Justice League: War (REVIEW)
Justice League: War is the latest release from the DC and Warner Bros camp with this September marking seven years since the release of their first film. Superman: Doomsday was the first out of the gate, and since then they have managed to put out around two films a year. There is a base line quality one can expect from these films, they are going to be really great or just alright. A large part of that comes from the strength of the source material. The early films were a mixed of original stories and adaptations; however since Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, they have focused exclusively on adapting Batman, Superman and Justice League stories for film treatments. Justice League War is another solid effort, but after nineteen films, it finds itself sitting in the middle of the pack.
Justice League War is the latest release and the first New 52 story to be made into a feature. It’s also the first in a new continuity of DC animated features going forward. The film mostly follows Geoff Johns’ and Jim Lee’s first arc on Justice League for the New 52, with a few changes. Shazam replaces Aquaman and Cyborg’s origin is tweaked to relate more to the film’s plot. For the most part, it follows many of the same beats. The Justice League has to come together, during a time when the world generally mistrusts super powered individuals, to take on the threat of Darkseid invading the Earth. There are misunderstandings at first; however, Batman (Jason O’Mara), Green Lantern (Justin Kirk), The Flash (Christopher Gorham), Shazam (Sean Astin), Superman (Alan Tudyk), Wonder Woman (Michelle Monagham) and Cyborg (Shemar Moore) must find a way to work together to overcome the villainous Darkseid (Steve Blum).
The film does a great job of introducing its large cast, never lingering too long on one group of characters. After the first twenty minute, it’s pretty much non-stop action, as the heroes fight off Darkseid’s invading force of Parademons. Director Jay Oliver and writer Heath Corson mix things up by giving the different heroes side objectives and tasks to complete before coming together to take down Darkseid. There a few character beats in between and the heroes play well off each other, but it’s mostly action piece after action piece. Even with a running time of 79 minutes, the constant action begins to wear thin. The final confrontation with Darkseid feels especially drawn out. Still, it’s an enjoyable 79 minutes and each hero gets their moment.
The animation is standard for these DC releases, meaning everything is solid. CGI is used for vehicles and the background during more action heavy sequences. Character designs are based on Jim Lee’s New 52 models. Green Lantern has a nice glow to him, while Wonder Woman’s redesigned here is actually pretty cool. The voice acting is solid for the most part (a good thing, considering these folks will be sticking around for a while.) O’Mara and Tudyk do serviceable jobs as Batman and Superman respectfully; however, it is Michelle Monagham’s performance as Wonder Woman that is the most enduring. She delivers each of her lines with assertiveness and pride that could only come from an Amazon warrior. Unfortunately, Steve Blum is wasted as Darkseid. He spends a majority of the film grunting with only a few lines of actual dialogue. Making matters worse, his voice has a horrible effect dubbed over it, making it impossible to tell it’s Blum, a poor waste of one of the most beloved voice talents.
Once again, DC and Warner Bros deliver another solid animated feature. It’s animated, casted, and executed well enough to satisfy fans. However, it lacks the intensity of past film like Under The Red Hood or the delight of Wonder Woman (2009) to put it in the top tier of these releases. While it’s nice to hear that DC and WB will be switching up affairs after all these years. The new joint continuity could be very interesting. It’s only the “by-the-numberness” of Justice League War that underwhelms some of the excitement from that announcement.