Mania Review: Green Lantern the Animated Series - Mania.com



Mania Grade: B

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  • TV Series: Green Lantern: The Animated Series
  • Episode: Pilot
  • Starring the Voices of: Josh Keaton, Jonathan Adams, Tom Kenny, Kevin Michael Richardson and Jason Spisak
  • Written by: Jim Krieg and Ernie Altbacker
  • Directed by: Sam Liu and Rick Morales
  • Network: Cartoon Network
  • Series:

Mania Review: Green Lantern the Animated Series

Brightest day just got a little brighter.

By Rob Vaux     November 13, 2011

The new Green Lantern series begins the game with a big strike against it. Warners was clearly hoping for a big hit with the live-action movie; in their ideal world, the new cartoon would debut amid a glut of action figures, excited sequel talk and little kids dressed up as Ryan Reynolds for Halloween. It didn’t happen. The movie was a major disappointment and the new series opens amid the sour taste of what might have been rather than the triumph of what was. Does it stand up to the challenge?

By and large yes. Its trump card remains the solid script and a nice flowing sense of action, which helps it overcome its single glaring deficiency (more on that in a sec). It sticks with Hal Jordan (voiced by Josh Keaton) as its primary figure and sets up a simple yet effective plot arc for the first series. Warners decided that Sinestro would not be a part of the show, so the Red Lanterns (and specifically Atrocitus) have stepped up to fill in the gap. They provide a nice high concept to keep the action focused: the enemy is operating in a remote part of the galaxy, so after a brief opening on Earth, Hal and Kilowog (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson) are shot off to the frontier – so far away that they need a special ship to get there.

They’re thus left cut off and on their own, facing a superior force with nasty long-term plans for the Guardians. Directors Sam Liu and Ernie Altbacker play up the GLs’ underdog status, as well as their complete lack of knowledge about the Red Lanterns. That allows us to learn as they do, even as they struggle against an enemy with power they can’t readily counteract. The villains evince the sense of moral ambiguity that the comics have brought to them: obsessed with vengeance, but possessing some very good reasons for their rage. The pilot episode is wise enough to let those reasons be for the moment (though comics fans may have some idea) and plant a few suspicions in the Guardians’ direction.

That also helps them establish Jordan as an interesting character rather than the bland stock figure he might have become. His maverick tendencies and willingness to defy orders are a bit cliché, but deliver strong justification for his clever quips and instantly put us on his side. Kilowog is a welcome addition as well, rendered perfectly by Richardson and establishing his no-nonsense tough guy in contrast to Jordan’s seat-of-his-pants iconoclasm makes for a great pairing. (Longtime GL fans will likely be salivating at the thought of the character showing up every week.)

The directors pack that with a lot of keen action, plenty of constructs, and a plot narrative that never pushes any boundaries, but also never overplays its hand. That strong foundation should provide for an engaging series, even if the budget can’t always handle the epic scope they’re striving for. Speaking of which… the choice to go with CG images produces a huge flaw that undermines the show’s otherwise first-rate efforts. While the flow is good, the modeling itself looks cheap and shoddy.  The characters are deliberately stylized, with very few details and an extremely simplistic look. The Clone Wars adopts a similar technique, but uses texturing to deliver a unique visual tone. While theirs is a deliberate choice, Green Lantern’s models betray signs of corner-cutting, and distract from the otherwise agreeable whole.

If you can look past that, however, the show displays real signs of promise. The epic scope fits it well, and keeping it in the stars instead of on Earth avoids the temptation of bringing in other DC heroes as cameos (though the producers have promised that other human Lanterns like Guy Gardner might make an appearance).  The story arc displays considerable intrigue, but can also deliver good stand-alone episodes, so newcomers can get up to speed without having to keep a scorecard. Considering the huge let-down of the live-action film, any Lantern fan worth his ring will happily take some visual clunkiness in exchange for all that. We’ll see how it goes once the regular schedule is set. For now, Hal Jordan is off to a reliable start, and hope springs anew for the Green Lanterns. 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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McQuestion 11/14/2011 3:28:24 AM

 Would be nice if the G.L. movie itself had such qualities to recommend it. Warner Brothers has all the money in the world and still can't A) put out a good G.L. movie or B) put out a G.L. cartoon without cutting corners. At least the story is half decent. I'll definitely check it out.

Mossy1221 11/14/2011 4:03:55 AM

I watched the first episode. Was not impressed with the CG.  It was just slightly smotther then that of the late 90's Beast Wars or Reboot.   Corner cutting to say the least.  

larkcall 11/14/2011 4:44:05 AM

Don't know why they had to go with this type of animation.  Good story though.  Is this going to remain in the Delta Quadrant though?  Feels a bit Voyagerish.

 

TremorDeth 11/14/2011 5:46:37 AM

Gonna have to overlook the animation, but a good story is a good story...

ObiWannaJones 11/14/2011 6:59:06 AM

 Larkcall: if GL remains in the Delta Quadrant, maybe we can get a CG Seven of Nine!  

millean 11/14/2011 8:28:08 AM

Guess I'm the only one who actually likes the visual style.  So be it.  (That just means I'll enjoy this more than you, and I can live with that.)

Not a huge fan of the stranded in space angle the show has seemed to adopt.  But I can live with it for now.  Though I'm sure it is just a matter of time before we see an Adam-Strange-esque zeta ray transport in a special guest of the week and be retruned by episode's end.

All in all, I really liked the pilot.  Hope it does well.

Also, I'm intrigued by the DC Nation promo we saw coming in 2012.  Looks like there may be some cool stuff in that, though I was definitely NOT a fan of the short that we got Friday night.  I'll take what I can get, though.

Dedpool3678 11/14/2011 9:34:50 AM

I liked it! I'm still getting used to the 3D Bruce Timm style art but I like it!

samson 11/14/2011 10:37:47 AM

 I liked it. I'd give it a good solid "B," also. The visuals didn't bother me one bit. I thought it made the action that much better. 

My only complaint is WB keeps going back to Hal Jordan. There is a whole generation of kids who grew up with Kyle Rainer from the comics or John Steward from the JLU show. Why not run with either of them? I felt that way about the movie, too. Hal is cool. I grew up with Hal. But he's too cookie cutter for modern audiences. Same thing with Barry Allen.

They came up with new versions of those characters for a reason. And, those new versions worked. Why not stick with them?

millean 11/14/2011 11:08:50 AM

By the way, I see that Rob hates the visual style so much that he even refused to use a picture from the series to accompany the article.  Rumor has it he was looking for an example of a bad image from the pilot, but couldn't find one.  (I kid because I care).  :)

hanso 11/14/2011 3:17:51 PM

 Didn't care for the look.  

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