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San Diego Comic-Con 2009: "Green Lantern: First Flight" Takes Flight, Scrooge Returns To The Screen

A record of 120,000 ferocious fans are in attendance for this year’s San Diego Comic Con.  No less so than in the form of the Twi-tart, Twilight, fans as they are so affectionately called.  The Twi-tarts began camping outside Hall H of the San Diego Convention Center on Wednesday night in order to get the first crack at Hall H for Thursday’s panel of the new Twilight movie sequel, New Moon.  Hey, teenage girls like their eye candy as well.

But before girls could go crazy over their fantasy dreamboat, Robert Pattinson, fans were treated to a special presentation by director Rob Zemeckis and his new animated feature, A Christmas Carol, starring Jim Carrey and due for a November 2009 release date.  This was the first movie previewed for the Disney studios panel.  Patton Oswalt was the moderator for the panel and ushered out Zemeckis.  Zemeckis stressed that the motion capture technology and animation he’s used in previous movies such as Polar Express and Beowulf has now been “perfected.”  While I sort of liked Beowulf, the characters just came off really stiff, with very blank faces and eyes.  Zemeckis discussed how for Christmas Carol, they are now mapping the retinas of the eyes to improve the facial expressions of the animation.

(Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Le Studio/Wireimage. Click to enlarge)

The first clip featured Scrooge identifying his old business partner, Marley (Gary Oldman) in the morgue.  Scrooge yells at the mortician’s apprentice, Pip, and takes the coins off of Marley’s eyes.  Scrooge is such a miser.  Scrooge is then famously visited by Marley’s ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Past.  What was impressive about the footage is that it used a lot of dialogue verbatim from Charles Dickens’ original novel.  I will say, the animation and facials for these characters look much improved from Polar Express and Beowulf.  The major improvement being that the characters look to be more than just walking characters.

(©2009 ImageMovers Digital LLC. All Rights Reserved. Click to enlarge, or click here for the extra-large-sized version.)

Now for the QnA session.  Remember a little while back, Zemeckis hinted that there could be some sort of follow-up to the 1980’s classic, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?  Well someone did ask about this follow-up.  Zemeckis repeated that he can neither *confirm* or deny this movie.  However, Zemeckis seemed to be emphasizing the *confirm* word in his statement.  The other little tidbit Zemeckis revealed that all the characters introduced before in the first movie would come back as 2-D animated characters.  Hey, I’m all for it.  Roger Rabbit is one of my all time favorites, and at times its a highly underrated classic.  If they can do something special, like truly Toy Story 2 special with the story, I say do it. 

Later in the evening as part of the night time programming, fans could unwind in Room 20, for the sneak preview of the new direct to DVD animated feature from Warner Bros., Green Lantern: First Flight!  The DC animated movie and GL: FF producer, Bruce Timm, was in attendance to intro the movie.  And in what ensued to be one of the greatest moments ever in the history of this thing called Comic-Con, Timm asked a packed house to stand and recite the oath of the Green Lanterns.  By the time we hit, “All those who worship evil’s might,” a young girl in the row in front of me was asking a friend, “What have you gotten me into?”  Following the conclusion of the oath, Timm proudly exclaimed that we are such *expletive deleted* nerds.

 

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Nothing at Con can ever top that.  Timm then ran a video introduction from actress, Tricia Helfer, who portrays Boodika in the movie to address the fans.  Helfer apologized to the fans for not being there since she was filming in Bulgaria.  But she said she’s actually in the audience in costume as Green Lantern, so fans should stop looking.  The joke which wasn’t all that great fell flat on the audience, but hey, appreciate the attempt I suppose. 

