DC Animated, which has been knocking the proverbial ball out of the park for the past five years, released Justice League: War this week. Is it in the same conversation as some of their other memorable flicks? Hmmm…
DC Animated made a pretty risky announcement a few weeks ago when they told their rabid fanbase that their upcoming movie, Justice League: War, will begin an officially legit continuity. By that I mean that what happens to the characters will be brought over into new movies. They will be doing two movies that will carry this continuity over each year (Son of Batman will, in fact, carry the same voice actor as JL:W) with the third being an outlier (This year’s is Batman: Assault on Arkham; which is based on the Arkham video games…YES!). This is both welcome news and quite refreshing, especially with those of us who anticipate these movies every four months. This iteration of the team consists of Batman (voiced by Jason O’Mara), Superman (Alan Tudyk), Green Lantern (Justin Kirk), Wonder Woman (Michelle Monaghan), The Flash (Christopher Gorham), Cyborg (Shemar Moore) and Shazam (Sean Astin). The addition of Shazam and the snubbing of Aquaman actually caused a bit of a stir in the fanboy community due to the fact that Aquaman was in the Justice League: Origin graphic novel which is what this movie is based off of. This is explained in the post credit scenes, so you Aquafans chill.
So our story begins in Gotham as Green Lantern (the Hal Jordan version) is attempting to apprehend a shady figure presumed to be the Batman. The suspect ends up being a parademon from the planet Apokolips; Batman and Green Lantern take this lackey down easily and stop him from activating a “bomb”. Seeing as how this monstrosity is clearly alien, Bats and GL head to Metropolis after the only known alien on the planet: Superman.
The next battle is one of the best in the movie and truly shows how powerful Superman is. Superman is busy fighting with another lowlife parademon so Hal, in his supremely cocky way, thinks that he will just swoop in and take out Big Blue in seconds flat. Wrong! Supes decimates Green Lantern in short order and in the blink of an eye zips over to Batman, grabbing him by the neck with ease, and asking “So…what can you do?” Batman then uses every gadget in his belt to get try and slow down this mountain of a man, but to no avail. Superman really struts his stuff in this “fight” easily avoiding Batman’s arsenal of gadgets and even just swatting aside some of Green Lanterns constructs. Not until Batman calls him Clark does Supes actually back off.
The rest of the movie revolves around Darkseid coming to Earth and trying to take over. Thousands of “Boom Tubes” open around the globe dumping parademons (Darkseids minions) into our atmosphere. Different groups of battles occur revolving around the aforementioned heroes that all lead them to Metropolis. Darkseid is as powerful as he ever was in the comics and the team takes a severe beating for the majority of the flick. DCA does an excellent job at portraying how truly powerful Darkseid is. In fact, he breaks GLs arm while his force field was active and he even knocks Superman unconscious with his Omega Beam and then takes him captive (which Batman, of course, saves his butt). Every member of the League try to take on this monster by themselves at some point and they all get annihilated. Not until the team gets a battle plan and work together do they succeed in getting Darkseid to go home.
Every hero is assumed to have had their origin story already told except for Cyborg. Victory Stone (Vic to his friends) is a high school football star that takes a lethal dose of radiation from a Mother Box (these create the Boom Tubes) and is saved by some high tech technology in his disapproving dad’s vault at S.T.A.R. labs. This technology, mixed with the radiation from the Mother Box, melds with Stone and creates Cyborg. FYI, this isn’t Cyborg’s origin in the comics, but it seems to work out okay here. Lemar Moore does a credible job voicing his youth yet has an underlying strength to him that isn’t easy to do. Kudos.
None of the superheroes has encountered the others originally (with the exception of Flash and GL) so the initial meetings usually wind up as a sparring match, which is pretty cool. Also, I love what they did with the interactions between most of the heroes. Batman has already studied up on almost everyone already (shocker) and holds his own even though no one thinks he can do anything since he’s only human. His interactions with Green Lantern are my favorite part of the movie; GL is a supreme smart ass and belittles Batman every chance he gets. He actually boxes Bats into a cage before battling Superman saying, “No offense. You’ll just get in the way”. Batman, meanwhile, plays more of a mentor role here. It is a change of pace for the Dark Knight and welcome one at that.
First of all I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. The art style, the story and especially the action are all superb. The action scenes actually are on the same grandiose scale as some of the more over the top anime I’ve seen except with DC badasses…which is amazing! I was a little on the fence about Cyborg initially, but he comes along nicely throughout the course of the movie. Cyborg is this teams heart and moral compass. His transformation that takes place during the movie (going from bumbling, Franekstein’s monster to key member of the team) is one of my favorite aspects and needs to be studied by the bigwigs at the WB to see how to properly introduce this character. Batman is, as always, superb; his dark demeanor and deadpan delivery of lines make him very entertaining and define what he is as a character. Green Lantern is the comic relief here and it’s fabulous. His “wet behind the ears” approach to solving problems gets him into plenty of trouble in which he constantly gets bailed out by Batman (whom he belittles about his lack of powers every chance he gets). Sean Astin is very good as Shazam mixing a cockiness with his naivete quite well. Also, the visual effects DCA uses on Shazam and Green Lantern (lightening constantly circling Shazam and the green light aura are very cool touches) and the constructs that GL uses with his ring are exceptional.
I will say that the voice acting is a mixed bag, however. Seeing as how this is starting a new continuity, most of the actors will be retained for future movies (Jason O’Mara has already signed for Son of Batman) which is a nice touch…with one exception. The absolute worst part of the movie is Wonder Woman’s voice actor, Michelle Monaghan. The stilted way in which she delivers the lines are abysmal and are a distraction in every scene that she is in. This is an absolute shame because Wonder Woman, in this movie at least, is such an absolute butt kicker and more than holds her own against the likes of Superman and Shazam. She slices and dices parademons with her Amazonian sword like a hot knife through butter; it’s awesome! And then she opens her mouth…blech! I am thoroughly surprised by this since Monaghan (Source Code, True Detective) is a very good actress. Also, Andrea Romano, the voice casting director for DCA, rarely (if ever) misses. What? Was Susan Eisenberg or Dana Delany not available?
Nevertheless, I highly recommend watching this movie. DC Animated Movies delivers a hit yet again. If you can get past the atrocity that is Wonder Woman’s voice, you’ll be highly pleased. I truly hope that the WB realizes what a great Justice League movie looks like and takes notes. If they stay true to some of this source material and make the right casting decisions then there is no reason why the real life Justice League movie won’t be great. We’ll just have to wait and see. While you wait, however, check out this killer fight…enjoy!