Justice League: War Blu-ray Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, March 01, 2014
At one point during Justice League: War, Green Lantern turns to Batman and calls him a “phenomenal douchebag”. Welcome to DC Comics’ New 52 Universe where Green Lantern is an arrogant A-hole, Shazam is an obnoxious teenager, Superman leers at Wonder Woman like he’s on the prowl in a single’s bar and people on the street are protesting Wonder Woman because she dresses like a whore. The 18th DC original animated film brings the universally reviled (by anyone who actually likes comics) New 52 to life in an adaptation of Justice League: Origin by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. The film retells the first teaming of the Justice League which, by my count, is at least the third time the first teaming has been seen in an animated film. But I suppose when you re-boot your universe every fortnight you’re bound to have some repetition.
Batman and Green Lantern have their first encounter while tracking down a mysterious creature running through Gotham City. Now admittedly I was never a huge Green Lantern fan but I read the title here and there over 40 years and never recall Hal Jordan being so completely unlikable to the point that you actually find yourself rooting for the villain. The creature turns out to be one of Darkseid’s Parademons. It is one of several that have infiltrated the world, planting Mother Boxes as a prelude to an invasion from Apokolips.
But let’s not jump too far ahead…before that we get Superman battling Green Lantern and Batman when he thinks they are working with the Parademons and nearly kills Batman because, you know, kill first and ask questions later is apparently what this new Superman is about. Eventually they realize they are all on the same page. The Mother Boxes open portals to Apokolips through which Darkseid and thousands of Parademons emerge to attack the Earth. Those three heroes along with Cyborg, Shazam, the Flash, and Wonder Woman all join forces to battle the invaders. Of course in true heroic fashion they fail at first because they all want to grab the glory. And it is only when they work as a true team that they manage to defeat Darkseid and send him back home.
Frankly Justice League: Origin isn’t a strong enough story to have warranted an animated adaptation. The new 52 was designed to bash longtime DC fans into submission and make them forget everything they’ve learned in the previous 70 years or so. Darkseid was tossed in casually to give them a significant foe to steel themselves against. And since when is Darkseid like 30 feet tall anyway? Batman is at least treated with some respect and still seems like Batman. The Flash gets the short end of the stick and barely has anything to do while Cyborg hogs a good portion of the story as we get his entire origin told. Why waste roughly one-third of the running time just to tell one character’s origin at all? Heath Corson’s screen play is sloppy to say the least and you have to wonder if this guy ever even read a Justice League comic previously.
Director Jay Oliva does an admirable job with the screenplay, particularly the action and fight sequences. Fortunately for fans the film is largely fight scenes from beginning to end which helps forget about some of the unlikable characters. This is definitely a PG-13 or even close to an R rated Justice League. These guys are NOT playing around!
One high point of most DC animated films is a strong voice cast with generally well-respected actors lending their voices to the production. Even that comes up short in Justice League: War where the cast is led by Sean Astin as Shazam and Michelle Monaghan as Wonder Woman. In all honesty those two are ok as is Jason O’ Mara as Batman. But Justin Kirk’s squeaky voice as Green Lantern almost had me muting the sound and going with subtitles.
The animation is similar to what we’ve seen in other recent films such as Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Superman: Unbound where the characters appearances are lean and angular with an Anime influence.
Justice League: War is a disappointing entry in the DCU animated film series which has been trending downwards ever since the excellent two-part The Dark Knight Returns adaptation.
Creating Heroes: The Life and Art of Jim Lee (30:00) – Basically a 1/2 bio of artist Jim Lee which looks at his entire career from Marvel to Image and to DC Comics.
Justice League:War Act D: From Animatic to Pencil Test (20:00) – A look at the climactic battle between the JLA and Darkseid from early pencil test animatics to the final product with comments from Director Jay Oliva
Deconstructing War with Jay Oliva and Jim Lee (20:00) – Oliva and Jim Lee discuss the film, highlighting some of the differences between the film and comic such as why Aquaman was left out.
A Sneak Peak at the next DCU animated film Son of Batman
From the DC Comics Vault – Four animated shorts from various DC animated TV series
Mania Grade: D+
Starring: (Voices) Sean Astin, Michelle Monaghan, Justin Cook, Jason O’Mara
Written By: Geoff Johns (original story), Heath Corson (screenplay)
Directed By: Jay Oliva
Distributor: Warner BrothersHome Entertainment
Original Year of Release: 2014
Special Features: See Below