Justice League: War
Pros: Cyborg and Shazam have better story arcs; action from start to finish
Cons: The rest of the team is one-dimensional; dialogue is bad; animation isn’t up to par
DC Comics revamped and relaunched its comic book line in 2011 in an event dubbed as “The New 52”. In a sense the DC Universe “rebooted” and was no longer constrained by past continuity. Everything started anew. Leading the pack was the newly launched Justice League title by superstar creators Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. It showcased the formation of the World’s Greatest Heroes from the Justice League: Origin story. Taking a cue from the relaunch, the DC Universe Animated Original Movies decided to follow suit and adapt this storyline showcasing the New 52 universe with Justice League: War, the nineteenth film to be released under this banner from Warner Premiere and Warner. Bros. Animation.
There have been many iterations in how the Justice League forms. From its earliest days in the 1960s, seven heroes—Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Martian Manhunter—banded together to prevent an alien invasion, in this case the Appelaxians bent on conquering the Earth. The current incarnation follows the same formula: seven heroes, alien invasion. But that’s about where the similarities end.
There doesn’t seem to be a level of respect amongst each other, at least where Green Lantern is concerned. He is even more cocky and arrogant than how Batman is usually portrayed. Superman isn’t portrayed any better. He, too, has a huge chip on his shoulder and would rather punch first, ask questions later. Wonder Woman is a mixed bag. She comes across as a character transplanted from Sailor Moon. Batman’s main goal seemed to banter with Green Lantern while Flash was very unmemorable. All five of these characters had one-dimensional personalities that didn’t do any of them justice.
However, two characters did receive nice story arcs: Cyborg and Shazam. Victor Stone’s story is a heartbreaking one. He seems to have everything except his father’s approval. He does whatever he can to get his father’s respect. Unfortunately, this comes too late when Victor is caught in a horrible accident with his father doing everything he can to save his son. Shazam is an interesting replacement for the absent Aquaman but one that makes sense considering how young Billy Batson’s story crosses over with Victor Stone. Shazam’s portrayal sticks to the whole man-child scenario but Billy isn’t the pure wholesome kid. He’s quite a rebel and sometimes a brat. When he becomes Shazam he acts more like an immature teenager.
Since the New 52 gave the DC Universe a fresh new start, why not introduce the baddest of the bad right off the bat with Darkseid, the Lord of Apokolips? It gives a more than legitimate reason for these heroes to come together as a group and combine their skills to take him down, if they can ever focus on working together. Personally, I think Darkseid was utilized too soon. I thought this was a problem when I first read the story and this movie didn’t change my mind. Use his minions and lieutenants to set up a bigger arc to really introduce the Lord of Apokolips for later stories down the line.
I wasn’t impressed with the style of artwork for this movie. It really didn’t work for me. I understand it tried to have an edgy look to it but I wasn’t having any of it. Even more of a letdown is the voice acting. For the first time I really felt nothing gelled. Probably the lone saving grace is Shemar Moore’s performance as Cyborg. He helped ground the movie with a much needed dose of humanity. In fact I felt Cyborg was perhaps the most mature character portrayed on the screen. The worst culprit of the lot belongs to the screenplay. The dialogue could have easily been refined from the original story. Instead, it just amplified the worst parts. How is this even possible? I do admit there were some good moments but they became slim pickings in the overall grand scheme of things. While I wasn’t crazy about the animation, the storytelling pacing was really good. This is a movie that is all about action from start to finish.
When I first read Justice League: Origin, I complained at how it read better as a quick screenplay. I should have known it would have been adapted for animation. I have to admit that I was correct. It works very well. But poor characterization and dialogue really hurts Justice League: War. The whole New 52 concept has already received a bad rap and this doesn’t help its cause at all.
Other Comic Book Movies
Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) || Batman (1943) || Batman: The Movie (1966) || Batman (1989) || Batman Returns || Batman Forever || Batman & Robin || Batman Begins || The Dark Knight || Catwoman || Constantine || Green Lantern (2011) || Red || Steel (1997) || Superman: The Movie || Superman II || Superman II: The Donner Cut || Superman III || Superman IV: The Quest for Peace || Superman Returns || Man of Steel
DC Animated Universe
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm || Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero || Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman || The Batman Superman Movie || Batman Beyond: The Movie || Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker || Justice League: Secret Origins || Justice League: Starcrossed The Movie || Superman: Brainiac Attacks || Superman: The Last Son of Krypton
DC Universe Original Animated Movies
All-Star Superman || Batman: Gotham Knight || Batman: Under the Red Hood || Batman: Year One || Green Lantern: Emerald Knights || Green Lantern: First Flight || Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths || Justice League: Doom || Justice League: The New Frontier || Superman/Batman: Apocalypse || Superman/Batman: Public Enemies || Superman: Doomsday || Superman vs. The Elite || Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam || Wonder Woman (2009)
Captain America: The First Avenger || Daredevil || Elektra || Fantastic Four (2005) || Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer || Ghost Rider (2007) || Hulk (2003) || The Incredible Hulk (2008) || Iron Man (2008) || Iron Man 2 || The Punisher (2004) || Punisher: War Zone || Spider-Man || Spider-Man 2 || Spider-Man 3 || Thor (2011) || X-Men || X2: X-Men United || X-Men: The Last Stand || X-Men Origins: Wolverine || X-Men: First Class
Marvel Animated Movies
Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme (2007) || Hulk Vs || The Invincible Iron Man (2007) || Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow || Planet Hulk || Ultimate Avengers: The Movie || Ultimate Avengers 2: Rise of the Panther
Independent Comic Books
G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra || The Mask of Zorro || Men in Black || Popeye || The Spirit (2008) || Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles || Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze || TMNT || Transformers: The Movie (1986) || Transformers (2007) || Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
***This is part of my 2014 Funny Pages Write-Off. Let your inner geekdom out. You have until the end of August. Join here.