This is a pretty great time to be into super heroes on television — if you like animated kid-friendly shows, that is. All of the live-action superhero shows have fizzled, but meanwhile we're getting a huge wave of new DC Comics shows.
And judging by the one-hour premiere of Green Lantern: The Animated Series, which launches tomorrow night, we're in for some serious fun.
The new animated Green Lantern hits the ground (or rather outer space) running. Hal Jordan is already Green Lantern, so we skip the whole "origin story" thing. Instead, we go straight to scenes of Hal test-flying a billion-dollar plane, saving a train full of innocent people, and then getting hauled in front of the Guardians because — surprise, surprise — Hal is in trouble for reckless behavior.
A few things I loved about the one-hour pilot are: 1) There is just non-stop crazy action, which never feels boring or repetitive. Hal Jordan more than earns his daredevil reputation, coming up with insane stunts in every situation. 2) The characterization is really clear and fun — Hal Jordan, in particular, is really clearly sketched out, and you pretty much know who this guy is from the first five minutes. 3) The dialogue is really snappy, including lots of neat, quotable lines. At one point, Hal Jordan's ring is almost out of power, and Kilowog asks him what he wants written on his tombstone. Hal replies: "He remembered to keep his ring fully charged for the rest of his long life." And then goes and does something clever and badass.
People will inevitably compare this animated series to the live-action movie starring Ryan Reynolds — and it's true that one is way more fun than the other. But at least some of the reasons why the animated show works way better than the live-action movie have to do with their respective formats — this computer animated program can visit tons of alien planets without blowing a hole in the budget, and people expect a fast, zippy pace from made-for-TV animation. On the other hand, it's true that the animated Hal Jordan is a badass who proactively confronts problems instead of wallowing. And the animated series wisely avoids descending into psychobabble about Hal Jordan's daddy issues and his need to overcome his fears.
In the pilot, the Red Lanterns, led by Atrocitus, are killing a series of inexperienced, barely trained Green Lanterns out in frontier space. The Guardians aren't sure what, if anything, to do about this — so Hal Jordan and Kilowog steal a totally awesome spaceship and zoom out to frontier space to deal with it themselves. Heroics, and completely idiotic recklessness, ensue. The Red Lanterns are a pretty good first villain, because their obsession with rage and revenge makes them pretty vicious — and we get to see what happens when a Red Lantern has qualms.
You can definitely see the hand of Bruce Timm, the guy who helped make DC Comics characters into animated superstars, in this new series. And just like his Batman series created a dark, brooding, slightly claustrophobic atmosphere and his Superman and Justice League shows went big and splashy, Timm has created a whole new feel for Green Lantern: brash, optimistic, and a bit crazy. The whole thing is a non-stop joy ride.
If there's one thing I'm not crazy about in this new series, it's the computer animation. It's a lot better than other made-for-TV computer animated stuff I've seen, but it still has a slightly cheap, sterile feeling. But I got used to it pretty quickly, and then it was fine. Oh, and Hal Jordan's sexism is definitely very much in evidence, but it never gets super annoying.
Here are a couple new clips: