GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD KNIGHTS (2011) (***)
Working as a companion to the live-action feature GREEN LANTERN, this animated anthology feature focuses its stories on the lesser known Green Lantern Corps members. One overarching tale links the five vignettes, which are origin stories of sorts for five characters. It’s like a primer for the Green Lantern world.
The conceit for the film is that Green Lantern Hal Jordan (Nathan Fillion, TV’s FIREFLY) is showing a new recruit named Arisia (Elisabeth Moss, TV’s MAD MEN) the ropes. Meanwhile an epic threat is forming that will need all the Green Lantern Corps to work as a team.
As her introduction to the Corps, Jordan tells her the story of the first lanterns. The guardians of the universe have created powerful rings to award to the greatest warriors in the universe. They are to serve as the police in outer space. The rings select many of the great warriors, but lastly choose Avra, the guardians’ meager scribe. Through their patrols, Avra discovers the true potential of the rings.
Arisia is worried about going to boot camp under the gruff Kilowog (rocker Henry Rollins). But Jordan tells her that Kilwog is nothing compared to drill sergeant Deegan (Wade Williams, TV’s PRISON BREAK), who trained Kilowog. Jordan’s tale goes back to how Kilowog impressed the hard-as-nails Deegan when he was just a recruit.
The best tale in the film brings to life the “What Price Honor” tale of Laira Omoto (Kelly Hu, THE SCORPION KING). Her story is epic. She was trained to be a martial arts master by her father Kentor who died. On her first solo mission as a Green Lantern, she is sent back to her home planet where her past comes back to haunt her as a corrupting force has laid siege to the capitol. The tale of loyalty is a grand scope and gives Laira the most compelling and bittersweet origin.
The next tale is the weakest, however. Bolphunga the Unrelenting (Roddy “Rowdy” Piper, THEY LIVE) is a thug who wants to prove that he is the greatest warrior in the universe. In order to prove this he seeks out the legendary reclusive Green Lantern Mogo. The short has a comedic bent and takes too long to get to its telegraphed ending. However, the tale pays off in the conclusion of the overarching tale.
The last tale Jordan tells is that of Abin Sur (Arnold Vosloo, THE MUMMY), the Lantern who bestowed his ring on Jordan. Long before that, he was partners with Sinestro (Jason Isaacs, HARRY POTTER). The two rounded up criminals from around the universe, but Abin Sur hears word that his partner has been corrupted. For Green Lantern fans, the mystery is less strong, but the vignette does attempt to create some nice tension. The section ponders the responsibility of wielding the rings and one’s loyalty to their friends.
While each story never gets the chance to go into too much depth, the film works as a nice primer to the personal stories of the Green Lantern Corps and brings greater depth to their missions as a whole. Of the anthology animated films from DC this is the best, but it just lacks the depth of something like GREEN LANTERN: FIRST FLIGHT. In conjunction though, FIRST FLIGHT and EMERALD KNIGHTS work as a great introduction to the world of Green Lantern.