then reimagined in the 1950s by John Broome and Gil Kane. Yet, by watching all the extras, you have no sense of the history of the character and the franchise. It does these earlier creators a massive disservice.
Finally, there’s the expected sneak peek, this time for Batman: Year One, coming this fall. It looks pretty spiffy to me.
You can’t go far wrong watching this as a tasty appetizer before the main event at mid-month.