Green Lantern First Flight: Lauren Montgomery

Published on May 14th, 2009

Not only do I find her very cute, she (Lauren Montgomery) is also directing Green Lantern: First Flight, the fifth in the ongoing series of DC Universe animated original PG-13 movies.

Montgomery has been a central force within the animated DC Universe, directing one-third of the series’ initial films, like Superman: Doomsday, and wowing critics and fans alike with her solo directorial debut at the helm of Wonder Woman. With Green Lantern: First Flight, Montgomery takes the next step in her burgeoning career, directing the initial full-length story about Hal Jordan and his universe of characters. She is once again teamed with executive producer Bruce Timm, this time working from an Alan Burnett script that focuses on Hal’s recruitment to the Green Lantern Corps. and his discovery of a secret conspiracy that threatens it’s philosophies, traditions and hierarchy.

There is no rest for the weary. Though Green Lantern: First Flight has only recently completed production, Montgomery has already begun directing her next project – another upcoming DCU animated feature that you’ll no doubt hear about in the not-too-distant future. Montgomery paused between recording sessions and storyboards to chat about the directorial learning curve, a new universe of astounding characters, a very cool quartet of key voiceover actors, and the tricks to avoiding greens and yellows for an entire background color palette.


QUESTION: Will Green Lantern: First Flight be in the well-known design of Bruce Timm, or be more of the Lauren Montgomery vision from Wonder Woman?

LAUREN MONTGOMERY: We’re actually having a lot of fun trying different artistic styles on different movies – Bruce felt his style has been done enough, and I just had my turn – plus I knew there were many other character designers who are infinitely better at designing aliens than I am. We were lucky to get Jose Lopez to create the characters for Green Lantern. I think he even took a pay cut from his last job to do Green Lantern, but this project really allows him to let his animation go wild. You’ve never seen anything like some of his designs for this film. His take on the familiar characters is fairly true to form, but he’s designed – literally – an entire universe of completely new characters in the different Green Lanterns, aliens and background characters. There are a lot of awesome, fantastical creatures.  Like me, Jose is trained in animation instead of comics, so his style really lends itself to being animated – and everything he’s done has looked spectacular. I think it’s really looking different from anything we’ve ever done.

QUESTION: Did Jose ever over-step any boundaries and need to be reigned in?

LAUREN MONTGOMERY: Actually, his first designs were a little too stylized. For the main characters, the designs were a little too streamlined – we had to make Sinestro more like the comics. But once he got that figured out, he really went crazy. It was exciting to see him come in with these characters. Even his Weaponer designer is far different than what we’ve seen before, but DC was okay with it. So we just let him run wild.

Were there any beyond-the-norm issues strategizing a color scheme for a film with an entire army of characters wearing the same color?

LAUREN MONTGOMERY: We tried desperately to avoid as much green as we could in backgrounds and supporting characters, so the Green Lanterns and the rings and their effects were the only green portions of the scene. We also tried to stay away from copious amounts of yellow – so that would make an impact later in the film. When you eliminate two of the main colors, it kind of limits you, so we had to utilize a lot of shades of blue, red and orange, and I think we were able to make it work.  It was a really wise decision on Bruce’s part to keep the green and the yellow to the characters that were defined by that color.

QUESTION: Did you learn anything directing Wonder Woman that you were able to apply and/or improve upon for Green Lantern: First Flight?

LAUREN MONTGOMERY: Wonder Woman taught me that you can’t board the whole movie by yourself (she laughs), so I just let my storyboard artists do their job on Green Lantern.  I let them come up with their ideas and I focused on keeping everything cohesive. Ultimately, I think the movie is better for it. I guess I learned to be more relaxed and to not be such a control freak. Which I think is good (laughs again). It certainly made my work load a lot easier.

QUESTION: How much origin story should Green Lantern fans expect to see?

LAUREN MONTGOMERY: As we had already done the origin story a few movies back in Justice League: The New Frontier, we really didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time telling that same story over again. So in Green Lantern: First Flight, the origin story is over and done before the opening credits. That way we get right into Hal Jordan’s first adventure.


QUESTION: What do the four main voice cast members bring to their roles?

LAUREN MONTGOMERY: Christopher Meloni is a very serious actor and really got into the character to understand all the little nuances of exactly what Hal was thinking at every moment. He would ask very interesting, detailed, unexpected questions so he could totally get the mind set, and in doing so he was able to deliver an incredible performance that that really defines Hal as a confident hero, but not cocky or a jerk. Hal Jordan has a humor to him that isn’t quite as big as the Flash, but still not stiff like Batman. Christopher was able to give us that fun side of Hal, too.

Victor Garber has this intimidating presence and power behind his deliveries where you can hear that Sinestro knows what he’s doing, he’s been through this before and he’s pretty sure of himself. He gives Sinestro a very believable sense of suave sophistication.  Sinestro is not your typical evil villain, and Victor Garber makes him seem like an incredibly intelligent, worldly guy who believes he is doing the right thing, even though he might not be doing it the correct way.

Kilowog is this big, hulking creature and he needed a voice that was really recognizable and had a strong presence. Michael Madsen was able to give us these line readings that we really didn’t expect – you can’t help laughing at his intonations – and he ends up with some of the funniest lines in the whole script. He even did some fake burps that are just ridiculous – you’ll actually hear a couple of those in the movie. It was just a match made in heaven, really.

Boodikka is not just your doe-eyed, token female – she has strength and believability without losing the feminine qualities of our primary female character. There aren’t a ton of women in the Green Lantern Corps. – apparently it’s a male-dominated industry (she laughs). Tricia Helfer has a really sympathetic quality to her voice that captures the quieter side of Boodikka, but Tricia also has this amazing strength in her voice. She was able to make Boodikka this wonderful, relatable, three-dimensional character.

QUESTION: What made Alan Burnett’s script right for this first Green Lantern film?

LAUREN MONTGOMERY: Alan delivered a Green Lantern script that really explored what being a space cop is all about. He didn’t focus purely on the heroic Hal super power approach – it’s more of an overall Green Lantern Corps. story and Hal’s existence within that group.  And it’s not Hal on Earth being a super hero – we’re in space for virtually the entire movie, so Alan gave us multiple backgrounds and scene settings so we could explore the galaxy. That made it even more interesting – seeing and exploring different alien locales and lifestyles. Being away from Earth is incredibly liberating in terms of design possibilities.

QUESTION: Without any spoilers, do you have a favorite scene?

LAUREN MONTGOMERY: We have a scene about 17 minutes into the movie when Hal and Sinestro go into this establishment looking for a killer, and even though you’ve already seen some of the alien Green Lanterns, this is the first time you get an eyeful of the alien characters that Jose Lopez designed. The place is packed with all these really cool aliens, and they’re all so crazy looking. But you know their personalities immediately. It’s a very tense, cool scene and you really get to see how different that world is from Earth. That’s the defining scene from the movie that lets you know you’re not in Kansas anymore.

Sounds like a lot of fun I know I can’t wait for this film. I love that it is not going to be yet another origin story.

Simon Daoudi