JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR - An In-Depth EF Review

JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR - An In-Depth EF Review

Here is my in-depth review of DC’s upcoming animated film adaptation of Justice League: War. Read on after the jump to see my verdict on the 18th installment in the DCAU, and leave your thoughts in the usual place.

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By E.F. "Manny" Camacho - 1/23/2014
JL_War

Justice League: War



General Information:
Released: January 21st, 2014 in digital format (Itunes and Amazon Prime).
It will be available on February 4th in DVD and Blu-Ray
A special 2 Disc Collector’s Edition DVD will be available March 18th, 2014.
Opened: Not in Theaters
Metacritic: Not Yet Rated
Rotten Tomatoes Aggregated So Far: No Score Yet (Critics) & 92% Audience Anticipation
IMDB Profile
Movie Website

Trailer



Editorial Biases:

Like many of you, I have every DC and Marvel animated feature available in my library. To be completely honest, I have every animated DC and Marvel series available (as well). To say “I love these animated features, and series!” is a complete understatement. Most recently, Flashpoint Paradox gained my favorite spot, and blew me away. Thus, my expectation of JL: WAR was soaring. Especially, with the varied fight scenes, depicted in the trailer, I was hoping for a title that was going to shatter expectations and display an interesting adaptation of the Justice League origin story by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee back in 2011. At the very least, give us a great new idea of how these heroes meet up for the first time, in a re-imagined manner (even if it is, yet again).

Aside from these expectations, I tried to stay away from too many details, because I hate spoiling these films for myself. I already knew the voice talents that were present, and while I tend to dislike these works without the long standing (and beloved) Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly. I’m always open to new voices behind some of my favorite characters.

When the digital release occurred, I pulled out some caramel popcorn my 35 year old Spider-Man quilt, snuggled up with the wife and was hoping to be blown away.






The Good

The film opens up with the usual mysterious flair most of the DCAU tends to use. A random event occurring, that throws any number of heroes together for some sort of a fight. Very quickly we learn that our favorite characters have yet to meet and form into the titular super-team we all know and love. The pacing is solid, and the action begins (almost) immediately after the opening credits roll. Followed by the various types of banter we’re used to, specifically by, Green Lantern with Batman (in their first encounter with each other) “BATMAN? You’re REAL?” eventually to be repeated by another character in disbelief.

One by one, our heroes are essentially introduced, as an encounter with a strange alien being continues to grow worse. Very soon the minor plot concept of a planted bomb by this being transforms into a large scale invasion by thousands of the same, led by Darkseid. Who is enormous in this iteration, a couple times the size of the Hulk huge. Who himself is also seemingly unknown to all of them, Including Kal-El. All of this is great, and the inclusion of seven characters together (in order of appearance), Green Lantern, Batman, Barry Allen (Flash), Billy Batson (Shazam), Victor Stone (Cyborg), Wonder Woman, and finally Superman is nice. Giving all of us a much needed Justice League fix.



The Bad

I didn’t necessarily like some of the newcomers voicing Superman and Batman. In all fairness they were fine. More than fine (actually) and perhaps this is simply a personal bias. For me, Alan Tudyk had an odd vocal range as Superman. I didn’t like what he was doing with his inflections. Perhaps this is on the voice director, but Andrea Romano is a long standing pillar in DC as their principal to direct their cast.

Batman was relatively easy to accept in terms of his voice. I (personally) had started getting used to the more Asian/Latin mixed inflection in the voice talents of Anthony Ruivivar from “Beware the Batman”. Even if that show didn’t last, it was different, and wasn’t too difficult to grow accustom to Mr. Ruivivar. Allowing me easy transitions to anyone else getting a chance at the highly sought after voicing role.

However, JL: War still felt a bit off. I know, it’s a stupid nit-pick, and is on the verge of fanboy lunacy. I think a lot of other fans of these animated features love to hear certain vocal talents. Talents that are almost like “comfort-food” for their auditory senses in all of their comic book movies and series. The vocal range that irked me the most (as stated above), in general, was mostly from Alan Tudyk, who many will remember from “Serenity”, and as King Candy in “Wreck-It Ralph”. It just did not sound like any Superman I’m used to. I shut off my inner-comic-book-nerd by telling my brain “It’s an alternate universe, shut up already!”



