Offering a one-hour tease prior to its weekly return next year, “Green Lantern: The Animated Series” is a beautifully rendered adaptation of the emerald superhero, representing Warner Bros. Animation’s first computer-animated foray under creative guru Bruce Timm. Cartoon Network already has a strong hold on boys with “The Clone Wars,” and this operatic space saga — which will be part of a major DC Comics push — ought to further cement the relationship. Frankly, if the movie featuring the ring-bearing character had been this satisfying, they’d already be working on a sequel.
Of course, there’s a reason it wasn’t. Green Lantern offers a huge canvas, the chance to create a “Star Trek”-style space adventure spanning the cosmos, with a hero who is part of an intergalactic space force. But wisecracking aliens and references to the “Green Lantern of Sector 2814” don’t always translate quite so neatly from four-panel page to live-action.
Animation solves that problem, and Warner Bros. has gone full bore into the CGI dimension with a bold, sleek design that more than anything resembles “The Incredibles.” Throw in Frederik Wiedmann’s rousing score, and it makes for a near-cinematic experience.
The plot — pretty adult in theme and execution — sets up a sweeping struggle, as villains using red power rings ambush and kill Green Lanterns in a faraway sector. Word of the attacks prompts a rogue rescue mission by Earth’s headstrong representative (voiced by Josh Keaton) and an ill-tempered pig-like creature, Kilowog (Kevin Michael Richardson).
A major battle ensues, with the fate of an entire world at stake. Moreover, the finish sets up a continuing red-green war, which is why it’s just as well the show won’t return until after Christmas.
When Warner Bros. greenlit the animated Cartoon Network series, the studio doubtless hoped it would synergistically keep the light flickering between tentpole blockbusters, but the creative disparity separating this show from the Ryan Reynolds movie only illuminates why animation is often so much better at bringing superheroes to life. The dialogue here, for example, is crisp and sparse, the better to emphasize action over exposition.
As it stands, the result should leave WB Animation’s film brethren feeling green, all right — with envy.