Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A few words about the "Green Lantern: The Animated Series" pilot

Are you sitting? Won't make a difference; prepare to have your mind blown. I just finished watching the two-part pilot of the new, CGI "Green Lantern: The Animated Series" and it was fantastic!

I know, right? I was prepared to hate its guts! The previews looked horrible! The visual style was crap and between that movie that nobody wants to remember and DC trying to make Hal interesting by having him wisecrack constantly, my interest in the license had started wearing thin.
But if this pilot is any indication of what the rest of the series will be, we're talking some great super-hero cartoon, in the vein of Justice League!

Okay, okay, it's far from that level of quality yet, but with the exception of "The Brave and the Bold" and a select few episodes from the "Legion of Super-Heroes" and "The Batman", it's been a long time since we had a truly entertaining DC-based cartoon.

Since I already mentioned the visual style, we may as well start from there. It's not great-looking, but it's not because of lack of trying. It's an inherent issue with this style. The show uses CG, which I dislike for cartoons not made by Pixar to begin with and worse, it directly translates the artistic approach of Bruce Timm's legendary cartoons to this computer-generated mess (it should be noted that Timm's serving as an executive producer on this one as well).

However, the direction is great, the locales look nice and varied, the action sequences are fast, vibrant and exciting and there is a fair amount of attention to detail. The truth is, this style is one of those things that can just bug you for no good reason, but with so much work put into making it look good, I found myself forgetting about it altogether and just being drawn into the action.

How do you breath IN SPACE?

The writing is very good as well. It's not perfect; Hal still wise-cracks, even though considerably less than in most recent incarnations, a couple of lines of dialogue are forced and a lot of it may seem derivative of other sci-fi work. But it's really, really enjoyable.

The writers opted to avoid doing Hal's origin story. He is the protagonist, but the entire show is more of a Corps cartoon. Even the Sinestro Corps is nowhere to be found, as the big bads for this season are the Red Lanterns. This was likely done to push DC's current "Red Lanterns" title, but I honestly don't care either way. There is moral ambiguity throughout this entire conflict, with the Red Lanterns most assuredly having a reason to be pissed off as they extend their control over the Universe, while the Guardians seem to be a bit more shady than the Green Lanterns may had thought.

Transformers fans, take note; this is the closest you'll get to Pre-Great War Autobots vs. Decepticons in a cartoon for the foreseeable future.

The other thing that the creators did right is the very fact that this is more of GL Corps show. I never saw the Ryan Reynolds movie (I'll eventually get around to it), but despite my best hopes I was sceptical from the moment I found out they would focus on Hal. Not only is Hal boring (and no amount of wise-cracking is going to change that; take note DC), but when your source material is Space Cops, you damn better make a space epic. This cartoon gets that. The scope is huge and the stakes are high. The first episode starts with the horrifying last breath of a Green Lantern!

In Brightest Day, in Blackest Night... bah, you know how that goes.

I don't want to spoil the story much, but in the climax of the second part of the pilot, you get heroism, self-sacrifice and hope. Most interestingly, this comes through a one-off character, someone not from the regular cast, someone who won't be returning; but with just a few minutes of proper character exposition and solid writing, you can't help but feel for him.

Last, I should note that the voice cast is fantastic. The vast majority of them, you've heard pretty much EVERYWHERE before, but this doesn't mean they don't turn in great performances here as well; in fact, a lot of the sentimental punch the show packs comes from their delivery. A few of the names include Josh Keaton (Spectacular Spider-Man, Metal Gear Solid 3) as Hal, Kevin Michael Richardson (Panthro in the new Thundercats, Bulkhead in Transformers Prime) as Kilowag, Tom Kenny (Spongebob Squarepants, Starscream in Transformers Animated) as Zilius Zox and Jennifer Hale (a shitload of roles, including Naomi Hunter in Metal Gear Solid) as Carol Ferris.

Megatron and Starscream. Well, sort of.

Honestly, the pilot is everything a super-hero cartoon should be. It has a lot of room for improvement, but it has even more potential and I have little doubt that the best is yet to come. If you've been wasting your time on sub-par crap like "Young Justice" (which makes a job out of squandering its own potential), then you really shouldn't miss out on this one.

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