Green Lantern: First Flight is the latest DC animated/Direct To DVD feature that’s due out this week and according to Timm is already available for download on Xbox Live.  The movie ran at just about a feature length or a hair under it, around 75-78 minutes.  The movie starts with a familiar origin to fans.  Hal Jordan (Christopher Meloni), is a test pilot working in a flight simulator at Ferris Air.  Hal’s an extreme hot dog and openly jokes about dating his boss, Carol (Olivia d’Abo), and her drinking habits in Cabo.  Then as many fans already know, a dying alien by the name of Abin Sur crash lands on Earth.  Abin Sur happens to be a Green Lantern, the police force and protectors of the universe.  In Abin Sur’s final act, he bequeaths his ring of power to Hal to succeed Sur to be the new Green Lantern.  And that covers the origin in the first five minutes followed by an impressive CG credit sequence with lots of green and floating Superman: The Movie style planets.

So very quickly the movie blows through the origin story of Hal as Green Lantern.  Not that it’s bad.  In a live action feature, this would take most of the first act or about half an hour.  However, as soon as the opening credits are over, Hal is already on patrol as Green Lantern, making an ear phone headpiece construct, and taking care of business quite well.  The story doesn’t express much on the learning curve, or the ring being powered by will.  Not that I’m a huge fan of Batman: The Brave And The Bold, but there was a slightly stronger bit of exposition in how the rings and the power of the rings work.  Hal is soon met by his new cohorts of the Green Lantern Corp. including Kilowog (Michael Madsen), Boodikka (Tricia Helfer), and Sinestro (Victor Garber).  Now just to be clear, and I don’t believe this is a spoiler by saying this, but Sinestro here is pretty much established as the bad guy earlier than you might expect.  Yes, he’s a Green Lantern.  Yes he takes Hal under his wing and mentors Hal, but its more as a means of Sinestro wanting to use and exploit Hal.  This Sinestro is basically like Denzel Washington’s Alonzo in Training Day.  He’s a corrupt cop that’s trying to be a “realist” in order to create a facade in front of the young, idealistic rookie.  Sinestro still has his own set of beliefs, values, and morals in justifying his behavior, and he is not one to be cross.  Sinestro definitely lives up to his name and commits some surprisingly brutal and disturbing acts, even for a PG-13 animated movie.  And Garber plays Sinestro with delicious and calculated intent. 

While the movie does sort of rush the story through the first act, it comes through in a strong, basic structure in the search for a weaponized version of “The Yellow Element.”  A source of power much like the Green Element which powers the core of the Green Lanterns, and the only known power in the universe that can resist the green.  Sinestro wishes to use this power in order to unseat the Guardians (the boss council of the Corp.) and bring what he feels is order and peace to the galaxy.  And of course, Hal Jordan being the hot dog hero that he is, won’t let that happen.  

The character designs by Jose Lopez, Walter Gatus, Thomas Perkins, and Gary Montalbano are refreshingly excellent.  There’s similarities to that Bruce Timm character style, but modified and evolved.  They gave an interesting touch to the Lantern costumes.  Rather than cloth uniforms, the outfits the Lanterns wear now look more like individualized armor.  The touches are mostly subtle and aren’t overbearing, but it works and gives a unique, visual take to the Corp. members.  

The CG animation moments blend in well during the action sequences.  At times the animation, specifically character movement came off a bit choppy and jagged.  This however could’ve been due to the projection system, but I’m not totally sure.  Characters I adore such as Ch’p and Arisia are in the movie, and they have speaking roles, but they are little more than glorified cameos unfortunately.  Arisia especially felt like she should have had more to do considering her past history with Hal Jordan in the comics, and the tasty potential there could’ve been in a Hal, Boodika, Carol, and Arisia love rectangle.

 

Those are small pickings for a fun DC animated experience.  And in comparison with the recent releases, this was definitely my favorite, though I haven’t watched Wonder Woman yet.  I feel it surpasses Superman/Doomsday and Justice League:  New Frontier easily.  Batman: Gotham Knight in my humble opinion was a disappointing and dull effort for the recent DC animated releases.  Now let’s hope we can see some Hollywood magic work this time around when the live action Green Lantern movie goes off. 

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