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By Thomas Wheeler

It's my understanding that there's a live-action Green Lantern movie in some stage of development as of this writing. I wish it well. I'd love to see a really well-done live-action Green Lantern movie. But let me say this -- after seeing the latest animated movie offering from Warner and DC Comics -- "Green Lantern: First Flight" -- it's got a heck of an act to follow.

Why am I reviewing a movie on a toy-based Web Site? Well, simply stated, because just as they did with the Wonder Woman animated movie a few months ago, if you bought the Green Lantern movie specifically at Best Buy, there was a version available that included a DC Infinite Heroes style Green Lantern action figure.

I've always liked Green Lantern, and by that I mean Hal Jordan. There have been a wide range of other characters called Green Lantern. The name first was assigned to an individual named Alan Scott, during the so-called Golden Age of comics. Although Scott is still an operative hero today, and part of the Justice Society of America, his backstory has virtually nothing to do with Hal Jordan and other modern Green Lanterns, although he is on good terms with them.

Let's get a little insight into the character of Green Lantern Hal Jordan with a little help from Wikipedia.

Created by John Broome and Gil Kane, he first appeared in Showcase #22 (October 1959). The revamp of Green Lantern as Hal Jordan was one of many DC Comics characters to emerge in the Silver Age of comics. Controversy erupted among comic book readers in 1994 when Hal Jordan was turned into the supervillain Parallax and the Corps slaughtered to shockingly boost sales and promote the new Kyle Rayner as the only Green Lantern.

Jordan underwent a number of further changes in the 1990s including dying and later returning as a new incarnation of The Spectre. Hal Jordan returned to the role of Green Lantern in 2004's Green Lantern: Rebirth miniseries and is currently the hero of the current series of the Green Lantern title.

After achieving great success in 1956 in reviving the Golden Age character The Flash, DC editor Julius Schwartz looked toward recreating the Green Lantern next. Like The Flash, Schwartz wanted this new character to have a different secret identity, origin, and personality than his 1940s counterpart.

A long time science-fiction fan and literary agent, Schwartz wanted a more sci-fi based Green Lantern, as opposed to the mystical powers of Alan Scott, the forties Green Lantern. He enlisted writer John Broome and artist Gil Kane, who in 1959 would reintroduce Green Lantern to the world in Showcase #22 (September-October 1959).

The new Green Lantern was a member of an intergalactic constabulary made up of many different alien species who were given a device that provided them with great mental and physical abilities.

The character was a success and it was quickly decided to follow-up his three issue run on Showcase with a self-titled series. Green Lantern #1 began in July-August 1960 and would continue until #84 in April-May 1972.

Jordan's masters were the mysterious Guardians of the Universe, small, blue-skinned immortal humanoids who had established the Green Lantern Corps, a force of 3600 sentient beings who patroled the entire universe in the name of justice.

Schwartz and company also allowed Jordan to have a family, which was another rare thing at this time in superhero comics. While he didn't have a wife or children of his own, he had many interactions with his two brothers, Jack and Jim. The Brothers Jordan were primarily inspired by the Kennedy brothers, who rose to prominence during the sixties.

When compared to comics of the thirties, forties, and early fifties, Green Lantern broke new storytelling ground. Whereas older comics treated each issue as a stand-alone with no real sense of temporal direction between issues, Green Lantern's issues followed the order of publication, with references within the stories to previous stories and adventures. Not only were references made, but subplots were advanced showing actual growth in the character's lives.

Likewise, Green Lantern was one of the first comics to be a part of a "shared universe". The Justice League of America united several superheroes that DC owned, just as the Justice Society of America had in the Golden Age. The crucial difference was that events occurring in the Justice League title were reflected and referenced in individual superheroes' titles.

Hal Jordan's origin story is quite well known, although it has received recent updates in the comics. But, in a nutshell, gravely wounded Green Lantern Abin Sur crash-landed on Earth, and used the last of his ring's energy to fund a suitable successor. This turned out to be Hal Jordan.

Certain elements have been added over the years. One of the most notable has been that longtime foe Sinestro was actually a Green Lantern for a long time, and one of the best, even training Jordan in the use of the ring. Sinestro would, of course, go on to rebel against the Guardians, and discover the yellow power ring, and, in more recent years, establish the Sinestro Corps to combat the Guardians and the Green Lanterns.

A more recent story element explains why Abin Sur's vessel crashed. Sur was transporting a dangerous prisoner, named Atrocitus, who broke free during the flight. Atrocitus has become the leader of the highly dangerous Red Lanterns in recent stories in the comic books.

