Green Lantern: First Flight
I decided that I needed a little break from the usual rough and tumble gore in order to give this animated feature from DC a chance. Several classic comic book characters have been receiving some rather decent animated adaptations on direct DVD in recent years, so there’s a fairly solid track record that this movie wouldn’t be gank. Unfortunately, the general fan base consensus had pretty much written off this movie and left it in rental limbo for me without much of a desire to skip ahead and give it a go. It was on my list for a long time and had some time longer to go before I decided to shuffle up the list and give it a viewing despite several warnings to the contrary. To be honest, I’m glad I did.
The film plays fast and loose with Hal Jordans’ origin, puts the Lantern into an early conflict with Synestro, and is forced to prove his worth as a member of a the Green Lantern Corps.. The film sort of plays out like an animated version of “Training Day” with Synestro in the Denzel Washington role, a bad cop with a good reputation taking on a rookie partner in the form of Hal Jordan. The two men try to track down a nefarious crime lord in possession of the dread “Yellow Substance” that is the only weakness to the Green Lantern power rings. We find out that Synestro isn’t exactly on the side of the saints as Jordan slowly proves his worth and gains the respect of his fellow Lanterns.
The animation is good with solid action pieces and fantastic attention to detail. The voice acting puts me in the mind that perhaps Michael Madsen should actually BE cast as Kilowog at some point, but everyone else sort of falls to the wayside and pretty much phone in their performances. The script is decent, but no where near the level of writing many fans would have come to expect in following up the much more ambitious Brave New World project from a few years back. But with the upcoming live action film on the way, First Flight is a good prep toon for young fans to whet their appetites and maybe get into the fan boy spirit of things. And this is where I think a lot of reviewers have the film wrong… if they were expecting an edgier sort of “Batman”-esque feature, they’ve entirely forgotten what it is to be a kid and watch cartoons on Dad’s lap.
3.5 out of 5
The MPAA doesn’t always make a lot of sense to me. As an “industry run” ratings board, they are given a lot of leeway to make some fairly bizarre choices with absolutely no oversight on precisely what they do or by what criteria certain movies are judged. There’s a fantastic documentary on the MPAA called “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” and features a number of film comparisons, the reason for the boards’ initial existence, and closes with a revelation on the identities of several people involved with the MPAA. Ultimately, however, the MPAA is beholden to no one and they continue to cast ratings in ways that make very little sense to the viewers. I could do a whole rant about the MPAA and their utterly ineffectual existence with the day’s modern technology and means of distributing information regarding film content… but this is all actually a prelude to my review.
I’m not certain where the hard-R rating came from on this creature feature, unless maybe a few cuss bombs were thrown about a little too carelessly. The violence isn’t especially graphic, though it features several insects blowing up in white-gooey messes and spewing webs and such. It’s actually a fairly tame movie with some decent comedy, and a PG-13 rating probably would have guaranteed this film saw at least a slightly larger theatrical run… as it is, the film looks doomed to DVD shelves and late night Syfy Channel reruns before it will ever gather any sort of cult following. Despite the lack of B-movie theatrical experiences, video store desperation purchases, and the recent boom of big budget films available on demand through our cable or computers… I do think that B-Movies are an important aspect of the cinema culture, so it’s with that spirit and that sentimentality that I offer this review of “Infestation!”.
Archetypical wise crank “Cooper” wakes up inside a webbed cocoon and immediately comes face to face with a giant insect in the opening moments, only to discover that the entire city is overrun with these strange creatures and everyone has been asleep for more than two days. He starts to wake up other people, pieces together some of his missing time, and then sets out to return home to his fathers’ bomb shelter with a rag tag group of “survivors”. Fairly typical giant monster infestation story with a good number of gross out effects, the survivors are picked off but the human deaths are really not all that gruesome and most of the splatter comes from our insect buddies. The film does bring a rather haunting visual when we learn that some of the people are being transformed into “gatherers” for the insect queen… sprouting insect legs, looking fairly zombi-rific and carrying food to the hive.
The rating for this film, in case you missed it, kind of irks me. It’s a hard R film with a PG-13 mentality, the sort of film that introduces “creature” films to a younger audience while also entertaining the classic creature fan. It’s not like I would take my kid to see The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but I have no problem with taking kids to see Gremlins. And that’s the kind of film “Infestation!” is; a fun little action horror comedy with wise cracks and only a little bit of emotional gravity. The grue is a punchline, a splattered bug on the windshield or a victim carried off into the sky and maybe dropped a good distance away so he bounces off a few roof tops. There’s a small fear factor, just enough to make you shift in you chair at a young age but with just enough humor to keep you laughing as the gags build up.
4 out of 5.
The low point for the week features a number of convicts escaping into the desert with a hostage female guard and a couple weapons. Cutting the excessively long story short, they wind up in a town straight out of the old west where it’s rumored that gold can be found. Wow, even this shortened explanation is taking too long… shorter story shorter, the townsfolk are zombies controlled by mummies, of which only one of them is of any real significance. People die, people live, people run through the desert with really bad cinematography and the rest is z-grade nonsense masquerading as something more than what it is.
2 out of 5 with an extra half point for Danny Trejo’s cup of coffee walk-on role.