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Green Lantern:
First Flight

On Thursday of Comic-Con, Bruce Timm led a crowd of over 4,000 people in reciting the Green Lantern oath. The world premiere screening of the animated Green Lantern: First Flight was so packed that Comic-Con requested Warner to schedule a second showing for Sunday afternoon. Let's face it, Green Lantern-mania is at an all-time high, and today's release of Green Lantern: First Flight could not have been better timed to take advantage of it.

As a movie, First Flight is pretty exciting, and certainly a worthy entry in the DC Universe animated line. As a DVD, it's the perfect storm of everything you need to know about Green Lantern, a relatively quick way to jump off in whatever media direction new fans want to go.

Warner Premiere has put together similar packages before, but never has the timing been so absolutely perfect, nor the extras stretching out in such a great synergistic way. With Ryan Reynolds being all over the news as Green Lantern a couple of weeks ago, it seems odd that the only thing missing here is a discussion of the live-action movie. Instead, this will put people's focus where it should be - on comics.

The extras include a short piece on Blackest Night, which has rapidly become the big event of the year in comics. Dan DiDio, Peter J. Tomasi and of course Geoff Johns talk about the motivations of the event, explanations of what's going on a bit, and generally make it sound like the greatest thing since sliced bread, if you like your bread undead. And judging from sales, many people do.

What makes the synergy great is that Alan Burnett's script and Jose Garcia's designs for First Flight dovetail with the look of Blackest Night just enough that a newbie could pick up the comic and recognize most of the characters. They might be surprised at the fate of some, but First Flight also makes clear that being a Green Lantern doesn't ensure a long life-span.

The movie presents a harder core Corps than had first been presented by comics fifty years or so ago, but the extras keep things firmly in the twenty-first century vision of Green Lantern. Burnett's script quickly gets the origin out of the way, while still firmly establishing Hal Jordan's (Christopher Meloni) personality.

After a title sequence that the upcoming live-action movie should just steal outright, we get to the meat of things - the day that Hal met the rest of the Green Lantern Corps and came to understand just what it means to be a Green Lantern.

Of course, even someone unfamiliar with the mythos will have a difficult time trusting a senior officer named Sinestro (a brilliantly cast Victor Garber), but Burnett and ace Director Lauren Montgomery keep things wild enough for the eventual revelations to still pack some punch. They've gone further than most comics artists to make Hal feel like a fish out of water. The most recognizably humanoid character is Sinestro; even Abin Sur has become something very alien.

Actually, Arisia and Boodikka (Tricia Helfer) look relatively human, but with a strong anime influence that makes them seem other than Hal. The villainous Kanjar Ro (Kurtwood Smith) has become far more insectoid than ever before, but it makes sense and leads to some pretty inspired use of Hal's ring against his henchmen.

It's a good leaping on point that will satisfy both old fans and new ones. Burnett's script also makes it clear why Hal would be the guy the rest of the Corps considers the greatest of them all, despite his being a hotshot with a difficult time following orders. Maybe that's just the way we like our heroes.

Geoff Johns would rather characterize Hal as "inspiring," an evaluation hard to counter. Again, it's a pretty good use of the extras to let the current writer of the book expound upon why this character is so great. If you go deeper, Johns and Tomasi talk about Sinestro and the Guardians of the Universe, too, and though nobody seems to point out his significance, it's great that the documentarians include Neal Adams' viewpoint, too. (Adams drew Green Lantern during its previous most socially relevant phase, in collaboration with writer Dennis O'Neill).

So there's something for historians, there's something for newbies looking for some sci fi action. What about for the kids?

If you buy the two-disc edition, Warner Brothers has neatly divided things up so that the second disc has plenty of material appropriate for kids too young for PG-13. (And First Flight does earn that rating, with violence and some cursing.)

Included on the second disc is something long overdue for DVD - the Duck Dodgers episode "Green Loontern," in which Daffy Duck accidentally gets a power ring and uniform due to a mix-up at the dry cleaners. Many of the same Green Lantern Corps members show up here, albeit in a softer, kid-friendlier form, but the adventure against Sinestro is still engaging and funny.

If anyone watches First Flight and wants to go deeper into the DCU, the first disc also includes behind-the-scenes featurettes on the excellent Wonder Woman, Justice League: The New Frontier and anime-inspired Batman: Gotham Knight. That should give newbies a lot to chew on, but if you've already seen them, you can skip that part.

Once again, Warner Premiere has delivered a top-tier package, and slavering fanboys can be satisfied. But they should also use this as an outreach. If anybody asks you "what's so cool about Green Lantern?" show them this movie. Then slip them an issue of Blackest Night. They'll thank you for it and be joining next year's group recital of the Green Lantern Oath.

Derek McCaw

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