The Ugly

I disliked much of the dialogue that was written for Diana. When it comes to comic books (in my opinion), Wonder Woman is the epitome of womanhood, femininity, vulnerability, and strength in all women. Much of the behavior and speech seen in this film somewhat does her character a complete injustice, and makes women not appear in the best light. Impetuous, impatient, obnoxiously waving her sword (seemingly) toward all men; are not what she is accustomed to doing. Depicted in a scene berating a man (who apparently cross-dresses as Wonder Woman) for comedic purposes, doesn’t seem at all to speak volumes about who Diana really is.

Green Lantern and Shazam were easily portrayed as idiotic, impatient, and bumbling, weaklings. While Hal Jordon is an excellent source of comedic quips, and various in-jokes, that help break the monotony of combat and randomness; his character dialogue was exceptionally weak, and mostly done for the purposes of comedic breaks. What we usually expect to get from Flash at specific times. Sure, we’ve seen a couple of Green Lantern animated films in the DCAU and we don’t need to showcase him heavily when dealing with such a pantheon of overpowered beings, but his abilities were made to be laughable, “He’s good for cleanup, at least.” as stated by Batman, who also easily stole his Power Ring right off his finger. For a guy that is easily among the most powerful of the group, it was a bit of an insult to all Lantern fans to make him so weak and in need of guidance.

Shazam is usually a naïve character, struggling with his inner fanboy for the rest of these heroes, and his altruistic need to do the right thing is usually at the forefront of his thinking (noted). But, couple this with his amazing set of powers and you have a highly formidable hero trying to prove himself worthy of the Justice Leagues company. Shazam usually can take on enemies like Black Adam single handed. Something the entirety of the Justice League usually can’t do (depending on who pens the story in the comic).

Here Shazam didn’t get a chance to shine. His power was overshadowed by Wonder Woman’s near juggernaut-like onslaughts, and Superman’s appearances. His presence becomes more of a boon for Victor Stones difficulty adjusting to his transformation into Cyborg.

Batman was easily “The Batman” we are used to, with a few random odysseys. Specific among them, giving up his identity (so easily) to convey his message to Green Lantern. Something we’re used to him never doing (unless the person is his current love interest in one of any live action films). I also wasn't too keen on the awkwardly strange looking Bat logo on his chest. Come on…you guys saw that thing, it looked ridiculous.

Superman was relatively blasé, a total blowhard, a square-jawed douchebag muscle-bound Jock type. He reminded me of Flash Thompson for some reason, who would have been more comfortable stuffing people into lockers then saving them. Go figure. I also thought (and this is a bit of a spoiler) that his fight with Batman at the end of the film was synonymous with the problems we saw in Spider-Man 3. He was not in control, (if anything) slightly more powerful because of the alien technology fusing into his body. Yet Batman could avoid his attacks? …O_o I’ll leave it at that.



The Great

“GET DOWN!”
The action in this film was excellent. Wonder Woman seemed at her best when she was in combat (and not speaking the horrid lines in this script), almost seemingly invincible at times. At least to her contemporaries, like Green Lantern and Batman, who stood and watched as she took on hordes of enemies (in awe) as they had originally struggled with one. She was only slowed down when she fought Darkseid. Yet, even as insurmountable as Darkseid seemed, she was pretty much the reason Darkseid was defeated (if at least slowed down). She also immediately seemed to want Superman. Love at first sight, or super-powered lust-at-first-sight. "BY THE GODS!" I don’t know, but it was interesting.

I enjoyed the very thorough amounts of fighting, explosions, destruction, and epic level of mounting opposition. Something to truly test these heroes as a team and for some of them, their first time as a hero altogether. Flash was also on top of his game, from the writing of the character, to his simple suggestive jokes, and the immediacy of how seriously he took on the enemy. He was fantastic.



