Montgomery & Oliva Shine Light on "Emerald Knights"

With "War of the Green Lanterns" coming to a close in the pages of DC Comics and the world gearing up for the "Green Lantern" movie starring Ryan Reynolds, Warner Home Video released "Green Lantern: Emerald Knights" today -- the 11th film in the popular series of DC Universe Animated Original Movies. Produced by Warner Premiere, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation, and distributed by Warner Home Video, "Emerald Knights" weaves six stories from the vast Green Lantern Corps' mythos around preparations for an attack by Krona, the alien supervillain created by the legendary team of John Broome and Gil Kane.

In the story, Hal Jordan (voiced by Nathan Fillion) mentors Arisia (Elisabeth Moss) in the history of the Green Lantern Corps, telling tales of Avra, the first Green Lantern and several of Hal's comrades -- including Kilowog (Henry Rollins), Abin Sur (Arnold Vosloo), Laira (Kelly Hu) and Mogo.

CBR News spoke with two of the films directors, Lauren Montgomery and Jay Oliva, about bringing the Corps to a larger audience weeks before the tentpole film is released and what inspired them to tell the story using a series of vignettes as opposed to one linear tale. Plus, the duo opened up with some details on what fans can expect from the highly anticipated animated adaptation of Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's "Batman: Year One" and "Justice League: Doom!"

CBR News: I know "Emerald Knights" isn't officially a prologue for the upcoming Martin Campbell/Ryan Reynolds movie, but do you think it's safe to say it would serve as a pretty good primer for folks that may not be familiar with the Green Lantern mythos?

Lauren Montgomery: Yes. You could definitely look at it that way. We definitely used this movie to explore more of the Green Lantern Corps aspect versus the Hal Jordan aspect. I think because we'd already given Hal a lot of screen time in "First Flight," we kind of wanted to do something that focused a little bit more on some of the characters around him in this movie. So yes, hopefully people can get a little more familiar with those characters so that when they see the movie they'll know who Tomar-Re is and Kilowog is. And they can appreciate them a little bit more.

Jay Oliva: I totally agree. For people who don't even know what Green Lantern is, it's a good kind of entry point. Some of the stories are very beloved stories that have appeared in comic books in the past, but for people who are new to it, it's a good introduction to let you who and what they are.

I know when I was a kid, all I knew was that Green Lantern was green and he had a ring that he can make stuff with. Later on, I started reading comics and I was like, "Oh, this is what he's about." The Lanterns were kind of like police officers for the universe and their mission was to keep peace and order.

Plus, with the storyline the way that it is, you get to learn about all the other Lanterns that you don't really get to focus on, normally. And the good thing is, if you want the origin for Hal Jordan, we have "First Flight," which we did a couple of years ago. His origin story is there. You'll also see his origin in the "Green Lantern" movie that is coming up in a few weeks.

Why the decision to tell this story through a series of vignettes versus a straight movie?

Montgomery: Being able to focus on each character by using the vignettes was really helpful in this movie. If we had done a more linear movie where it was just a group of Green Lanterns working together, you might not get an opportunity to really focus on each one. By using the vignettes, we get to really highlight each individual Lantern and we don't even have to focus on any of the other others. We get to give each Lantern their own 10-minute spotlight, giving each of them their own time to shine. And that helps to tell a better story about them. That's a lot more fun for us because we get to explore very different situations and very different places in each of their stories versus having to shove all of their character development into one linear story. We get to branch off and explore each character on their own.

Oliva: We were very much following the same footsteps as "Gotham Knights," which was released a couple of years ago. But that was really just a series of short stories. With "Emerald Knights," we wanted to tie the stories in a little closer. In "Gotham Knights," it was, "Here's a story, cut to black. Here's another story, cut to black." There wasn't really any through line. It's more like "Pulp Fiction," where these are all little snippets that are connected to the overall film. I think it's a really neat way of doing it.

We see dozens, if not hundreds of Corps members, so why no John Stewart, Kyle Rayner or Guy Gardner?

Montgomery: Originally, Hal was not going to be a part of this movie. It was going to kind of keep the continuity from "First Flight," and in that case, it wouldn't have featured John Stewart or Kyle or Guy or any of the other ones because they weren't in it yet. Originally, the Hal role was filled with Sinestro and he was teaching Arisia, but somewhere in there, because of the live action movie and everything, the merchandising/marketing people really wanted Hal in there because, "You can't sell a Green Lantern movie without Hal in it." So we had to go back and retrofit it and get him in there. It wasn't like we made a conscious decision to not put the other human Green Lanterns in it. It just didn't really work out that way, I guess, from where they started from in making this movie.

So Hal ended up getting shoved into the story. It doesn't really work within continuity with "First Flight," anymore, but it's still an entertaining movie on its own.

As always, the art production on this project is second to none, but you must be equally thrilled with the voice cast that was assembled. An army of geeks wanted Nathan Fillion for Hal Jordan in the live action film; did he deliver the goods as Green Lantern?

