Saturday Morning Cartoons: Green Lantern: First Flight

After a week-long hiatus due to my having various (mis)adventures at New York Comic Con, Saturday Morning Cartoons is back! It’s week 3 of DC Animated Universe week, and this time around we’ll be looking at a DC movie that is very close to my heart, Green Lantern: First Flight.

This movie was actually my first exposure to the Green Lantern Corps, and piqued my interest enough that I started reading the comics. But does it live up to my fond memory of it? Is it actually a good introduction to the character?

Green Lantern: First Flight tells the story of Hal Jordan (Christopher Meloni), a rogue pilot who stumbles upon an alien crash site during a flight simulation in the California desert. There he is given a green ring that bestows the power to turn thoughts into reality to all who wear it. Once Hal puts on the ring, he is transported to the planet Oa, where he is told that he will receive training to become a member of an intergalactic police force called the Green Lantern Corps, all of whom use the rings to fight crime throughout the galaxy. Well-respected Green Lantern member Sinestro (Victor Garber) takes Hal under his wing. The rest of the film chronicles Hal’s training and first mission as Earth’s Green Lantern member.

I am a very strong believer that the best superhero stories are origin stories. This is where First Flight excels. It not only explains the somewhat complicated concepts of the Green Lantern Corps and their power rings extremely well, but also manages to tell two fully-developed origin stories: that of Hal Jordan, the first human Lantern, and Sinestro, the Green Lanterns’ greatest adversary. The fact that the movie does these things so effectively within the constraints of its running time (an hour and fifteen minutes) is impressive. This is the origin story that the awful live-action Green Lantern movie wanted to be, and more.

The writing in general is just excellent. In addition to an involving and well-paced story, the film’s characters are fleshed out and will ring true for many viewers. There were clear motivations for each character’s actions, and it was refreshing to see such a colorful cast of characters. In fact, the movie featured a few characters that are relatively minor in the comics, such as Boodikka (Tricia Helfer) and Ch’p (David Lander).

Unfortunately, the voice acting in some cases didn’t do justice to the film’s great writing. The voice acting for Hal by Law & Order veteran Christopher Meloni was competent, though occasionally he sounded more less than enthusiastic. This was a recurring problem with the voice acting. Tricia Helfer, the usually talented actress who played Boodikka, sounded lifeless and bored throughout the film. Victor Barger as Sinestro and Michael Madsen as the brutish Kilowog (which is an awesome casting choice, if I’ve ever heard one,) both do particularly good work here, breathing life into an otherwise indifferent voice cast.

The animation in Green Lantern: First Flight was a bit…off. At times there were serious problems with perspective…

…and the character designs in general were just odd. I thought Hal’s face in particular was so chiseled that it looked grotesque:

I guess my complaint is that he was too handsome? This is a strange review.

But these are minor issues that didn’t take away from the film overall. The real problem with First Flight‘s animation was its horrible use of 3D models. Three-dimensional, non-cel shaded models were used extensively in the film, and the CGI looked terrible. Normally I wouldn’t let something like this bother me so much, but it looked so out of place. And let us not forget, this movie was released in 2009. There was really no excuse for something like this to make it into the final product:

Pixar did better than this in 1995.

My complaint isn’t even that it’s bad. I can deal with poor animation. Hell, I grew up on Hanna Barbera. My issue with this is that it’s both terrible and completely unnecessary. There was no discernible reason for these portions of the movie to be animated differently from the rest, and the end result is mind-bogglingly ugly. It takes me out of the scene, and I sincerely wish the animators had just kept the art uniform throughout the film.

As much as I’ve complained about them, the art and the voice acting don’t ruin Green Lantern: First Flight. The story and characters are still enjoyable, making for a pleasant experience overall. I maintain that this is a good introduction to a somewhat complicated continuity. I recommend it especially for those new to Green Lantern, but also to existing fans who want to see an alternate version of Hal’s origin story. Green Lantern: First Flight has some flaws, but it’s still a fun entry in the DC Animated Universe Canon.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Smiling Hal recommends that you check out Cheshire’s other work on Saturday Morning Cartoons.

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