…and, Amazing?

“GET DOWN AGAIN”
More action! The post (rather mid) credit teaser about Atlantis was also perfect to place into this film. One, it helps explain the absence of Aquaman, and two, helps create the setting for the next DCAU films, at the very least an Aquaman stand-alone animated feature.

Some of the interactions between these characters were excellent, and showed some real promise in the writing of the dialogue and story. Everything from the varied Easter eggs thrown into dialogue, like my personal favorite, “Hey, Blackheart the Deatheater, or whatever your “World of Warcraft” name is, SUCK ON THIS!” by Shazam. To this great line (spoken very quickly), “Sorry I need this to save the world, thanks for your help” by the Flash, as he takes a crowbar from some completely random construction worker that is amid the chaos.

While some of the general substance and gravitas we're used to for some of the characters is lacking early on, most of the story and dialogue improves as the film carries on. You'll also notice as this happens, that Diana's lines slowly diminish to virtually non-existent. Call me crazy, but I think they simply had a hard time writing her role in this film and ended up pushing forward with her warrior prowess.



What Might have Hurt This Film…

I’m not sure if this film will be hurt by much as we all (comic book movie fans) tend to consume much of our fandom through path of least resistance. Due to the varied hoopla over incoming new movies that we are waiting for, and other films that have been pushed back (*Cough*Batman vs. Superman 2016*cough*) keeping us in suspense. Every animated feature that comes out (during the interim) will be watched, bought, and rabidly consumed regardless of what any review says (I think). Mostly, because they are inexpensive and immediately satisfying pleasures with little to no guilt.

A few things I noticed that bugged me. Superman first meeting Wonder Woman and having a straight forward, “I’m going to TAP that!” look is completely off base. Wonder Woman’s relatively oblivious nature and horrid dialogue makes me wonder if her design and speech were patterned after a very cheesy variation of what a female Thor would sound like.

Keeping Superman in the background, again, to further the purposeful use of everyone involved seems almost like a copout. We saw this in Flashpoint Paradox, and while it makes complete sense, we didn’t need it repeated in this particular story. At the very least, if he is going to take more of a backseat to allow others to shine, then let those others truly shine, not fail upwards.

But overall, in terms of comparison to other DCAU films, this film lacks coherence to its other contemporaries and its general source material (Adaptation notwithstanding). "General" as in, it strays quite far from what we would normally expect who these characters are, but not far enough we don't completely recognize them.



Overall Verdict?

I enjoyed the movie, when I allowed my mind to just go with it, because it is a completely new view on the Justice League. Generally DC has never rested on ceremony to keep all of their films in the same universe, vein, or continuity, so I don’t expect this to be the first in a set of films with the same cast or general storyline – it’s not intended to be episodic, I don’t believe, even if it has a great setup for an Aquaman movie in the future. I hope that we get more of what works best with Conroy, Daly, Clancy Brown, possibly a return from Mark Hamill (I can dream – we do get to hear him as Joker in some recent Arkham games).

It’s a Justice League fix, plain and simple. Even if it is not the usual suspects, rather the usual voices, and relatively recognizable characteristics. But in the end, we’re mostly going to like it, or tolerate the nit-picks. If you are too completely tethered to the old school voices, storylines, concepts, powers, heroics, what-have-you. You might argue that this one is not very good. But you may also love it just the same.



3.5 out of 5 Comic Book Movie Geeks will love it! The other 1.5 are going to complain about it, even if they liked it…







