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Shining Bright

23 Jul, 2009 By: John Latchem

Green Lantern

He’s been one of the core characters of DC Comics for 50 years. But with Batman and Superman dominating the TV and movie landscape, Green Lantern has long been relegated to the supporting cast on such shows as “Super Friends” and “Justice League.”

Until now.

Green Lantern: First Flight, the latest entry in the “DC Universe” line of direct-to-video ‘PG-13’ animated features, represents the first solo project for the character.

“He’s one of the top-tier heroes,” says Green Lantern: First Flight screenwriter Alan Burnett. “He should have more exposure.”

The film tells how a pilot named Hal Jordan receives an energy ring from a dying alien who has crashed on Earth and is transformed into Green Lantern, one of an elite force of heroes who patrol the universe to enforce justice. The Guardians of the Universe place the new recruit under the tutelage of Sinestro, who has his own secret plans to destroy the Green Lantern Corps and overthrow the Guardians.

“It’s an origin story, but we get past that pretty quickly and get into the adventure,” says Burnett. “It sort of has the feel of a cop precinct show.

Longtime comic book fans will recognize Sinestro as Green Lantern’s traditional arch-enemy.

“The movie is as much about Sinestro as it is Hal,” Burnett says. “Sinestro is a man with a plan who won’t let anything get in his way. I liken it to Training Day. You have the new guy who means well and the veteran who steps over to the dark side.”

In writing First Flight, Burnett says his experience writing for the Green Lantern comic book really helped him in distilling a half-century of mythology into a 70-minute movie.

“I just looked back and could pick and choose what elements worked best for me,” Burnett says.

“To me, the most interesting thing is the Corps,” Montgomery says. “They all have these rings, so it’s not just the one guy. And there’s a lot of police work that takes place. So it makes for something we really haven’t seen before.”
Burnett says his Green Lantern story gets darker as it progresses, but he made sure not to neglect the character’s signature prop.

“There’s a lot of ring action,” Burnett says. “What I like in superheroes is impactful action. I’ve written for Batman and Superman for years, and there are always opportunities for slugfests with them. But Green Lantern is a guy shooting a beam from a ring. So you have to make that have as much impact as you can.”

Though Green Lantern was a central character in last year’s Justice League: New Frontier movie, the character was still part of an ensemble that included Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and The Flash.

“We wanted to make this one more about Green Lantern in space doing his space-cop schtick, rather than seeing him on Earth being a superhero,” says director Lauren Montgomery. “The movie takes more of a sci-fi approach to the character. It’s more of a detective story in space.”

The cast includes Christopher Meloni (“Law & Order: SVU”) as Hal Jordan, Victor Garber (Titanic, “Alias”) as Sinestro, Tricia Helfer (“Battlestar Galactica”) as Boodikka and Michael Madsen as Kilowog, with additional performances from John Larroquette, Kurtwood Smith, William Schallert, Larry Drake and Juliet Landau.

“We lucked into the pairing of Christopher Meloni and Victor Garber,” says voice director Andrea Romano. “When I listened to the dialogue track, I was as excited as on any project I’ve worked. It was a wonderful dialogue track — stimulating, interesting, exciting, loaded with conflict.”

Montgomery said Garber added a touch of class with his performance, which affected the look of the character in the animation.

“We gave him a more dignified persona,” Montgomery says. “Hal Jordan, on the other hand, is more of an everyday guy. He’s not suave or classy or on his best behavior. He’s an everyman. He makes mistakes. He’s human.”

Montgomery says the creative team put a lot of effort into giving the film a distinctive look, beginning with character designs by Jose Lopez.

“One of my favorite scenes is Hal’s first mission with Sinestro,” Montgomery says. “They go to this seedy, crime-ridden planet and we see a lot of aliens. It’s so much fun to look at. Jose Lopez turned in these wonderful designs, and the animators really went crazy with it.”

Montgomery says the movie is much more cerebral than the previous DC Universe movie, Wonder Woman, which she also directed.

“There’s a lot of action in all of these movies,” Montgomery says. “But Green Lantern is not as dependent on it as Wonder Woman was.”

Montgomery also indicated her experience with Wonder Woman, her first feature-length directing experience, made Green Lantern less stressful.

Wonder Woman had some script problems,” Montgomery says. “For Green Lantern, Alan did a stellar job, so by the time I got there, we had a pretty good script. It makes my job a lot easier when I don’t have to save the script in the storyboard process.”

Montgomery says between Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, she appreciates the chance to work on other characters besides DC’s big two.

“It’s nice to work with Green Lantern because we’ve done so many Batman and Superman stories,” Montgomery says.

As if to prove her point, the home video versions of Green Lantern: First Flight includes a sneak preview of the next DC Universe animated movie, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, based on the comic book story arc by Jeph Loeb.

The special-edition DVD and Blu-ray Disc of First Flight also includes a discussion with writer Geoff Johns about the mythology of the Green Lantern, character profiles, the “Duck Dodgers” cartoon “The Green Loontern,” and bonus superhero cartoons. Exclusive to the Blu-ray will be a documentary that traces the relationship between artifacts and heroes in literary lore, including the Green Lantern's ring.

“I think [Warner Home Video] is pretty convinced Batman and Superman are the cash cows,” Montgomery says. “But that doesn’t mean the other characters aren’t worthy. That’s why we need to get these movies out there so people can know these characters.”

Romano says Green Lantern: First Flight may be the best DC Universe movie yet.

Wonder Woman was great because we don’t have enough female characters in the pieces we do,” Romano says. “But Green Lantern is right up there. I think I like it even better than Wonder Woman. I’m so excited to get an audience response. It’s some of the best acting we’ve had, in terms of both the animation and the voice acting.”

Green Lantern: First Flight will be available July 28 on DVD ($19.98; special edition with digital copy $24.98) and Blu-ray ($29.99) from Warner Home Video.

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