Justice League: War
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
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 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.
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!”
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 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.
“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.
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