Have you seen Justice League: War yet? Are you planning to? Did this review help you? Do you agree, disagree? I want to hear from you! Comment, share, tweet, pin, whatever tickles your fancy. Form some words @EmanuelFCamacho
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190 Comments
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Desrow - 1/23/2014, 5:51 PM
4.5 / 5 for me Great movie
MBZ1993 - 1/23/2014, 5:54 PM
im still gona pick this up just so i can see batman say to green lantern "you weren't concentrating" batman rapes GL's shit
Klone - 1/23/2014, 6:04 PM
I'm surprised no one mentioned how Superman [frick]ing snapped Desaad's neck out of nowhere. This Superman acted like an Obligatory Highschool Jock Jerk.
Mike89 - 1/23/2014, 6:05 PM
More of a 4/5 for me. Flashpoint paradox was better, but this was good too.
JediSuperGuy83 - 1/23/2014, 6:06 PM
I have a feeling this is going to be the best out of The DCMU
Klone - 1/23/2014, 6:07 PM
I think the voice acting was... er... Superman sounded wrong, Wonder Woman sounded flat at times, Hal sounded odd, Barry sounds as he normally does, Batman took a while to get used to and Cyborg and Captain Marvel were both fine. It was a good idea, to be fair, giving Cyborg and Marvel a relationship. Though I am still against Cyborg being used in favor of Martian Manhunter, I still like the character and a Cyborg-Marvel relationship elsewhere would be good. Also, Marvel and Cyborg had a good character design. Funny how the characters I thought they did decently with were the two I care about the least (still love both characters though).
mrHJK - 1/23/2014, 6:07 PM
2.5/5 one of the worst so far. And you definitely mentioned all the negative aspects.
MarkV - 1/23/2014, 6:08 PM
Well it sounds like this is better than the trailer makes it look.
MrCBM56 - 1/23/2014, 6:09 PM
I [frick]ing loved the movie! Really surprised how much I did, actually.
JediSuperGuy83 - 1/23/2014, 6:11 PM
Dislike
-Superman being With Wonder Woman

-Alan Scott being A Homo

-Scot Lobdell's Superman arc

-Missing Characters and Situations from Pre-Flashpoint

-Some of The Status Quo Undone

Like

-Scott Snyders & Jim Lee Superman Unchained

-Supermans New Costume

-Aquaman & Cyborg rising to Prominence

-Hal Jordan Being Leader Of The Green Lantern Corp

-Geoff Johns Justice League Comics

-Scott Snyders & Greg Capullo Run Batman Court Of Owls,Zero Year,ETC

-Lex Luthor Gaining Catwoman status as A Member of The Justice League

-Villians Month & Zero Year Issues
MrCBM56 - 1/23/2014, 6:12 PM
Also... THRONE OF ATLANTIS!!!!
Klone - 1/23/2014, 6:12 PM
And yes, to me WW was written the worst, with humiliating the man, waving a sword towards everyone, claiming her actual responsibility was to fight and kill, reveling in war and combat, 90% of her dialogue, smacking Captain Marvel, the over the top fish out of water stuff. Superman I say was written second worse or maybe equally as bad. I swear to [frick]ing God, to me at least, he was trying to kill Batman during his fight. I mean it sure as [frick] looked like it at times.

Plus, to me, he came across as an arrogant, bully jock douche bag. And he killed Desaad out of nowhere (Desaad being overpowered by Batman also bothered me, though trivial). Also, the "you're strong" line... I know this sounds like trivial bitching, but I don't know, that really came across as douchebag, jock line to me... hard to describe why I felt that way. Batman was alright, as was Flash. Cyborg was okay and Captain Marvel... I guess. Preferred him as Billy actually. Green Lantern... well you honestly can't blame the writers of this film for that because Johns, to be honest, really went over the top with making Hal a dick in that book. So overall, didn't mind it. I rate it a 5/10. I have no intentions of watching it again. Also, lovely animation.
MrCBM56 - 1/23/2014, 6:13 PM
SuperGuy83

LOL! What does that have to do with the film, that's the New 52?
Klone - 1/23/2014, 6:13 PM
@SuperGuy

