Now, before we really begin, let me state that I'm not a huge fan of either Hal Jordan or the Green Lantern Corps, and this movie features both in abundance.
With Hal, I don't necessarily dislike him; he's just always come across as REALLY dull. The CONCEPT of Green Lantern is awesome, but Hal is as bland as white bread. He's basically a blank slate of a character who's easily adapted to whoever he's paired with, which is why he's a free-willing guy with Barry Allen, a straight-laced guy with Green Arrow, and a witless punching bag with Batman. (Seriously, Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner have a more nuanced relationship dynamic than Hal and Bats.)
Oh, Frank Miller. To think there was a time when your stories weren't (pardon the expression) bats*** crazy.
Honestly, he was only interesting with Emerald Twilight and beyond. My real hatred lies with the Hal fanboys, who blatantly ignore past continuity and characterization and continue to proclaim how great Hal was. Seriously, they even spent thousands of dollars to clear Hal's good name (but that's a blog post for another day).
So, I don't like Hal, but I don't hate him. However, I HATE the Corps. Every lame alien concept EVER has showed up there. They've had dogs, chipmunks, talking mushrooms, fish guys, and I think something that looked like a carrot, and that's just the tip of the fecal iceberg. The real tragedy of Emerald Twilight is not that Hal went crazy and killed them all, it's that it took him that long to do so. The Corps is awful, and I hate them. Except Mogo. Mogo is the bomb, yo.
Having said all that, I have to say that both Hal and the Corps are used to good effect in this movie. Now, on to an actual plot synopsis.
Hal, hotshot test pilot, gets a magic ring from a dying alien. He's taken into space to meet the Green Lantern Corps, a group of space police, of which Hal is now a member. He's trained by Sinestro who, as luck would have it, is actually EEEEVIL. Sinestro gets a yellow magic ring, hijinx ensue, and Hal saves the day. Spoilers!
Playing Hal Jordan is Christopher Meloni, who you might remember from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The role of Hal fits Meloni like a pair of comfy jeans. Makes sense, as Hal's basically a cop, and Meloni's been playing cops for something like a decade now.
And then there's Victor Garber as Sinestro. I'm not sure what you would call the voice acting equivalent of chewing scenery, but Garber does it marvelously here. Then there's Michael Madsen as Kilowog; he doe a good job, but I get the feeling he just showed up, read his lines, and collected his paycheck. A harsh statement, perhaps, but he IS in the "Anything for a Buck" phase of his career (how else do you explain Bloodrayne?). There's quite a few more name talents in this, but those are the most notable performances.
As for the style, the animation kicks ass, and the artists really go nuts with the GL ring constructs. While there are a few giant fists, generally, Hal is shown to use his ring in a very creative fashion- at one point, he makes a steel chair to whallop an alien criminal (ECW! ECW!). And the climactic final battle is everything you would hope it would be in a Green Lantern feature- giant energy constructs, cosmic whoop-ass, planets getting thrown around... It gives me a shudder of nerd-ecstasy just thinking about it!
Now, some folks have criticized how the film is practically ALL in space. Take this quote from IGN.com's review- "The filmmakers seem less interested in his transition from an ordinary man into a intergalactic superhero, and in their eagerness to get him up into space and fighting aliens right away, the charm of the origin story is somewhat lost." They're absolutely right! Oh, if only Bruce Timm and company had made an animated feature that showcases how Hal goes from test pilot to space hero!!! The folly!
Really, the only problem I have with the film is a little change to the mythology. In the film, when a Green Lantern dies, their rings fly back to Oa. This BLATANTLY contradicts the opening scene, where Abin Sur dies and the ring goes off to find a successor. The whole things seems concocted to sidestep the "Well, why doesn't Sinestro just kill so-and-so when he has the chance?" argument. On the other hand, there's a really neat scene after Sinestro gets his yellow ring and scores of rings start falling on Oa. Still, I don't think that was terribly neccesary.
Overall, First Flight is a solid piece of animation. It's fun, action-packed, and not nearly as violent as previous endeavors (no one vomits blood or gets decapitated; most of the deaths occur off-screen). I may not be the biggest Hal fan, but he makes being green seem easy.