So, how does all of this work into the movie? Well, a lot of it works in quite well. Before I get into the movie too far, I'd like to say a brief word about the packaging. I know that's not something I discuss very often, but it's worth it here. The DVD is presented in an outer cardboard slipcase that has been given a very precisely designed metallic sheen that, in the proper light, makes it look like beams of energy are emitting from Hal Jordan's ring. It's a very cool effect.

As to the movie itself, it is very impressive. Voicewise, the movie stars Christopher Meloni as Hal Jordan, Victor Garber as Sinestro, Michael Madsen as Kilowog, John Larroquette as Tomar-Re, and Kurtwood Smith as Kanjar Ro. I'm not one for following actors all that much. I will say that I've never been disappointed by the voice casting in any DC-based animated production.

The movie wastes no time getting right into the action. We start with an opening of Hal Jordan in a flight simulator, being supervised by occasional girlfriend Carol Ferris. Right about this time, Abin Sur's spaceship crashes, and Abin Sur, looking far more alien than he ever did in the comics, instructs the ring to find a suitable successor. The ring finds Jordan, and brings him -- flight simulator and all -- to Abin Sur.

Before Jordan can even absorb what's happening, he's transformed into Green Lantern. Cut to the opening credits -- and I defy the live action movie to do a more impressive job. Next thing we know, Jordan is contacted by several other Green Lanterns, including Sinestro, Boodikka, Tomar-Re, and Kilowog -- none of whom are terribly impressed with Jordan, and demand that he return with them to Oa. Barely ten minutes into the movie and we've seen the last we'll see of Earth.

The story wastes no time with personal angst, confusion, explaining what's happened to friends and family, or any of that sort of nonsense. We're off and running and we don't let up from this point on.

On Oa, the Guardians are no more impressed with Jordan than the other Lanterns were, but Sinestro offers to take the newcomer under his wing and train him. From there, they head to a planet so seedy it would make the Mos Eisley Cantina from Star Wars look like a four-star tux-and-tails establishment by comparison. Sinestro is after Abin Sur's killer.

Jordan actually catches the creep, but back on Oa, Sinestro does the interrogating, seeking to find the killer's boss, the crimelord Kanjar Ro. The questioning turns out to be fatal, much to the Guardians' annoyance. Sinestro, privately, expresses his disgust over the Guardians to Jordan. He feels the Guardians have let the universe go when they should have been taking a more active role in running it.

Kanjar Ro is eventually tracked down, but it is at this point that we discover that there's a deal between Kanjar Ro and Sinestro, for the development of a weapon using a "Yellow Element", the only weakness the "Green Element" that powers the Green Lantern rings has.

As one might expect, eventually, Sinestro tracks down this weapon, which has been constructed by the Weaponers of Qward, and uses it to try, at least, to bring down the Corps and the Guardians, until he is opposed by Hal Jordan.

The movie, I feel I should mention, is rated PG-13. I think this, as much as anything, is for some occasional harsh language on the part of some of the characters. Nothing too extreme, but I could've done without it, and I tend to think it was done just for the sake of the PG-13 rating, which is a little silly.

I don't really want to say much more than that about the movie's story because I don't want to spoil the movie for you. But let me make a few general observations.

Perhaps no DC character and concept is better suited for animation than Green Lantern. As indicated, the original purpose behind the character was to create a hero with a more sci-fi background, and while GL might have wavered in that from time to time in the comics, he certainly does not do so here. Once he's off earth, it's everything George Lucas wishes he could've thrown into his first couple of Star Wars movies if the budget and technology had existed for it -- just in an animated format.

The cool thing about animation is, for all intents and purposes -- you can do anything. And granted, the animators took a few liberties. In the comics, the Weaponers of Qward are humanoid beings. In this movie, they look very different. But really, in a cartoon -- if you need three dozen species of freaky aliens to be evacuated from a damaged passenger spaceship? No problem -- they're all just ink and paint.

And given the alien nature of even just the Green Lantern Corps itself, this was helpful. You're not going to pull off characters like the massive Kilowog, or the multi-armed Salaak, or the diminutive, squirrel-like Ch'p, through any traditional means. But they're all pretty much as easily animated as anyone else, and it all blends well.

Let me say this about this Green Lantern movie in particular -- I'm sincerely pleased to see Hal Jordan take center stage. Now, I'm a huge fan of the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited animated series. And I have no real problem with John Stewart, although I'm convinced he was put into the show for reasons of political-correctness, and that is something that I have a problem with on principle. Granted, when the series aired, Hal Jordan wasn't even operative as a Green Lantern at the time. Kyle Rayner was. So Hal has sort of gotten stiffed in the animation department in recent times. It's about time he made up for it.

