The straight-to-video animated feature seems made just for them, at times at the risk of alienating newcomers to the DC Universe.
As “Batman: Gotham Knights” did, “Green Lantern: Emerald Knights” takes the anthology approach, telling multiple stories within a loose framework. Here, Green Lantern (voiced by Nathan Fillion, TV’s “Castle”) is showing the ropes to the Green Lantern Corps’ new recruit, the young Arisia (Elizabeth Moss, TV’s “Mad Men”). While they wait in line to charge the batteries of their super-powered rings, he shares five tales of past and present Green Lanterns. (See, virtually anyone or anything across the whole of existence can be chosen by the powers that be to join the monochromatic superhero ranks.)
“The First Lantern” is about — wait for it — the first Green Lantern. Avra was a mere alien scribe to the Guardians of the Universe (although in charge of the Green Lanterns, they look like old, blue dwarfs) when the ring chose him. “Kilowog” details a military-style training session led by the dog-looking Kilowog (rocker Henry Rollins), complete with sandstorm, fisticuffs and the ol’ battle cry of “This is not a drill!” and “Ya freakin’ bastards!”
“Mogo Doesn’t Socialize” takes a detour into humor, and if you don’t know who Mogo is — I didn’t — I won’t spoil its punch line. I will say that this segment looks and plays like an outtake from the sci-fi cult classic “Heavy Metal.”
In “Abin Sur,” that character (Arnold Vosloo of “The Mummy” franchise) confronts the villainous Sinestro (Jason Isaacs, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”), while in “Laira,” the ponytailed woman named just that (Kelly Hu, TV’s “The Vampire Diaries”) fights — literally — to prove herself worthy of living outside of her father’s shadow. It includes some nice scenes of animated kung fu, which is difficult to pull off with any fluidity.
Finally, the wraparound comes to a head as Arisia joins her fellow Corps members in a to-the-death fight with an interstellar force of anti-matter.
With all these strange-sounding character names and odd-looking beings (hey, is that a Green Lantern squirrel? Yes!), it may sound like watching “Emerald Knights” could take some acclimation. Indeed, it does, if you’re wanting to absorb every minute detail. These stories are based on previously published comics, so their is an assumption of backstory and continuity to a large degree, and Green Lantern doesn’t enjoy the household name value as Superman or Batman. Trust me: We don’t get the same star treatment as afforded Arisia. I also wish that the filmmakers had taken another page from “Gotham Knights” and doled the stories out among creators with wildly different visual styles.
On the other hand, the segments are so short and action-packed, it’s tough to fault the film too much. It’s fun simply to look at, especially on Blu-ray, which showcases animation as it should be seen, especially when it’s this good.
Blu-ray is also the way to go here, for the sheer amount of extras, not all of which can be found on the DVD version. The bonuses include featurettes that discuss the making of the movie, as well as flesh out the meaning that the film doesn’t fully offer; a rough look at the gritty “Batman: Year One,” the next DCU animated feature; and an episode from Cartoon Network’s current “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” kids’ series that’s simply too jubilant to be enjoyed by kids only. —Rod Lott