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Green Lantern: The Animated Series

Warner Bros. (2011-2013), Warner Archive (March 18, 2014), 2 Discs, 572 mins, 16:9 ratio, DTS Master Audio 2.0, Not Rated, Retail: $29.99

Storyboard:

Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern of Sector 2814, leads the fight against the Red Lanterns and the cosmic might of the Anti-Monitor and his Manhunters.

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The Sweatbox Review:

The 2011 feature film version of Green Lantern left many of us disappointed. Early reaction to casting suggested that lead actor Ryan Reynolds might be the problem, but his generally good performance was the least of the film’s worries. While the film brought an awesome visualization of the planet Oa and the Green Lantern Corps, the script tried to do way too much in too little time. Audiences were under whelmed, the movie under performed, and the toy sales stank. However, the film did beget one great thing: it inspired the creation of a superb animated series. That the series only lasted a single season is simply the unfortunate result of the franchise as a whole (and its toy sales) being brought down by the weak showing of the film. And that is really a pity, because Warner Bros. animation, led by executive producer Bruce Timm, created a marvellous animated series that succeeded in many ways where the film did not.

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The show does not rehash the origin story, which was told not only in the feature, but also a direct-to-video cel-animated movie in 2009. The first episode of the new CGI series (a first for DC Comics animation) shows Hal Jordan in his civilian identity, test flying a plane for Ferris Aircraft. After allowing the plane to crash (due to his Green Lantern duties) Hal has the moxie to ask his boss Carol out on a date. He never shows, though, as he is called away on GL business in order to help investigate a series of Green Lantern deaths in “frontier space.”

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The mystery of the deaths, and indeed the plot of the first half of the series, involves the Red Lanterns, a group of rage-fuelled warriors who hate the Green Lanterns and their bosses, the Guardians. Hal and his fellow Lantern, Kilowog, encounter the Red Lanterns when they go to the frontier, flying in an experimental spaceship run by an artificial intelligence. This A.I. is christened Aya by Hal, and it is not long before Aya decides to take on humanoid form in a bid to become an official Green Lantern. They pick up another ally of sorts, a disenchanted Red Lantern named Razer. They also seek to recruit more help, and visit other worlds in frontier space that have or may soon have Green Lanterns.

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In the midst of their search, they encounter attempted regicide, a mysterious planet of castaways, Star Sapphires (basically “Pink Lanterns” powered by love), and a prison full of Thanagarian Hawkmen. They also meet the very angry Red Lantern leader Atrocitus, and witness the birth of the hopeful Blue Lanterns. The first half of the 26-episode season ends with an epic battle in space, with the GL Corps facing an enemy armada, while Atrocitus goes after the Guardians personally on Oa.

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These first thirteen episodes are indeed action-packed and introduce the viewer to a variety of concepts straight out of the comics, both the classic 1960s ones written by John Broome and Gardner Fox, and the more recent ones by Geoff Johns. However, the mind-blowing concepts never overshadow characterization, as the show’s writers deftly handle the love story between Hal and Carol, Aya’s budding humanity, Razer’s evolving temperament, and the wide range of personalities in the cast.

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And that’s just in the first half of the season. In the next thirteen episodes, the writers further explore the comic’s legacy, melding the cosmic threat of the overwhelmingly powerful Anti-Monitor with the ghosts of the Guardians’ greatest shame, the robotic Manhunters. While taking on these threats, the writers further tinker with Aya’s self-awareness, add a rival Green Lantern from Earth (the insufferable Guy Gardner), bring along the Blue Lanterns, introduce us to the suspiciously devious GL Sinestro, and bring in the greedy Orange Lantern, Larfleeze. In a special story that stands apart as taking place in a whole other universe, we also meet a steampunk version of Green Lantern, and hear a hint about a certain red-shirted and caped GL who must certainly have been the Golden Age Green Lantern Alan Scott.

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All along, too, the storyline progresses, never losing sight of the overall arc, while still making for a series of very satisfying episodes. The story of Razer and Aya is particularly captivating, but each episode has its strengths in terms of characterization. This is exceptionally clean and moving storytelling, the likes of which one would expect from the series of executive producer Bruce Timm and his team. This is an unexpectedly fine addition to the DC animated universe, and likely one of the finest superhero cartoons ever made, not to mention one of the most visually striking.

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Is This Thing Loaded?

There are no extras on this release.

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Case Study:

This set comes in a non-eco Blu-ray keepcase, with a disc held in either side of the case. There is no insert, and no cover slip. Episode titles do not appear on the packaging. The menu is static and simple, with the option to play all 13 episodes on a disc, or to select from a list. There are appropriately placed chapter stops after the show’s opening, at the end credits, and in-between story acts.

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Ink And Paint:

Just… wow. This hi-def transfer is wondrous and plain perfect. When you look at stills from the show, there may be a tendency to assume that the relatively simple style of the series means that the animation is substandard, but don’t be fooled. In motion, the show looks great— both smooth and exciting, more sleek than simple. Textures may not be as detailed as in Clone Wars, but I certainly prefer the faces on Green Lantern to the Thunderbirds puppet-like appearance of the characters on that otherwise brilliant Star Wars show. The smooth contours of ships, bodies, and other objects in Green Lantern is a stylistic choice that also undoubtedly saved many hours of rendering time, but once the action starts you find that the design suits the show very well.

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It’s all about the story, after all, and if you would prefer to see meticulously rendered CGI environments, there is always the feature film; but, of course, the graphics on that one couldn’t save a clunky script. There is still plenty of eye candy in the cartoon anyhow, as there are times— like a couple of massive space battles— where the show really shows off its graphics and the video truly pops. In short, the show is most visually impressive when it has to be. And, whether in the midst of huge action or in quieter scenes, the high definition transfer allows the video to successfully avoid aliasing or banding, and even the frequent glowing effects remain stable and well defined.

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Scratch Tracks:

This may only be a 2.0 audio track, but it is still lossless (2.0 DTS-HD MA), and manages to deliver the goods. Right from the opening of the show, the soundtrack announces that you won’t be left wanting. Appropriately enough for this series, there is massive energy available in the audio, including a nice amount of bass, propelling the viewer through each chapter of adventure.

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Final Cut:

Color me surprised, as this series turns out to be a great thrill ride, with a mixture of exciting and poignant scripts, sleek production design, and a whole of cast of interesting characters to care about. It is just too bad that the show was not renewed after its first season; but those that have watched it will know that Green Lantern nicely carries on the legacy began on television with Batman: The Animated Series, a legacy of quality shows that puts the DC Comics heroes in their best light. The video and audio on this Blu-ray set do a similarly impressive job, and don’t let the lack of bonus material at all dissuade you from checking out this release of a very fine series.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?


MAIN FEATURE
SUPPLEMENTS
VIDEO IMAGE
SOUND TRACK
OVERALL DVD


 

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