Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, the latest animated feature from DC Universe, has more in common with Batman: Gotham Knight than, say, Green Lantern: First Flight. Both Emerald Knights and Gotham Knight were released alongside new feature films from DC/Warner Bros. (The Dark Knight and the upcoming Green Lantern movie), there is the obvious connection of their respective titles, and their format is largely the same (loosely connected short segments).
As with Gotham Knight, some longtime fans of Green Lantern may feel that Emerald Knights has little to offer; for new fans who have gained interest in Green Lantern by way of his feature film, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights will be a fitting and welcome introduction to the character, as well as the expansive universe and mythos that go along with him.
Unlike Gotham Knight, however, Emerald Knights is actually a little more cohesive in its storytelling: A new recruit named Arisia (voiced by Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss) is inducted into the cosmic police force known as the Green Lantern Coprs., after her predecessor meets a sinister end. (Fans of the Green Lantern Corps comics will certainly recognize Arisia Rrab as that plucky elven Lantern whose family has been in the Corps going back generations.)
Arisia barely has the ring on her finger before a serious threat to the universe emerges: Krona, an ancient enemy of The Guardians of the Universe, finds a way to escape his banishment in the antimatter universe.The Green Lantern Corps amass to make a stand against Krona, but while they wait for the battle to begin, Hal Jordan (voice of Nathan Fillion) regales the new recruit Arisia with tales from history of the Corps. However, when Krona finally arrives, story time is over and Arisia must prove that she has what it takes to be a part of the Corps.
Emerald Knights has an all-star team of DC comic book and cartoon writing veterans working to craft its various tales. There's the "Godfather" of the current DC Universe, Geoff Johns; DC comics editor Eddie Berganza; Green Lantern movie writers Marc Guggenheim and Michael Green; DC Comics writer Peter Tomasi; cartoon writer/producer Todd Casey (Batman: The Brave and the Bold) and Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons. Some of the short stories featured in the film I know from the Green Lantern/Green Lantern Corps comic books - though I cannot confirm that they all stem from that source material.
The short segments in the film range from OK to good, and unlike some of the segments in Gotham Knight, all the segments in Emerald Knights are at the very least watchable. Thank the massive talent of the writers for that. Off the top of my head, here are the segments featured in the film, in order:
- The creation of the Green Lantern power rings, and how the first Lanterns (including the most unlikely candidate) learned to use their willpower to create power ring constructs.
- The story of Lantern drill Sergeant Kilowog (voiced by Henry Rollins) became the Corps drill sergeant, and where he learned the iconic term, "Poozers."
- How warrior Lantern Laira sacrificed her ties to her family and homeworld to be part of the Lantern Crops.
- An introduction to the 'biggest Lantern of them all,' Mogo.
- The secret origin of how Abin Sur caught the criminal Atrocitus, who first prophesied the coming of "Blackest Night," setting in motion events that would lead to Abin Sur's death, and Hal Jordan being named his successor.
Of these stories, the tale of Mogo, The power rings' creation and the Abin Sur prophecy were my personal favorites, since they all explain the mythos of the Green Lanterns in more detail than the movie may offer. The stories of Kilowog and Laira were OK, but unless these two Lanterns are featured prominently in the movie (we know Kilowog will be), their stories only held mild interest for me. The ending battle with Krona was pretty fulfilling, since it entails an army of Green Lanterns using their rings in unison to battle a titan-sized cosmic figure made of pure antimatter energy. How they beat him will likely make you laugh.
The animation in Emerald Knights is better than most Marvel animated features, though the character animations are noticeably stiff. Most of the "character movement" in the film comes from the constructs and lasers the Lanterns create. The rest is a lot of posing.
As for voice casting: Nathan Fillion will make fan boys and girls giddy since he was THE favorite pick to play Hal Jordan in the movie instead of Ryan Reynolds; Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy in Harry Potter) is fitting as Sinestro, as are Moss as Arisia, Kelly Hu (X-Men 2) as Laira, and Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy) as Abin Sur. However, Kilowog is always a controversial voice choice, and unfortunately rocker/activist Henry Rollins just sounds all kinds of wrong - which is especially noticeable since Kilowog gets a whole segment to himself.
Small gripes aside, the key to enjoying this film is to know what you're getting. If you already know the Green Lantern mythos back and forth from the comics, then there's little to see here. But if you feel that you need to bone-up on the character and his world before the movie gets here, then this is certainly a good primer.
Blu-ray Special Features
The following special features are available on the Blu-ray copy of Green Lantern: Emerald Knights:
- Why Green Lantern Matters: The Talent of Geoff Johns - The noted comic book author discusses the lore and longevity of the character.
- Filmmaker Commentary: With DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and Co-Publisher Dan DiDio.
- Green Lantern Virtual Comic
- From Comic Book to Screen: Abin Sur
- Beautiful... But Deadly - From Comic Book to Screen: Laira Omoto
- Only The Bravest: Tales of the Green Lantern Corps - In depth profile of the interconnected men, women and creatures of the corps.
- Sneak Peak: 'Batman: Year One' - Preview of DC Universe's next animated original movie
- A Look at Recent DCU Release 'All-Star Superman'
- 2 Bonus Cartoons from DCU's Bruce Timm
You can watch a new clip from Emerald Knights below:
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights is now available on Video on Demand through Comcast, Verizon and Cablevision service providers. The movie will hit store shelves on DVD/Blu-ray on Tuesday June 7, 2011.
Green Lantern the movie will be in theaters (in 3D) on June 17th, 2011.