For Cartoon Network, Warner Bros and animation producer Bruce Timm, launching a new “Green Lantern” animated series must feel like a tricky thing.
When the computer-animated series went into production, Warner Bros. had a big-screen “Green Lantern” coming, its first attempt to turn WB’s DC Comics stalwart into a big-screen tentpole starring Ryan Reynolds.
The movie probably seemed like a sure thing, another step in establishing a DC franchise in movie theaters much like rival comics publisher Marvel was doing with “Iron Man” and, concurrent to the “Green Lantern” movie, “Thor” and “Captain America.”
But the “Green Lantern” movie, released this summer, was pretty lackluster, while “Thor” and “Captain America” were hits that only built anticipation for next summer’s Marvel team-up movie, “The Avengers.”
All of a sudden, “Green Lantern” — and the Cartoon Network animated series — must have felt a little daunting.
The new show not only had to live down the live-action movie but also live up to “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited,” the Bruce Timm-produced animated series that stand as the pinnacles of comic book animated series.
Yes, I know that Timm and Paul Dini’s “Batman: The Animated Series” is widely regarded as the best animated comic book show. But for me, “Justice League” and especially “Justice League Unlimited” are tops. Really, where else could you get the best — hands down — outside-the-comic-pages adaptation of Superman, Batman and other marquee heroes as well as obscure favorites like Dr. Fate, Black Canary and Bwana Beast, for goodness’ sake?
Cartoon Network previewed the opening episode of “Green Lantern” tonight — the series begins airing regularly next year as part of a DC block — and I have to say that while the show has potential it carries with it more liabilities.
Its computer-animated presentation is workmanlike at best. While a few scenes had some of the visual appeal of “The Incredibles,” for example, more often the show looked like unfinished footage included as a DVD extra. Piggy-looking Green Lantern Kilowog looked plastic. The look of the show needs drastic improvement.
And I’m not sold on the premise of the show either. Remember “Star Trek: Voyager,” the series that pushed a Federation starship to the edge of the galaxy and left it stranded there while the ship and its crew struggled to make their way home?
This is like “Green Lantern: Voyager,” with Green Lanterns Hal Jordan and Kilowog stranded millions of miles away from home, facing the Red Lanterns, a cranky group of outlaw ring-wielders.
Maybe it’s an effort to ensure the show and its characters stand on their own, but I’m not digging the idea of a show that will never allow Green Lantern to bump into Superman or Batman. Not to mention the absence of my favorite Green Lantern of all time, John Stewart, the African-American hero who — for all of us who loved “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” — simply is Green Lantern.
When “Green Lantern” comes back next year, I’ll definitely give it a shot. I hope the show has as much imagination as the premise of its title character. It will have to go a long way — and come back from a great distance — to equal previous treatment of the character, however.