Last July I speculated that Warner Brothers was looking to start an animated continuity based on their choice to produce Justice League: Flashpoint and Justice League: War so closely together. In recent days Warner Brothers has announced that this is indeed their intention, putting all eyes on their newly released depiction of the formation of the Justice League ala the New 52 relaunch.
With a screenplay by Heath Corson, Justice League: War closely follows the Geoff Johns and Jim Lee Justice League: Origin relaunch story which takes place in the early days of the new continuity. The opening moments clearly show that this is a Justice League for today’s sensibilities and the language throughout the seventy-nine minute movie justifies the PG-13 rating. Jay Oliva directs the feature and the script provides him with a great deal of opportunity to display his deft ability to craft an action sequence. While the story follows the comic book closely the animated feature clearly places more emphasis on being an action piece than a plot driven film. Like the Avengers film it’s pretty much the formula of bad guys show up and the bad guys see past their differences long enough to send the bad guys packing. It’s fun to watch but there’s little meat on those bones.
Darkseid arrives, bringing a whole lot of Parademons with him.
What substance there is to the film comes from Cyborg’s origins and Corson does a good job in establishing one of my favorite DC characters. Shemar Moore from the TV show Criminal Minds turns in a great performance and adds depth and resonance to the script. In a move which irritated many fans, Captain Marvel replaces Aquaman in the film and after watching Justice League:War I have to say I think it was a good decision. Sean Astin and Zach Callison as Shazam and Billy Batson provided an emotional anchor to Cyborg’s journey as well as helping to add some light hearted moments to a film which could have been very solemn if not for his presence. For those missing Aquaman they should make sure to watch the obligatory in-credits scene for a teaser on how the King of Sea will make his debut in the future.
Justin Kirk is the new voice of Hal Jordan
Justin Kirk as Hal Jordan steals the show in terms of the fun factor, although I have to say in my own opinion they took it a bit too far. I admittedly fist pumped the moment when Wonder Woman meets the rest of the team and Hal calls dibs, but they missed the opportunity to allow the character to grow a little bit once Batman entrusted Hal to lead the team. While I think they played Hal a little over the top it clearly underscores for me why Hal Jordan needs to be in the Justice League live action film – in terms of chemistry he serves as the guy who stirs the pot but comes up big when needed. For all intents and purposes he’s the Iron Man of the Justice League and a necessary component. But they need to turn down the douche-meter a bit. Visually the whole movies looks great and from a Green Lantern perspective the constructs have never looked so good.
The new Big 7
The rest of the league is well cast and the vocal performances serve the story well. Michelle Monaghan sells the Wonder Woman character well although I do think they played the romance card with Superman a little too heavy. The Man of Steel is probably the worse portrayed in Justice League: War, coming off as a hot head with little personality. While he plays the tank role well he provides little more and fails to serve as any sort of inspirational leader to bring the rest of the heroes together, something which I think would have been a great moment if carried out well.
Darkseid as a menace that brings the team together serves its purpose however near the end I think I developed a little bit of “action fatigue” and was glad to see him dispatched, albeit perhaps a little too easily than he should have. But all said Justice League: War is a great popcorn movie and provides a glimpse at what potential the Justice League live action movie could have if it’s executed properly. Four out of five lanterns.