Green Lantern: Emerald Knights Review: Nathan Fillion Gives A Crash Course In The History Of The Guardians Of The Universe
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, the eleventh film to be released by DC Universe Animated Original Movies, is an interesting new idea for the studio and for DC Comics. The timing is hard to ignore -- the Ryan Reynolds-starring live-action motion picture, Green Lantern, gets released this Friday, while Emerald Knights came out last week -- just in time. This is particularly notable since Emerald Knights is, while not an origin story of Hal Jordan (that tale can be found in the rather unremarkable Green Lantern: First Flight), something of a primer for the universe of the Green Lantern Corps. It's almost like an extended, animated introduction.
Instead of being a conventional narrative like most of the other DC Animated films, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is more like an anthology. There's a single, overarching storyline, which involves the reappearance of Krona, an ancient enemy of the Green Lantern Corps that destroys all life in its path. Yet framed within that larger arc is a series of smaller films, each designed to tell a small piece of the history of the Corps. These short stories are framed as educational tales that are related to Arisia Rrab (voiced by Elizabeth Moss), the newest recruit to the Corps and protege of Hal Jordan (Nathan Fillion). Each story features a distinct and occasionally surprising and rich story about a different aspect of the Corps and the history of this peculiar interstellar police force charged with protecting the universe from evil.
There are six stories, divided among three different directors -- DC veteran Lauren Montgomery (Wonder Woman, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse), Chris Berkley (who worked on a handful of episodes of recent "Transformers" episodes), and Jay Olivia (Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow). They all have the same animation, which is similar to the familiar style that many DC films have had. It's brightly colored, yet well-contrasted with deep blacks and shadowing that serve to emphasize the intergalactic motifs and settings. The movements are smooth and fluid, and the flight patterns and motion of the Lanterns is slick and cleanly rendered.
As for the stories themselves, they're a mixed bag. I've always felt that First Flight was one of the weakest entries in the DC Animated stable, and while it's not as uninspired as that (and nowhere near as boring as the lifeless All-Star Superman), it's not at the top of the pile by any means. But there are some genuinely solid entries to be found, and its all supported by some top-notch voice talent. Most of them are based on actual storylines from the "Green Lantern" comic book, and those that work well should be enjoyable to both dedicated fans who enjoy seeing the characters come to life, as well as casual viewers looking for a crash course before they hit the multiplex this weekend. What makes things perhaps most interesting is that the focus isn't on Hal Jordan, but rather on the supporting cast around him.
Of the six stories, the strongest is likely Jay Oliva's Laira, about the Lantern (voiced by Kelly Hu) who had to battle her own family as a result of her duties. It's a vivid tale of family ties and betrayal, and easily the most mature of the storylines. On the other hand, Oliva's other entry, Mogo Doesn't Socialize is a more lighthearted and fun tale about a warrior who scours a planet looking for the legendary Lantern Mogo, and finds something far beyond what he expected. As for Montgomery, she gets the meatiest two in terms of characters -- Kilowog features one of the largest, toughest of the Lantern Corps and how he grew to be the legend he is. It stars none other than Henry Rollins as Kilowog, and while the beginning of it is actually dreadfully boring, once it finds its swing it's quite good.
Emerald Knights is the name of the larger, framing story, and Montgomery works much better with this broader canvas -- and also gets to take advantage of actors like Jason Isaacs who voices Sinestro. While the story is frequently interrupted by the mini-stories, it's still grand, sweeping stuff, and it has a clever little ending that manages to incorporate some of the other tales into its climax. The other two stories, directed by Chris Berkeley -- The First Lantern and Abin Sur, which tells the story of Jordan's predecessor (voiced by Arnold Vosloo)as he battles the vicious Atrocitus, but also delivers an ominous warning about the future of the Corps. The First Lantern is thoroughly mediocre, but Abin Sur will be particularly satisfying to those who are familiar with the characters.
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights isn't by any means the strongest entry in the DC Animated pantheon, and in fact, at times it's downright dull. I can't quite figure out why they keep stumbling with this particular group of characters, but they haven't been able to successfully adapt the character into an animated film, unless they're doing it as part of a Justice Leauge film. Regardless, it's worth seeing since it does have some worthwhile stories, and since none of the them are very long (the whole thing is only 84 minutes), you never have to sit through the more poorly developed stories for very long. While it was a bit disappointing to see Nathan Fillion's take on Hal Jordan relegated to minor narrative duties, the other cast members do quite well with their lines. Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is a bit of a stumbling affair, an inconsistent and erratic take on the characters of the Green Lantern Corps. It's a good who's who for the uninitiated, though, and a mildly enjoyable effort for the more dedicated fans. Not a ringing endorsement, perhaps, but still worth checking out.
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