Lastly, let me say this about DC's present animated movies. After seeing this, and the Wonder Woman movie, and looking ahead to the animated adaptation of "Batman/Superman: Public Enemies" which reportedly has an entire DC Universe Classics assortment backing it up in the toy aisles, as far as I'm concerned, I couldn't really care less if they try to crank out another live-action super hero movie.

The problem is that when you get into big budget blockbusters, those tend to come with big egos across the board. And there's always somebody who thinks they can take a long-established pop culture concept, that's been highly successful for long before the movie people came along, and mess around with it to make it "better".

At the very least, these animated productions being turned out to great effect and success by DC and Warner are being put together by people that respect the concepts, and they strive to work within the established parameters, which is as it should be.

Okay, so -- how's the Green Lantern FIGURE that comes with this immensely cool movie? Well, he's pretty cool, too. The style of the animation wasn't so far off a fairly realistic mark (at least as far as recognizable humans are concerned), that this figure won't fit in right alongside any other DC Infinite Heroes figure.

And, interestingly enough, this Green Lantern has the enhanced articulation that Mattel has been talking about for some time. I'll be honest, when I first heard about this, I was concerned. Now, I'm a fan of a generous amount of articulation as much as anybody. But far too often, I see these figures, especially in the 3-3/4" scale line, and they've had so much articulation shoved into them -- double-jointed elbows, double-jointed knees, mid-torso swivels -- that they look less like a small representative of a human being, albeit a fairly fanciful one, and more like something that was put together from an erector set. It really does tend to kill the overall look of the figure when there's that many joints sticking out.

Now, the DC Infinite Heroes line has taken a lot of grief for not being very well articulated. The figures have tended to be poseable at the head, arms, elbows, waist, legs, and knees. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is plenty. There's nothing wrong with that, but some people apparently want their super-heroes to be contortionists.

So -- how does Green Lantern come across? VERY impressively. Mattel designed the enhanced articulation RIGHT. He really doesn't have that many more points of articulation than before -- although the wrists and ankles now move -- but the way they're designed does significantly enhance the overall poseability of the figure.

The elbows and knees have had swivels added to them, but they're added at the point of assembly for the overall movement of the elbows and knees. This keeps the overall "lines" of the figure looking good, while allowing for a wider range of motion. The ankles allow the feet to move up and down, and the wrists swivel.

The overall range of motion, and I am assuming that this will be brought into the main DC Infinite Heroes line with future assortments, now allows the figure to move at the head, arms (outward and well as forward and back, something it could always do), elbows (including swivel), wrists, waist, legs (although I'm sure some people are still going to bellyache about the "T-crotch" design), knees (including swivel) and ankles.

So, how does the figure LOOK? Very cool. The head has been sculpted very nicely, and is neatly painted. The uniform is extremely similar to the traditional Green Lantern costume, but there are a few differences. The gloves are no longer white. Rather, the uniform has green cuffs, with black gloves. It's not a bad look, really. A small green dot on one finger of the right hand represents the ring.

I compared the figure to the standard DCIH Green Lantern figure, and there are some interesting differences given the improved design. The hands are slightly smaller and more "elegant" in their sculpt. The arms are somewhat leaner, but better detailed. The legs are somewhat more muscular, and they needed to be. The torso seems to be the same as before. On the whole, Mattel really has improved the basic design.

Paint work is for the most part very neatly done. About the worst thing I can say about this figure is that one wrist seems a little bit stuck, and one knee a little loose. But such are the consequences of mass production -- unfortunately -- and I've certainly encountered far worse, and on larger scale figures.

So, what's my final word here? I'm impressed with the movie, and I'm impressed with the figure. By the time you read this, the figure MAY be sold out. It's one of those limited time offers. But there's no harm in checking your local Best Buy, and there's always the secondary market.

The movie should still be readily available, and definitely has my highest recommendation. And if you're lucky enough to get the Best Buy special with the Green Lantern figure, you're also getting the two-disc set of the movie (which, for the sake of accuracy, is available elsewhere, but not with a figure), that includes an interview with Geoff Johns, current writer of the comic, the Duck Dodgers episode that featured Sinestro and a cameo by Green Lantern, character profiles, and two bonus cartoons from Bruce Timm! For that matter, the first disc has a look at "In Blackest Night", the major Green Lantern story from the comics; a sneak peek at the next animated production, "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies"; and a look at three other DC Universe Animated Movies.

A cool movie, tons of special features, and a very cool action figure. You can't go wrong! The BEST BUY Exclusive of the GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT MOVIE with GREEN LANTERN ACTION FIGURE definitely has my enthusiastic highest recommendation!