Friday, June 17, 2011

Signal Watch Watches: Green Lantern - Emerald Knights

This is not a review of the Green Lantern movie. I'm seeing that on Friday (today) at 4:15. Its supposedly horrid.

Last night I watched the straight-to-home-video Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, a feature length cartoon done at WB Animation by the core team that Bruce Timm built.

The film inherits character and set design from the feature cartoon Green Lantern: First Flight, a movie we discussed back at League of Melbotis, Volume 1.  Not all of the voice talent returns, and I have to say that I think the set design and illustrative quality is just much, much better this go-round.  And I'll get to that.

Emerald Knights follows in the tradition of the old over-sized Green Lantern Corps issues that would include short story back-ups, which used the fact that the Corps were 3600 strong, somewhat fungible and absolutely expendable to tell all kinds of stories from the tragic to the sublime.  If DC had a secret outlet for writers to try the sort of writing that happens in sci-fi anthologies or episodes of sci-fi shows like The Twilight Zone or Outer Limits that rely on a single episode to tell the story, it was in exploring different story matter than "Hal Jordan and friends save the day", and the pay off was that these back-up stories are better remembered today than what was actually happening in the main stories at the time.  And it gave a home to people like Alan Moore as he kicked around the DCU for a bit.

this is a thing which happens in the movie
These stories included "Mogo Doesn't Socialize" and "Tygers", both of which are loosely adapted into part of what's a short story anthology, framed by the young lantern Arisia as she finds out the Lanterns are facing a cosmic level threat on her first day on Oa.  Arisia is ably voiced by the lovely Elisabeth Moss of Mad Men fame, Jordan by geek-favorite Nathan Fillion of Firefly (and Jamie's dreams), Henry Rollins (famous for being Henry Rollins and generally awesome) voices Kilowog and Sinestro - still in the Corps here - is voiced by Jason Isaacs who is Lucius Malfoy in the Potter films.

Hands down, I really liked this cartoon, but I also really like the GL Corps short stories.  It was always a kind of storytelling that I think added a much-needed level of complexity to their worlds, and it managed to both explore interesting angles on the universe hinted at, but also to do what short stories do well and explore themes in an understated and nigh-poetic manner.  That may be over-selling Laira's story (Laira is voiced by actress Kelly Hu), but the exploration of honor, parentage and homage to tragic family drama resolved through karate fighting is something I think we can all get behind.  Also, the choreography of the fighting in the Laira sequence is just absolutely amazing.

I'm just kind of missing "Mad Men" right now, so here's Hendricks and Moss taking five.
I'm just going to linger here a while.   You guys move on and I'll catch up.
I mentioned design:  while the characters haven't changed much since First Flight, two things popped out at me - the ship and background design takes advantage of digital's ability to overlay skins on 3D objects, and in this case WB mindfully gives a sort of 80's retro feel to the ships with handdrawn roughness and wear on the hulls of ships, a technique seen in movies like the original Heavy Metal that had the budget for detail to be drawn into backgrounds, or perhaps like a Bakshi film of the same era.  And certainly the look of higher end European sci-fi comics.  Its just looks... cool... to someone of my vintage.  And I liked that the alien designs in some sequences look like the squishy "let's not overthink it" Gil Kane designs of the 70'sand 80's.  Does the alien look like a swirl of pink shampoo or toothpaste?  Yeah, okay.  As long as we understand that these are generic space aliens and we aren't thinking about them too much...

The film comprises about 6 stories total, and I don't know that I recommend watching it all in one sitting as I did.  But I was also very, very tired last night.  

Its a fun movie and probably a good one to grab on Netflix or InDemand.  And is likely a much better representation of the GL Corps than whatever I'll get out of the movie this afternoon.

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