”In brightest day, in blackest night
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power…Green Lantern’s light!”
Green Lantern may not be a household name like Superman and Batman, but he has remained one of DC Comics’ most enduring characters. The original Green Lantern was created back in 1940 by Martin Nodell and Bill Finger, a writer who was instrumental to the early days of Batman. Alan Scott was a railroad engineer who carved a lantern and ring out of a mysterious, green meteor. In the 1950’s, DC was experiencing a renaissance and many of their Golden Age superheroes were being revamped with a more sci-fi bent during a time where nuclear power and the space race were making the headlines. This Green Lantern was Hal Jordan, a test pilot who was inducted into the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic police force formed by aliens from all over the universe. Each member of the Corps are given power rings, which tap into the wearer’s willpower and allows them to create anything they can imagine.
Casual fans are probably familiar with the Hal Jordan version due to his appearances on the old Super Friends cartoon. Many more will know the name Hal Jordan when Ryan Reynolds portrays the character in the upcoming summer blockbuster. To coincide with the release of Green Lantern, DC and Warner Premiere are presenting, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, the latest in a line of direct-to-video animated features.
Hal Jordan had already starred in a previous production, Green Lantern: First Flight, which served as an origin story for the first human to join the Green Lantern Corps. First Flight was one of Warner Premiere’s strongest efforts so it is a bit disappointing that Emerald Knights is not a direct sequel. It has no ties to any other release and serves as an introduction to those unfamiliar with the mythology of the Green Lantern universe. This is an anthology film with a series of short stories set against the backdrop of a major conflict.
Krona, a member of the same race as the Guardians of the Universe, the founders of the Green Lantern Corps, has returned. He was banished to the anti-matter universe eons ago for nearly destroying all of reality. Krona once again threatens existence when he emerges from the sun of the Guardians’ home planet of Oa. Hal Jordan (Nathan Fillion), wide-eyed rookie Arisia (Elisabeth Moss) and the rest of the Corps rally to face their most powerful foe ever. As the Green Lanterns prepare for the battle against Krona, Hal introduces Arisia to the Corps by giving her a history lesson on some of their most important events and members.
The stories begin with a tale about the formation of the Green Lantern Corps. Dozens of planets are threatened by a malevolent race known as the Dominators. Seeking a way to combat this menace, the Guardians forge the first power rings and issue them to the bravest candidates. However, one unlikely ringbearer is Avra (Mitchell Whitfield), a meek scribe who has never been in battle before. Avra eventually summons great courage and becomes the first Green Lantern to create an energy construct with his ring.
The second story revolves around Kilowog (Henry Rollins), the hard-assed drill instructor for the Green Lantern Corps. The mammoth, pig-faced alien wasn’t always tough-as-nails. Here, we meet Kilowog when he was still wet behind the ears and put through the paces by nasty trainer by the name of Deegan (Wade Williams). After that is the origin story of Laira Omoto (Kelly Hu), the Green Lantern from the planet Jade, inhabited by a society reminiscent of feudal Japan. Laira returns to the home where she is forced to battle her own family, who have transformed into a brutal syndicate known as the Golden Dragon.
Next up is an adaptation of one of my favorite comic book stories, “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize,” originally by Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore, the creators of Watchmen. Gibbons himself adapted the animated version, which features the voice of WWE Hall of Famer “Rowdy” Roddy Piper as Bolphunga the Unrelenting. Bolphunga is a fierce warrior who searches the cosmos for a worthy adversary. He may have finally found one in Mogo, the most powerful and legendary Green Lantern of them all. Bolphunga arrives on a luscious planet believed to be the home of Mogo only to discover he may have bitten off more than he can chew.
Before their final confrontation with Krona, Sinestro (Jason Isaacs) regales Arisia with a story about Hal’s predecessor, Abin Sur (Arnold Vosloo). Sinestro and Abin Sur team up to capture Atrocitus (Bruce Thomas), an alien terrorist who attempts to shake Abin Sur’s faith with a prophecy about the destruction of his beloved Corps.
There’s not a lot of complexity to the film. The majority of screen time finds the characters flying through space and blasting their enemies with beams of green energy. The animation has the slightest tinge of anime while also employing a style reminiscent of First Flight. The voice acting is strong all around though Nathan Fillion doesn’t get much of a chance to show off his range. It’s too bad too because Fillion was the fanboys’ top choice to play Hal Jordan when the live-action Green Lantern was still in development.
The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The animation is gorgeous and the transfer captures every tiny detail. Colors are vivid and black levels are strong.
The audio is presented in DTS Master Audio 5.1 with alternate Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks dubbed in French, German, and Italian along with a Dolby Digital 2.0 track in Spanish. The sound is powerful with the epic space battles rumbling with ring blasts and explosions.
Emerald Knights includes a commentary track with Green Lantern writer Geoff Johns and DC co-publisher Dan Didio. This is a great listen for die-hard comic fans as both participants delve into the backgrounds of the characters seen in the film and their work on the comic books.
Only the Bravest: Tales of the Green Lantern Corps (31:51) is a featurette about the history of the comics and the psychology it takes to be a member of the Green Lantern Corps.
Why Green Lantern Matters: The Talent of Geoff Johns (18:11) focuses on Geoff Johns and his work on the Green Lantern titles.
Batman: Year One – Sneak Peek (10:47) is a preview of the next direct-to-video feature, which adapts the critically-acclaimed storyline by Frank Miller.
All-Star Superman – Sneak Peek (10:47) is a preview for the previous feature starring the Man of Steel and based on the mini-series by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely.
From Comic Book to Screen: Abin Sur (3:11) is a short featurette about Abin Sur, the fallen Green Lantern who passed his ring onto Hal Jordan.
Beautiful…But Deadly – From Comic Book to Screen: Laira Omoto (3:52) is a similar featurette about Laira, who was created in 1993.
Bruce Timm’s Picks are an excerpt and a full episode from Batman: The Brave and the Bold, where the Dark Knight teams up with members of the Green Lantern Corps.
The Blu-Ray combo pack also includes a virtual comic by Geoff Johns and ads for Mattel’s Matty Collector website and the DC Comics app. You’ll also get DVD and Digital Copy versions of the film.
Film Value: 7
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights shares a similar plot structure and title to the anime-influenced Batman: Gotham Knights, which is regarded as one of Warner Premiere’s weakest movies. Emerald Knights doesn’t have a lot of depth, but it is packed with action and serves as a wonderful introduction to the Green Lantern mythos.