You LIKE Superman's New 52 look!? Okay... I mean it's your opinion and all... I thought it was like universally hated.
WarNoodle - 1/23/2014, 6:15 PM
3/5 for me. Had a ton of corny lines, green lantern seemed a bit weak and to stupid... fighter pilots are smart guys and leaders, super man did come off as a high school jock, wonder woman was to corny with her lines, I did like shazam, flash, cyborg was kinda ok and batman was my favorite I think. Even though the whole battle with superman, green lantern and batman was pointless and all they had to do is communicate with him instead of starting off with a fight... the battle was cool along with all the other fighting sequences. Wonder woman kicked some ass with her sword and lasso! I did like Flashpoint Paradox much better though!
JediSuperGuy83 - 1/23/2014, 6:16 PM
I have an action figure along with My MOS & SR one as well
Mike89 - 1/23/2014, 6:16 PM
@SuperGuy83

You like supermans suit in this? that turtle neck suit is horrible.
Klone - 1/23/2014, 6:16 PM
Darkseid look weird though and he, pretty much, sucked.
JediSuperGuy83 - 1/23/2014, 6:17 PM
JLW takes place in The New 52 @MrCBM56
Klone - 1/23/2014, 6:17 PM
Honestly, the story arc it was based off of I never thought too highly of either.
JediSuperGuy83 - 1/23/2014, 6:19 PM
@Mike89 The Underwear on the outside is Horrible
CeltiC527 - 1/23/2014, 6:19 PM
I completely disagree with everything you said when it comes to Hal! The only thing 'insulting' is you saying his powers were made to be laughable! His constructs were amazing in this film and way more thought out and detailed then anything we've ever seen with an animated GL. And you're saying this is weak!?!?!?

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Klone - 1/23/2014, 6:21 PM
Yes, exactly, Superman's "I will tap that" look at seeing WW... I mean, is this Superman, the JL: WAR Superman, actually the hero people LIKE as a character and want to root for? REALLY?
Philvis - 1/23/2014, 6:21 PM
This wasn't my favorite DC movie. I felt the characters were all off. Ive not read the new 52, so I cannot compare this movie to that. Green Lantern was beyond annoying. Superman didn't feel like Supes. WW was just a lady on steroids without any depth. The only character I really enjoyed was Cyborg. I think they did a great job with that character. Shazam was a big disappointment. They really underpowered him and REALLY dumbed him down too much. I'm also still trying to figure out how he can say his new name of Shazam to anyone without losing hos powers. Still hate the'new' Shazam.

I really was expecting more from this. I didn't hate it, but just didn't get wow'ed like I have with most of their other releases. 3.5/5.
Mike89 - 1/23/2014, 6:22 PM
@SuperGuy83

OK??? What do supermans undies have anything to do with this?
JediSuperGuy83 - 1/23/2014, 6:22 PM
@MAC how would've Pick The Cast I want to know
marvel72 - 1/23/2014, 6:23 PM
haven't seen this,batman under the red hood is my favorite.
Klone - 1/23/2014, 6:24 PM
@SuperGuy

As a Superman fan, I've never cared for the WW either. Even in great Superman stories I've always disliked it. However, to me, the New 52 look is no grand improvement either.

-Ugly collar
-Unnecessary, ugly lines everywhere
-The triangle wrist things (looks feminine actually)
-The haircut
-The bulky, armor look

I personally hate it. The MoS suit, should it be made lighter and removing some of the unnecessary silver crap around the sides and back, would have me accept no other alternative. Great suit though an off color scheme in my opinion. But if you like the armor look, great.
Prime - 1/23/2014, 6:25 PM
I guess mind controlled Superman forgot he has [frick]ing super speed. What a load of bullshit.
Klone - 1/23/2014, 6:25 PM
@SuperGuy

How would I have picked the cast? Well, but me in a position where I have the resources to find the people I would want and audition dozens of people for the right voice and we'll see. Until then, I can hardly say. For example, WW has always been voiced by actresses with thick American accents, the opposite of what I would do. I haven't really got a clear answer to your question.
Spidey10 - 1/23/2014, 6:26 PM
Yep with all the negative it still got a 3.5??? id give it a solid 3 off of Flash and Batman alone...but that's being generous...WW I hope is never written like this ever again
JediSuperGuy83 - 1/23/2014, 6:26 PM
@MAC Im Still Buying JLW and Own 2 Special editions of MOS

