That bump of cynicism suggests that GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD KNIGHTS, DC's latest animated original movie, was released predominantly to prep movie goers for the upcoming live action film. And yet it also services those like me who used to read the TALES OF THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS comic book and also those who long for a peek at the larger canvas promised by the Green Lantern mythos.
Our main man, Hal Jordan, is featured here but he's not the big draw or even the central character. Instead, our point-of-view character is the teenager Arisia, the Green Lantern Corps' newest recruit. EMERALD KNIGHTS is an anthology film, the backdrop of which is that the Lanterns have gathered en masse to await the impending arrival of Krona, one of the Guardians of the Universe's most ancient and deadliest foes. As they cool their heels, the Lanterns (but mostly Hal Jordan) regale an overwhelmed Arisia with stories plucked from the Green Lantern Corps' rich history.
We eavesdrop as Hal reveals to Arisia that, interestingly, the first being ever to receive the ring was not the first Green Lantern. The first Lantern, in fact, was Avra, a lowly scribe present on that day, standing apart from the legion of candidates. Avra was there only to record the momentous ceremony in which the four inaugural rings will choose their bearers, except that the fourth ring chose him. We learn that it was Avra who, in a time of peril, discovered that the bearer's iron will, given substance, could overcome frightening odds.
If you thought Kilowog was the meanest boot camp drill sergeant in the Corps, think again, you poozer. Next up is the tale of Sgt. Deegan, indeed the meanest, most ornery sumbitch whom the fresh-faced recruits, Kilowog and Tomar Re, ever had the misfortune to meet.
I'm familiar with most of these stories, so coming across Laira Omoto's chapter was gratifyingly like wading into uncharted waters. It's always neat learning about Lanterns I didn't know existed. This segment is also easily the most emotional of the lot. I didn't know who Laira was, but was willing to be impressed when Jordan remarked that, other than Sinestro, there was no other Lantern with whom he would rather go into battle. We speedily learn of Laira's back story. For her first solo mission, Laira is deployed to her home world of Jade, which had just been declared a hostile planet. And to demonstrate that family dysfunction isn't only relegated to earthlings, Laira finds herself facing off against the evil Golden Dragon... her father. Despite conflicted allegiances, Laira proceeds to drop all manner of asskickery.
And then comes my favorite chapter, which I know better than to spoil for those not already clued in. There's a reason why "Mogo doesn't... socialize." Bolphunga the Unrelenting considers himself the universe's mightiest warrior and, sho' nuff, he's bested hundreds of combatants. But the last chump he felled contends that there is someone mightier than Bolphunga: the Green Lantern and cosmic legend known as Mogo. Off goes Bolphunga, eager to challenge Mogo, not knowing he doesn't stand one tiny bit of a chance. One of the Corps' greatest strengths lies in its diversity, and nothing and no one exemplifies this as wonderfully as Mogo. Not even that GL squirrel, and not even G'nort the GL mutt.
The next segment features Abin Sur, the magenta-skinned Lantern who would eventually pass his ring on to Hal Jordan. He meets a foe who can glimpse into the future and who informs Abin Sur of several worrying events in the future. Except that Abin Sur refuses to have truck with these bits of prophecy. Because there's just no way that a fellow ring bearer who calls himself "Sinestro" could possibly go bad. Anyway, we get a peek at the yellow-uniformed Sinestro Corps. Blackest Night set-up, anyone?
And, finally, the movie delivers the payoff to the framing narrative. With storytelling done, with nerves settled some, it's time for the hoedown. Krona has finally wormed his way out of his anti-matter universe of a prison, and with more of his shadow demons in tow, and so cue the big epic space battle. And Krona looks like an utter badasss, a moon-sized titan and formidable enough that it absolutely requires all the Green Lanterns - including Mogo - to put him down. Note that this film isn't for the kids. There is some wicked violence here, starting early on when a Green Lantern gets torn limb from limb. The animation is decent. The voice casting features Nathan Fillion knocking it out the park as Hal Jordan, Arnold Vosloo as Abin Sur, Kelly Hu as Laira, Elisabeth Moss as Arisia, and Jason Isaacs ("Lucius Malfoy" to you) as Sinestro. I'm not too sure about Henry Rollins' take as Kilowog. He doesn't sound nearly growly enough. But Rowdy Roddy Piper as Bolphunga is pretty sweet. GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD KNIGHTS may not be for everyone, especially if you're not a fan of anthologies, and because a lot of these characters are pretty obscure. But it'll juice you up for the Ryan Reynolds film, and there's plenty of action and respectful nods to the GLC mythos. It's certainly got a consistent thru line, something you can't say about BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHT. I'd venture to say that EMERALD KNIGHTS is worth a peek just for the "Mogo Doesn't Socialize" story alone.
This DVD's bonus features: an inriguing sneak peek at BATMAN: YEAR ONE (00:10:44 minutes long); a look at the most recently released animated film ALL-STAR SUPERMAN (00:10:45 minutes); the trailer for the video game GREEN LANTERN: RISE OF THE MANHUNTERS; and a promo trailer for the DCU App (from which you can access DC's digital comics).