Green Lantern: The Animated Series premiere
“Beware My Power”
Writers: Ernie Altbacker & James Krieg
Voice actors: Josh Keaton, Kevin Michael Richardson, Tom Kenny, Jonathan Adams, Jennifer Hale, Grey DeLisle, Jason Spisak, Ian Abercrombie, Brian George & Kurtwood Smith
Directors: Sam Liu & Rick Morales
Producer: Warner Bros. Animation
Channels: Cartoon Network (U.S.)/Teletoon (Canada)
I was thrilled to discover the new Green Lantern computer-animated cartoon was debuting on Teletoon, the Canadian counterpart to the Cartoon Network, on the same night as it was in America. Usually, these new specialty-channel ‘toons end up airing months later in Canada as they do in the U.S. Unfortunately, my surprise and excitement at seeing this latest foray into animation for one of DC’s properties quickly gave way to confusion and disappointment. While I realize the live-action Green Lantern didn’t perform to expectations, I’m at a loss to understand why the producers and writers behind the cartoon didn’t follow the continuity set out in the movie. While the use of Red Lanterns appears to build on the popularity of what’s developed in related comics in recent years, the writers take the concept in a completely different direction, one that doesn’t quite work.
Green Lantern Hal Jordan is summoned to Oa for a discipline hearing over his rather rough handling of a diplomatic mission when he, some fellow Lanterns and the Guardians of the Universe learn auxiliary Green Lanterns in frontier space are being murdered by an unknown assailant or assailants. It would take months to travel to the frontier sectors by conventional Lantern power, but Hal and Kilowog steal an experiment Lantern-powered spaceship to make the trek in minutes. They arrive in time to prevent the murder of another Lantern, but soon find themselves outmatched by members of something called the Red Lantern Corps.
Computer animation is certainly a logical choice for this property, given the futuristic, space-opera elements and the glowing green energy and constructs the title character creates. It lacks the kind of sharp detail audiences have come to expect from such fare (thanks to the meticulous storytelling of such computer-animation studios as Pixar and Dreamworks Animation). There’s a cartoony approach to the designs, which seems like an odd fit for the subject matter. There’s a harsh tone to some of the plotting. Murder and death are surprisingly common in the plot, so the simpler, lighter look of some elements clashes with the story.
I was quite surprised to discover this series was maintaining the usual secret-identity shtick as the early, Silver Age GL comics, in that Carol Ferris is unaware of Hal’s super-hero alter ego. Carol’s ability to see right through Hal’s disguise in the movie was a great moment in the film, but not only was I disappointed to see that undone here, it just doesn’t make much sense to start things over from scratch with the cartoon. Why aren’t the producers and writers building on the movie’s plot rather than offering yet another alternate interpretation of the title character, its supporting cast and other elements.
It appears the initial, ongoing plotline of the series will see Hal and Kilowog stranded for a time in frontier space, facing off against the Red Lanterns. It seems awfully limiting, and it made the one-hour debut episode feel unfinished. There’s no sense of resolution. Furthermore, the concept of almost unreachable “frontier space” felt more than a little forced. The movie established Green Lanterns can travel through space via wormholes, and a quick visual early in this episode seems to indicate the same for this continuity. But suddenly there are sectors that are too far? Of course, this plot device allows the cartoon’s creators to introduce another “character” for the deep-space mission: Aya, the artificially intelligent spaceship that’s also serving as Hal and Kilowog’s home away from home. I realize this development might be done in part to emphasize Hal’s status as a pilot, but I just couldn’t buy into the notion it was necessary. The writers seem to be imposing limits on Lantern power, which is supposed to be limited only by imagination (and charge duration).
I was also confused as to why the cartoon features the Red Lanterns’ power emanating both from their rings and the fiery breath/discharge spewing from their mouths. I could easily accept the elimination of the latter manifestation as part of an adaptation for a wider and younger audience, but I don’t get why the creators have opted to have their cake and eat it too. Furthermore, I didn’t find the conflicted Red Lantern, Razer, to be at all interesting or convincing. Maybe later in the series an episode or two about a Red Lantern experiencing a crisis of conscience would’ve been interesting, but this early in the series, the focus needs to be on establishing the villains and their goals.
The voice casting was a little lacklustre for this show as well. Kurtwood Smith’s performance the frontier Lantern really stood out because his is the only truly recognizable, celebrity voice in the series. Sure, I recognized Kevin Michael Richardson as Kilowog, but he’s a mainstay of voice acting in animation, best known for that kind of work. The voice acting was competent overall, but it never really dazzled me either.
As a fan of DC’s characters since grade school, I always get excited when one of its properties is adapted into another medium, and given the track record of Warner Bros. Animation since 1992 in handling these characters in animation, I get even more excited when it’s involved. From Batman: The Animated Series to Justice League Unlimited, from Batman: The Brave and the Bold to Young Justice, I’m always eager to see the next new episode. That streak comes to an end with Green Lantern: The Animated Series. I expect I’ll catch an episode here and there in the future, but I won’t be specifically looking for them in the weeks and months ahead. 4/10
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