also you didnt answer my questions How would've you change the cast and story for the better?
pickleweasel2 - 1/23/2014, 6:26 PM
@MAC
We get it, you don't like it
~~~
Anyway movie wasn't the best but it wasn't the worst either. Id give it like a 7.5/10
Klone - 1/23/2014, 6:27 PM
@Prime

Sorry, but why is NOBODY mentioning the fact Superman randomly snapped Desaad's neck and killed him!? This Superman, is you ask me, was an unlikable, one dimensional jock/jerk/douche and if people actually like this guy and root for him... well I don't know what to say.
JediSuperGuy83 - 1/23/2014, 6:27 PM
@MAC Ok fancast for your version of JLW NOW!!!!
WarNoodle - 1/23/2014, 6:27 PM
@CeltiC527 - That was maybe his only good thing he came up with and should have stuck with similar constructs to show off his ability. but his stupid train on a roof top was pointless and destructive. Another thing I want to point out is that these super heroes dont seem to care to use the environment of buildings around them that will only just kill civilians and should realize that putting an enemy through one building wont hurt them any more the second time around anyways. I would rather like to see the enemy be more destructive with their choices and the heroes try and avoid such reckless behavior that would put civilians in danger.
Klone - 1/23/2014, 6:29 PM
@SuperGuy

Again, voice actors are hard. Even in my actually DCU articles I leave a voice actor section for all the character parts and most of the time I have no specific voice actress in mind, only the description of what I would want. So yeah, unless I'm in a position where I can cast, I can't really name off specific examples. And changing the story? Well, I've never liked the story (the original story arc) in the first place, so do with that information what you will.
pesmerga44 - 1/23/2014, 6:30 PM
2.5/5 for me voice acting was equally bad and passable with the cherry on top wasting Steve Blum with the voice modding hack job they did. Seriously just grab an intern from the office have him read the lines would have had the same impact with all the modding. Darkseid had none of the qualities that make him Darkseid more of just a hulking brute then god ruler. Anyone notice the crab walk he was doing while chasing Flash I laughed my ass off at how stupid it was. The super awkward moment when Superman and WW meet I half expected Superman to say "What's up babe" while flexing his muscle and WW to swoon over it. Didn't like WW maybe I just don't like super bloodthirsty WW seems the paragon of compassion is dead and we got super violent WW for now on. Superman was pretty much an asshole jerk so didn't find him likeable. Batman and Cyborg were all right nothing special about them about the same with the past movies they have been in. Flash was cool with a likeable personality and some cool moments in the movie. The fighting started off cool but as it dragged on I got kind of bored with it.

Lastly my final issue with the movie was Green Lantern OMG what a douche bag idiot he was. Throughout the entire movie he had this arrogant smug air about him treating everyone like shit and kept getting his ass kicked but never learned from it. He had no idea about anything and I just couldn't stand him as a character and that really brought the movie down for me because he was one of the major focal points of the movie. I have no idea why Batman decided to make him leader while he was rescuing Superman because time and time again he proved how inept he was. I have to ask did anyone think while watching the movie there was mix up between the script writer and the art department I really believe this was suppose to be Guy Gardner but they drew him as Hal Jordan and decided to go with it. Or maybe this is how Hal Jordan is now and I am really happy I don't buy comics anymore because my god he is such a prick.

So again I give the movie a 2.5/5 worst DC animated movie by far and I really hope DC can pick up the slack because this movie was terrible.
Prime - 1/23/2014, 6:30 PM
@ MAC
I think he was under mind controlled or something...I don't understands it though. In the comics, an explosion happened that got Desaad off Superman and Batman came to help him...he didn't kill him there.
Klone - 1/23/2014, 6:31 PM
@SuperGuy

Well I can't lol. Like I keep saying, voice acting is different from live action and there is no way in hell I can think of immediate examples in my mind. Voice acting casting is VERY different from live action. As I have already said, in my actual articles, I give detailed descriptions into how I would want these characters to sound, and if you're going to say "OH you cant come up with a bettur cast so u can bitch"... don't, because shutting that argument down would be so easy.
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