Green Lantern: Emerald Knights

(2011) *** Pg
84 min. Warner Premiere. Directors: Lauren Montgomery, Jay Oliva, Christopher Berkeley. Cast: Nathan Fillion, Elisabeth Moss, Henry Rollins, Jason Isaacs, Roddy Piper.

/content/films/4044/1.jpgFor what it is, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is outstanding. Understand: what it is not is a film going out of its way to tell a universal story—though it does, as a celebration of the heroism of men and women who choose, by profession, to face danger for the greater good. What it is is an animated film whose raison d'etre is to introduce neophytes to the mythology of the Green Lantern franchise while also giving die-hard Green Lantern fans a tour through some of the greatest stories from the comics. DC Universe Animated guiding light Bruce Timm and his team have met these goals with flying color (green, of course).

An anthology film, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights has a framing device (or rather, a through-story) that contains five "Tales of the Green Lantern Corps" (a periodic feature over the years in DC Comics). For most of the intervening years since 1959 (when best-known Green Lantern Hal Jordan came on the scene), DC writers and artists have been busily expanding the mythology of the Guardians of the Universe— who do their work from central planet Oa—and their intergalactic police force, the Green Lantern Corps. Though us Earthlings are mostly familiar with lantern-jawed test pilot Jordan, he's one of countless Green Lanterns chosen to wear a power ring and preserve justice wherever it is threatened. Green Lanterns come in all shapes and sizes, a point upon which Emerald Knights entertaingly expands.

The conceit of the overarching story (written by co-producer Alan Burnett, Geoff Johns & Todd Casey) finds Hal (Nathan Fillion of Firefly) on Oa, training a new Green Lantern named Arisia Rrab (Elisabeth Moss of Mad Men). The job includes passing on oral tradition of Corps lore, but the training becomes unexpectedly urgent when Oa's very existence faces a threat from ancient enemy Krona. "The First Lantern" (penned by two writers of the upcoming live-action Green Lantern feature, Michael Green & Marc Guggenheim) has a downright Biblical cast, coming as it does from the Book of Oa; it's the inspiring story of a little fella named Avra (Mitchell Whitfield), a scribe whose humble origins belie his determination and courage.

"Kilowog" (written by Peter J. Tomasi) tells the Corps origin story of one of the franchise's most popular characters, as the porcine bruiser goes through his own training under alien drill sergeant Deegan (Wade Williams). We get something completely different from "Laira" (written by Eddie Berganza), which follows female Lantern Laira Omoto (Kelly Hu) to her homeworld Jayd. Back in her honor-bound society (which has a decidedly Japanese feel), Laira faces the ultimate test of honor, a question of loyalty between her duty as a Lantern and the evolving duty owed to her own father (Tony Amendola).

"Mogo Doesn't Socialize" (scripted by Dave Gibbons) derives from the beloved comics story written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Gibbons. Capped with a Twilight Zone-styled twist, it's the only purely comic outing, with frustrated warrior Bolphunga the Unrelenting (Roddy Piper) desperately trying to goad the elusive Mogo into a fight. "Abin Sur" (written by Green giant Geoff Johns) explores the relationship between Abin Sur (Arnold Vosloo)—the Lantern famous in part for passing the ring to Hal Jordan—and Sinestro (Jason Isaacs), whose name signals his eventual tragic turn to the dark side.

The lineup of writing talent here, most of which comes straight out of DC Comics, knows how to tell a pithy story, and their presence will undoubtedly hearten fans. The stories work together well to create a prism of fifty-plus years of Green Lantern characters and the core themes of the franchise. And with something unusual or colorful or dynamic to notice in every shot, the top-notch animation is always a pleasure to behold. In a way, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is the cosmic equivalent of hearing a Homeric epic in ancient times: we thrill to the battles, we wait with bated breath for the appearance of our favorite characters, and we root for noble, righteous warriors.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 2

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 6/7/2011

Distributor: Warner Home Video

Warner sends home Green Lantern: Emerald Knights in a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Combo Pack that will have fans doing backflips.

The Blu-exclusive audio commentary by Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns finds these two friends—the former DC Comics co-publisher and the latter DC Entertainment CCO, comic book writer and Emerald Knights co-screenwriter—chatting about the Green Lantern mythos and their thoughts about Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. There's some discussion of the film's evolution, but it's not so much about the film, per se, as it is about the comic-book history. Fans will definitely find this a good listen, and there's little in the way of gaps as these two casually converse.

The Blu-exclusive featurette “Why Green Lantern Matters: The Talent of Geoff Johns” (18:11, HD) discusses with Johns, DiDio, and DC Comics writer Grant Morrison the import of Green Lantern and Johns' interpretation of the character.

There's also a Blu-exclusive Green Lantern Virtual Comic (HD) here, presented gallery style.

The Blu-exclusive featurette “Only the Bravest: Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” (31:51, HD) explores the Corps and how it ties into world mythology, with DiDio, Johns, Green Lantern writers Michael Green and Marc Guggenheim, and UCLA professor of psychology Dr. Benjamin Karney.

"Batman: Year One Sneak Peek" (10:47, HD) previews the next DCU Animated film and introduces the cast and crew. Interviewees include co-director Sam Liu, DiDio, executive producer Bruce Timm, co-director Lauren Montgomery, Bryan Cranston, Andrea Romano, Ben McKenzie, Eliza Dushku, Katee Sackhoff, and Alex Rocco. Also presented again is the archived "All-Star Superman Sneak Peek" (10:47, HD)

Bruce Timm's Picks this time include "Excerpt from 'The Siege of Starro! Part 1' from Batman: The Brave and the Bold" (2:37, HD) and "'Revenge of the Reach' from Batman: The Brave and the Bold" (22:58, HD). Take special note: this time, they're in hi-def!

Lastly, we get the informative Blu-exclusive pods "From Comic Book to Screen: Abin Sur" (3:11, HD) and "Beautiful...But Deadly - From Comic Book to Screen: Laira Omoto" (3:52, HD)

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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