No Foible Shall Escape His Sight: Alex Reviews “Green Lantern: Emerald Knights”

I’m not really sure how I got guestlisted to go see Green Lantern: Emerald Knights on Wednesday. All I know is that my friends and Nerd Mafia compatriots at the Silver Snail and Nerd Girl Pinups had guest list spots, and pinup / naked nerd Katherine Curtis saw fit to hand me one at a recent function. She also gently implied she’d nail my tongue to a tree for being a bad nerd if I didn’t go, and I’m not one for confrontation, so off I went.

Now, I’ve never been a comic geek, and the few mainstream superhero titles I read growing up were more Marvel than DC (I’m not playing favourites, I swear), so my knowledge of the Green Lantern mythos is spotty at best. I’m given to believe they’re something of an intergalactic police force; they have a sing-songy oath about defending the light; and there are rings involved. That was about the sum of my Green Lantern savvy going into this flick, so take this review with a grain of neophyte salt.

I’ll admit I was a bit surprised Scotiabank Theater was showing a DVD release – an animated one, no less – on the big screen, but my surprise dissipated as soon as I saw the sheer number of people who’d turned out in all their Lantern regalia to see the show. Unsurprisingly the Toronto nerd community was well-represented (many of the Nerd Mafia turned up and the screening was hosted by Ajay and Teddy of SPACE fame) but I was genuinely pleased to see nary a seat unoccupied, by a lot of faces I didn’t recognize. Nerd solidarity!

In lieu of traditional previews, the theater opted to showcase some interviews and behind-the-scenes extras from upcoming DC Animated projects, including the much-anticipated Batman: Year One adaptation. For the record, it looks pretty good – but that’s a review for another time. On to the Lanterns.

All right: I’m not a comic fan, but I am a cartoon fan when it’s done right. For me, “done right” requires solid animation, compelling writing (bearing in mind animated superhero flicks have to be mostly kid-friendly) and perhaps most importantly, outstanding voice acting. Emerald Knights delivered on all three counts.

The animation style was over-the-top enough to accommodate stories about multispecies galactic protectors who can blow up spaceships with their jewelry, without trespassing into the realm of utter absurdity (also known as ‘anime’). There’s something refreshing about watching an animated action film – after having my brain calcified by so many years’ worth of green screening and wire stunts, I kind of enjoy relaxing my critic reflexes and willingly suspending my disbelief. The action scenes in Knights were satisfyingly epic and well-realized, and from what little I know of the comic, everyone was looking their best.

I wasn’t initially sold on the premise of Knights: it was less a cohesive storyline and more a series of vignettes strung together by an overarcing plot that probably only made sense to Lantern insiders (without giving too much away, apparently there’s a very angry man who lives in a sun somewhere – living in a ball of superheated gas has remarkably little effect on his spectacular bad-guy goatee – and the Green Lanterns have to stop him from blowing up what I can only imagine is “everything”). But the vignettes were extremely enjoyable one-off stories in and of themselves. The dialogue was surprisingly natural – no offense intended, but superhero dialogue is usually pretty stilted and steeped in Captain Obvious exposition – and the stories ranged from touching to ominous to startlingly funny. As a non-fan I got a unique kick out of one particular vignette that introduced a very…unusual member of the Green Lantern corps: it was that, among other examples, that led me to believe Knights was carefully constructed on the scripting level to appeal equally to hardcore Lantern fans and tourists like me.

And then there was the voice acting. Oh, the voice acting. This is the most important element of my cartoon trifecta, and rarely outside of certain gaming franchises have I seen better casting choices than in Knights. To start, the cast featured two of my top five celebrity hetero man-crushes: appearing as Hal Jordan is Nathan “Captain Tightpants” Fillion (who I maintain would have been a better choice than Ryan Reynolds for the live-action Lantern and pretty much everything else requiring a male lead), and as stalwart but grumbly Kilowog is legendary aging alternative icon Henry Rollins, one of my primary influences in everything from comedy to writing to music. Both were excellent choices for their roles, though Hank would probably laugh about his inability to find speaking parts that don’t involve a lot of yelling and/or swearing. Add in Wade Williams as the delightful drill sargeant Deegan and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in his hilarious turn as Bolphunga the Unrelenting (possibly my favourite part of the flick) as well as a host of other talent, and you have a recipe for a truly enjoyable ninety minutes.

Oh, look: it’s “Get To The Point, Alex” time already. Did I like Green Lantern: Emerald Knights? Yes, and a lot more than I expected to. Does it get the Nerd Folk Prophet seal of approval? You bet. This is the first time since Star Trek: The Animated Series that I’ve considered picking up a cartoon DVD: Knights sold me not only on its own merits. but on the entire DC Animated franchise as a whole. I’m looking forward to running through their back catalogue and checking out new releases as they become available, and I’d urge you to do the same.  Truly, a movie suited to brightest day and blackest night.

Yes, I know.  You may now commence with unimpressed groaning and also possibly hate mail.

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~ by Nerds with Guitars on June 3, 2011.

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