Fans of the Green Lantern franchise who can’t wait until Ryan Reynolds powers up in theaters might want to check out DC’s latest animated film, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. Not only is Emerald Knights up to the same quality as previous animated DC releases, it embraces the mythos of Green Lantern to tell far more than a mere origin story. Emerald Knights possesses six stories all told: five tales from Green Lantern lore that are bookended by an over-arcing frame story. The main tale revolves around the Green Lantern Corps preparing for battle against Krona, an ancient enemy of the Corps’ progenitors, the Guardians of Oa. The five additional stories come across as fables that various Lanterns tell new recruit, Arisia, while they wait for Krona to make his move.
Check out the trailer for Green Lantern: Emerald Knights here and hit the jump for my full review.
Emerald Knights, though rated PG, starts off with a fairly brutal death of a member of the Green Lantern Corps. Her death alerts the Guardians of Oa, who gather the other members of the Corps to stand up against the threat of Krona while they evacuate the planet. The gravity of the impending doom comes as a shock to most of the Corps, including Hal Jordan’s (Nathan Fillion) new Lantern recruit, Arisia (Elisabeth Moss). After a quick visit to the power battery to recharge, the Corps moves to intercept Krona. Here is where Emerald Knights gets really interesting.
While the Guardians talk of prophecy and annihilation and collapsing universes, (which as a fringe Green Lantern fan was a bit over my head), the real hook to Emerald Knights comes by way of the five short stories it weaves throughout the main framework. Rarely are there awkward transitions into or out of the fables. Each of them highlights a different Lantern at different points in their careers, starting with the first Lantern.
The origin story of the Green Lantern Corps stresses what the green guys are all about: willpower. It serves as an introduction for newcomers to the franchise and, internally, as a reminder to the anxious Arisia that her power resides in overcoming fear, not necessarily being the strongest warrior. As Arisia expresses doubt about passing her training with fan favorite, the drill sergeant Kilowog, we move into the second mini-story.
This installment features Kilowog (Henry Rollins) himself as a new recruit at the mercy of tough-as-nails drill instructor, Deegan. It also shows a young Tomar-Re alongside Kilowog and draws inspiration from the comic “New Blood” by Peter J. Tomasi and Chris Samnee. As an interesting sidenote, each mini-story had its own team of writers and directors who were very familiar with the history of Green Lantern, including Dave Gibbons and Geoff Johns.
As the main story takes over again, it briefly introduces Laira Omoto (Kelly Hu) before diving into her story. Based on the iconic “What Price Honor?” it is, in my opinion, the strongest of the fables. Returning to her Japanese-stylized home world of Jayd as a Green Lantern, Laira must confront her family for their crimes. In a tragedy worth of Sophocles or Shakespeare, she must decide whether to place her loyalty with her family or with the Corps. It has possibly the best hand-to-hand combat action scenes in the entire piece and director Jay Oliva uses depth of imagery to create a surprising contrast between Laira’s past and present. Worth watching the movie for this story alone.
Emerald Knights lightens things up a bit with “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize,” featuring Roddy Piper as Bolphunga the Unrelenting. It’s a humorous tale that long time fans will appreciate and newcomers should find refreshing. Without spoiling the surprise, let’s just say that Bolphunga finds he’s bitten off more than he can chew once he finally comes face to face with Green Lantern Mogo.
In the final piece, told to Arisia by Sinestro (Jason Isaacs), we’re introduced to Atrocitus (Bruce Thomas) as he attempts to kill Abin Sur (Arnold Vosloo) and destroy his power battery. There is an interesting discussion of destiny and history between Abin Sur and Sinestro here. Fans of the series will pick up on hints related to the Sinestro Corps Wars and Blackest Night.
With Arisia properly schooled in the history of the Green Lantern Corps, it’s about time they all get to fighting. Krona emerges to take on the entire Corps and does a fair job at kicking their ass, until unexpected hero Arisia saves the day…with a little help from a friend.