Montgomery: I love pretty much anything that Nathan Fillion does. We've worked with him before. He's really fun to work with. He's easy to work with. And he loves doing it. That all just made him a very easy choice for me. I also thought that his character was a character that we've seen so-many times. So he really kind of fit the personality that I envisioned Hal to have.

We are also able to get Jason Isaacs for Sinestro. And he is awesome. He was Ra's al Ghul in "Batman: Under the Red Hood," so he's kind of a regular and a favorite of the crew.

Elisabeth Moss, we never worked with before. "Mad Men" is, of course, really big, and Christina Hendricks was just in "All-Star Superman" as Lois Lane, so I guess we're going to keep going to that show for our female leads. [Laughs]

And then we had Henry Rollins, which was awesome. That's the voice that, when people hear who is in the movie, they want to know about. You'd expect them to say that about one of the bigger actors, but nope. It's Henry Rollins. He gets the most attention when you mention his name.

Oliva: What's funny is when we first started casting, we all sat around room and it's me, Lauren, Chris Berkeley, Bruce Timm and Andrea Romano and we just talked about who we wanted for the different parts. We created a list and we had alternates but a lot of the ones that we wanted right off the bat came through. We wanted Nathan, for sure.

And yes, when Henry Rollins came up, we were like, "He would be perfect." And he is.

Lauren, Rollins voices Kilowog, who was featured in a segment you directed. Is Kilowog a favorite Lantern of yours?

Montgomery: Kilowog has always been one of my favorites. Even outside of this movie because, I guess, I relate to his crankiness. [Laughs] I think we can all get cranky at times. I just like that he's the grumpy one of the group. And he just has cute little proportions that I enjoy.

Seeing his background, because I wasn't aware of his background before, is really interesting. So exploring how he joined the Corps was a lot of fun to do. I was really excited to learn more about his character and just to see a bit more about how he operates and why. It's a fascinating story for anyone that likes Kilowog.

And Jay, I love the Mogo storyline.

Oliva: Thanks. What's funny is Mogo was probably the first "Green Lantern" comic I read when I was a kid. The only time I was ever exposed to Green Lantern was on "Super Friends." I was a big Marvel fan because my older brother was, too, and those were the only comics to read in the house. But when I started going to the comic book store, I remember seeing an issue of "Green Lantern," and Mogo was on the cover. I was like, "What is that?" I remember picking it up and it just blew my mind that a planet could be a Green Lantern. That's where my whole outlook on the Green Lanterns kind of changed. That's when I realized there was a much bigger corps and purpose that encompasses the Green Lanterns.

Being introduced to this vast mythos through the Mogo storyline was a great intro. And to be able to, years later, direct a story with him, was an even bigger blast.

I know you can't say too much just yet, but can you give us a quick tease about "Batman: Year One"?

Montgomery: It's looking really good. I think that anyone who likes the comics will like the film because it's basically a visual interpretation of the comic. We really tried to stick to not only the look as far as the drawing style, but also the color style, everything to make it feel like the original. I think we achieved it. It looks really good and we're all really happy with it.

Jay, you worked on "Batman: Year One," as well, right?

Oliva: I did. When I finished "Green Lantern: Emerald Knights," I went on to "Young Justice" as a director, so we did 26 episodes of that. In the middle of "Young Justice," Lauren gave me a call and said, "We're doing 'Year One.' Do you want to take a section?" because she knew how busy I was. I was like, "Of course. Just give me something."

So I got to work a little bit on it, not as much as I usually would, because I was up to my eyeballs in "Young Justice." But I got to do the sequence with -- remember when Commissioner Gordon gets jumped in the parking garage? I got to do the later sequence when Gordon gets revenge on Flass and beats him up and ties him up naked. So I got to do a major fight sequence, which was wicked. And now I get to say that I worked on "Year One."

What's next?

Montgomery: I have moved on to "Justice League: Doom." That one is the next one up. It's another Justice League project and I think it will be very entertaining.

It doesn't fit in continuity-wise with any of the past DCAU films, correct?

Montgomery: We tend to say the disclaimer that none of our movies are technically in continuity with any others, so that would also apply to this one. We didn't purposely make it a sequel to anything prior but inevitably, there are going to be similarities. It's all the same characters.

The Justice League versus the Legion of Doom -- a lot of us grew up watching that classic confrontation Saturday mornings on "Challenge of the Super Friends." I know you can't say much, but I have to ask, will we see the Hall of Doom in all its Darth Vader-inspired glory?

Montgomery: It wouldn't be Legion of Doom without it. [Laughs] So yeah, you'll see all of the good stuff.

What about the lineup? Do we get the classic lineup featuring the likes of Lex Luthor, Brainiac and Bizaaro?

There are so many villains to choose from. I can't say too much but I can say that each of the superheroes will have one of their supervillains featured!

"Green Lantern: Emerald Knights" is on sale now

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