Justice League: War is the first “new 52″ DC original animated movie, and although I don’t care for those relaunched comics, I found the story of the Justice League first assembling kind of fun. It’s fast-paced, with plenty of suspense and excitement. Instead of wondering “when is this gonna be done?”, as I have with some of the past DC movies, this kept my interest, with the exception of the lengthy battle finale.
It starts with Batman (voiced by Jason O’Mara) and Green Lantern (Justin Kirk) meeting while chasing a Parademon, one of Darkseid’s animalistic minions (which appear to be robots here, which probably helps with the rating, since so many of them get cut up or destroyed). The banter is actually funny, especially since Batman treats GL as an amateur. There’s almost a Marvel-esque “fight, then team up” approach to the first meetings, particularly during the encounter with a young, cocky Superman (Alan Tudyk; one of the previous Supermen, George Newbern, is instead voicing Steve Trevor).
You should worry if Batman smiles at you like this.
Barry Allen (Flash, Christopher Gorham) is a CSI scientist, Vic (called “Victory”) Stone (who becomes Cyborg, Shemar Moore) is a football player, and Wonder Woman (Michelle Monaghan) is facing protestors. They went a bit overboard with her “new to the world” enthusiasm, and she swings the sword around too often, but I think that’s accurate to the comics. The new WW is a bit more bloodthirsty than the “warrior for peace” I remember. Causing problems anywhere she goes is a realistic response, anyway.
I still can’t get used to Superman’s new duds, particularly the collar and the weird angular belt, nor Wonder Woman’s catsuit (which looks to me like she’s going to compete in the Aerobic Olympics). And I’ve never really cared for Darkseid (Steve Blum) as a big bad guy, but they did a nice job working Cyborg’s origin in with his attempted invasion of earth.
These characters seem like they’ve been redone for the modern era, both plusses (more realistic motivations and youthful personalities) and minuses (goofy faux-armor costumes). The animation is not outstanding or impressive, but it’s workable and carries the necessary emotions for the story. Some will bemoan that GL gets more wisecracks than Flash does, but historically, they’re basically the same character, so that change didn’t bother me much. What bothered me more is Captain Marvel saying “Shazam” when he introduced himself — for one thing, nothing happened!, and for another, it’s a stupid name.
If I’d have made this movie, I’d have had fewer battle scenes, more with the various heroes, new to each other, interacting, but I know the general perception of superheroes is that we need to see them fight a lot. Still, Darkseid should be above reducing everything to a fistfight.
One thing I really appreciate about the greater Hollywood interest in the DC library of characters is that they pay attention to making the team more than a bunch of white guys. I’d have liked to have seen John Stewart instead of Hal Jordan, but Cyborg is an interesting character with a richly dramatic background that helps in that regard. I’d have gone with Aquaman, though, instead of Captain Marvel, who only appears over a half-hour into the 80-minute film. They kept his characterization as a kid in a hero’s body, though, which was nice, even if his lightning powers are new to me.
The movie is rated PG-13 for violence (duh) and the occasional bad (S-)word. It’s not aimed at adults, though, since they’d require a more sophisticated plot and would probably like a less choppy animation style. Older teens may find it a blast. They’ll likely find the personalities of the heroes, all somewhat juvenile and pouty, easier to relate to, too.
In addition to the Blu-ray, due out February 4, there’s a single-disc DVD edition. The two-disc DVD version, with special features, will be available March 18. (Warner tends to delay that version, I’m assuming to drive Blu-ray sales.)
“Deconstructing War With Jay Oliva and Jim Lee” is 21 minutes where the two creators — Oliva directed the movie based on the comic Lee illustrated — discuss clips from the movie, comparing them to the print source, including their attempts to portray a “badass” Superman. They also address the question as to why Aquaman was replaced with Shazam.
“Creating Heroes: The Life and Art of Jim Lee” (Blu-ray only) runs 37 minutes and will be of great interest to those who think his work is amazing.
“Justice League: War Act D — From Animatic to Pencil Test” (Blu-ray only) is 24 minutes that goes into depth on the animation process. Unless you’re an artist, you may find this more information than you need.
A nine-minute sneak peek at Son of Batman shows some of the actors and creators working on the next DCU animated film.
The four vintage cartoons from the DC Vault (Blu-ray; DVD has 2) are
- Justice League Unlimited “The Destroyer”
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold “The Malicious Mr. Mind!”
- Young Justice: Invasion — Destiny Calling Episodes 1 and 2
(The studio provided a review copy.)