Overall, Emerald Knights is an enjoyable watch whether you’re a lifetime fan of Green Lantern or have only picked it up due to DC’s marketing. The picture and sound quality is fantastic and the effects and battle scenes are beautiful to watch (though I could have used a few less generic laser blasts and a few more power ring constructs). The voice acting, for the most part, is exceptional. Fillion as Hal Jordan, though not the focus of Emerald Knights, is cool, confident and charismatic. Moss nails Arisia’s characterization perfectly and the cast rounds out with Isaacs providing Sinestro’s arrogance and Piper adding humor to Bolphunga. I expected Kilowog to have a bit more gravel to him and was surprised to find that Henry Rollins missed the mark a bit.
The Blu-ray combo pack comes with a Blu-ray and DVD with an instruction leaflet for a digital download. The previews before the feature menu include the Ryan Reynold’s Green Lantern movie, DC’s animated All-Star Superman based off the comic series of the same name and a promo for the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 Blu-ray.
The special features on Green Lantern: Emerald Knights are chock full of input from the men and women behind the rings. It’s easy to see their passion for Green Lantern shine through, especially Dan DiDio and Geoff Johns.
Full-length commentary features Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio discussing their above-mentioned passion for the characters alongside a history of Green Lantern.
Why Green Lantern Matters: The Talent of Geoff Johns is a look into the history of Johns’ involvement with DC and the rebirth of Green Lantern. It focuses in turn on the evolution of Hal Jordan, Sinestro and the Blackest Night series.
Green Lantern Virtual Comic is a digital look at Johns’ first issue of Green Lantern, featuring Hal Jordan’s origin story.
From Comic Book to Screen: Abin Sur and From Comic Book to Screen: Laira Omoto
These featurettes focus on the evolution of the characters Abin Sur and Laira Omoto with panels of artwork from the original issues. Abin Sur’s retrospective takes us from origin, to his fateful interaction with Hal Jordan, to his role in Blackest Night.
Laira’s story also gives us her origin, but moves to her transformation into a Red Lantern and, eventually, a Black Lantern.
Available on DVD and Blu-ray:
Only the Bravest: The Tales of the Green Lantern Corps
A discussion of bravery and what it means to the Green Lantern Corps from Dan DiDio (co-publisher of DC Comics), Geoff Johns (Chief Creative Officer at DC), Dr. Benjamin Karney (Professor of Psychology, UCLA), Michael Green and Mike Guggenheim (writers of Emerald Knights) and Phil Cousineau (author of “The Hero’s Journey). They delve deeply into stories of bravery both from ancient times and the modern era and why people seem to seek these stories out. They touch on the theme of bravery both as a lone soldier and as a member of a team. The whole discussion plays out as a type of “Profiles in Courage” of comic books, but serves to reinforce the unique role that the Green Lantern comic fills.
Bruce Timm’s Picks
Two bits of Batman: The Brave and the Bold. One is an excerpt of “The Siege of Starro! Part 1” and the other is the full episode of “Revenge of the Reach.”
Sneak Peek: Batman: Year One
An animated film based on the Frank Miller series, Batman: Year One features the voice cast of Ben McKenzie as Bruce Wayne/Batman (which is as overdone as Christian Bale’s gravelly Dark Knight), Bryan Cranston as Jim Gordon (excellent!), Eliza Dushku as Selina Kyle, Katee Sackhoff as Essen (Jim Gordon’s mistress) and Alex Rocco as a perfectly cast Carmine Falcone.
Sneak Peek: All-Star Superman
In this adaptation of the comic series by the same name, Superman is dying and has only a short time to save the world. Voice actors include James Denton as Superman, Anthony Lapaglia as Lex Luthor and a brilliant Christina Hendricks as Lois Lane.
Not actually trailers. Just advertisements for digital DC comics and Matty Collector.