Mar 25

Cartoon Review – Green Lantern TAS 1st ½ Season

One of the latest DC animated series is a CGI Green Lantern developed by Bruce Timm, Giancarlo Volpe, and Jim Krieg, that mixes a comic book feel with some Star Trek. With the second half of season 1 returning in a few weeks I’ll be looking at the first half of the season, which has a semi-completed story arc. So with thirteen episodes it’s easy enough to look at and judge how well it’s done.

It’s a bit of a mixed series that has a lot of things going both for and against it. It is a decent series that has a lot of classic sci-fi elements, but it has its share of problems.

The show starts off with Hal Jordan, the Earth Green Lantern, and his ‘bubby cop’ Kilowog stealing a prototype interceptor spaceship to rescue Green Lantern’s being hunted and killed in Frontier Space, which is 18 months away by conventional means. There they find a new enemy, the Red Lantern’s, who want to kill all the Green Lantern’s and their bosses, the Guardians. They blame them for the destruction of their home worlds. Joining them is the Interceptor AI Aya and renegade Red Lantern Razer, as they search for allies to help stop the Red Lantern invasion.

The series has a half season long story arc, which is largely broken up in the middle for more episodic stories. These deal with the characters and the search for allies. There is a sense of classic sci-fi in these episodes, especially the original Star Trek. Those episodes are good, but a bit predictable. That’s the first big problem, the writing feels very safe and conventional, there’s not a lot of subtlety in the storytelling. Everything is competently put together and, for the most part, well written but you can tell where each episode is going five minutes in. The second big problem is the story arc, which doesn’t feel planned as much as they had ideas but didn’t decide on anything till they were writing the end of the season. For example in the first episode the Frontier was shown as this:

We see that there is a limit to the Guardians resources so there are only a handful of Green Lantern’s in the Frontier. It’s a good way to show three-dimensional space and see that while they are powerful their reach is not infinite. Adding some realism to the space opera. Then in episode 11 this is what it looks like:

The Frontier is now called the “Forgotten Zone” and there’s an asteroid barrier blocking it off from the rest of the galaxy that’s been there for millennia. This goes against what was previously established for the Frontier, where it only just took a really long time to get there. We see other races and things from outside the barrier had somehow managed to get through despite it supposedly being impossible. In the same episode that introduced this we meet a group of Thanagarian pirates, who in the comics and this series come from Guardian Space. No explanation for how they got through the barrier is ever offered. It’s a plot point only there to give a reason why the Red Lanterns haven’t invaded yet. Which is something that could’ve been explained in a myriad of other way that don’t cause plot holes.

The characters are another matter. Hal Jordan is our main character and he’s a smooth talking, charismatic, flirt, who “flies by the seat of his pants” (and many other hot shot pilot clichés) and has so far gotten no real character growth or development. He’s played by Josh Keaton (Spectacular Spider-Man, Ocelot in MGS 3) who does a masterful job at making Hal very likable and brings the charisma for how Hal gets away with everything he says and does. Keaton props up the character and makes something out of so very little.

Next is Kilowog, Hal’s alien Lantern bubby. He’s jobbed for most of the show and is self described as being the guy who “just makes hammers.” He’s the big tough guy who gets taken down incredibly easily to show a situation is serious. In the comics he’s a tough as nails drill sergeant, who’s probably best described as Clancy Brown’s drill sergeant Dib from Starship Troopers. Here he’s Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Worf, big and tough, but not that bright and taken down every episode.

Razer, the renegade Red Lantern, is the only new ally the team gets that actually joins them on their jaunt around the Frontier. He’s the most fleshed out and developed character on the show. I guess they actually had to develop him since they needed to explain why he defected, why he became a Red Lantern in the first place, and what effect being a Red Lantern has on him now that he’s changed his ways. He also brings the snark to the group, which naturally creates friction and makes the group feel more real.

Finally there’s Aya, the ships AI. She’s the second most developed character on the show, with her constant growing in her wish to be more like a Green Lantern. She also strikes an unusual friendship/romantic interest (because we can’t have two people of the opposite sex interact platonically) which is one of the better elements of the series. Though I do think they gave her a body a bit too soon and should’ve held off for a few more episodes.

Then there are the additional characters that popped up during the course of the show. Most of them are fairly generic with little to them other than having a great voice actor. Such is the case of Saint Walker, voiced by Phil Morris, who’s a cipher, wise one, type figure. He’s popular and probably has more character than our two main leads, but his entire plot is extremely contrived. There’s just too many questions that are just answered with, “because the plot says so, now shut up ‘cause this is meant to be awesome.”

On the animation side of things the cg is quite nice of this type of series. It takes a bit f getting used to the textureless style they’re using, though. The ring constructs are all really great to look at with them being very individualised to each character. Even the Red Lantern’s have a much cruder style with them making not really making constructs as such because their rings are fuelled by hate and rage. Design wise it’s very much in the Bruce Timm style and all the designs for both the characters and the alien worlds are great to see. Though because of the textureless models there are times and characters were clothes look like they’re painted on or just skin.

Overall the series is average and watchable, if a bit paint by numbers in the story department. Razer’s character growth does push it above average at times as well. It’s a good action and space adventure show that has the best cg animation I’ve seen in a TV show. Though it doesn’t try to reach beyond its means. I’d recommend giving it a watch to see if it’s your cup of tea despite its problems. It’s not the best show out there at the moment, but it’s a better than many others.