REVIEW! Justice League: War

An in-depth look at the newest animated DC film, available now on DVD, Blu-ray or digital download. How does the New 52 Justice League stack up against previous incarnations, and why is Superman such a jerk?

Justice League: War is the newest DC animated film, available for digital download now and on DVD/Blu-ray February 4th!

A little background: this film is an adaptation of the New 52, DC’s comic book universe reboot. Aquaman, however, has been excluded from the original team in favor of Captain Marvel, a swap that I doubt too many of us are complaining about (sorry, king of Atlantis!). It’s throwing folks off to see these characters behave differently than the traditional incarnations we’re all accustomed to from shows like Justice League Unlimited, but we have to understand that the reboot has changed them all, some in drastic ways. Keep an open mind while watching.

As usual, we have Jay Oliva directing. He’s had his hands in several animated DC films, including The Dark Knight Returns, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I was glad to see his name attached to this project and wasn’t disappointed with the final product. Let’s hope he maintains such a close partnership with DC Comics productions!

I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot, but it’s fairly obvious from the official trailers, clips and stills that Darkseid is the antagonist of this movie. The Justice League as we know it has not yet been formed, however, which means we get to see it come together to face off against this common threat. I found it very entertaining to watch the heroes meet each other for the first time and struggle to work as a unit.

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As for the characters themselves… Superman is a jerk in this movie! I’m serious– if you’re used to goody-two-shoes-Clark-Kent-Superman, you’re in for a big surprise. Wonder Woman also isn’t her usual self, clearly representing her New 52 version as she slashes her way through her enemies. I have to say that her voice isn’t all that great, though. Michelle Monaghan gave a valiant effort, but conveyed Diana as more stiff and robotic than regal and confident. You can judge for yourself with the clip below:

Likely because of Phillip Bourassa’s involvement in both, the character designs in War reminded me a little of Young Justice. I found them much more pleasing than, say, his Flashpoint Paradox designs, which were topheavy with sunken abdomens and small, disproportionate eyes. As is usual for his style, the animation had vaguely Japanese properties, moving fluidly with jerky camera angles that worked very well for the action scenes (of which there were obviously many). My one complaint regards the close-ups: rather than animating actual close up shots, there were “fake” close-ups or moments in which the camera zoomed in on wider scenes. Seeing jagged, zoomed-in outlines isn’t exactly aesthetically pleasing, but it didn’t happen frequently enough to be truly detrimental.

War is a really funny film, which I wasn’t expecting! Perhaps the best moment was Green Lantern and Batman’s first meeting. Now, I can understand Hal to some extent. If I was a Green Lantern with his amazing power at my disposal, I’d probably be a little cocky, too. Set that cockiness against Batman’s stoicism, however, and you have plenty of laughs in an otherwise violent, intense 79 minutes.

I was especially happy that Vic Stone/Cyborg played such a prominent role throughout the movie, since he is rarely utilized as a main character. War expands on him quite a bit, playing out his origin and making him vital to both the central plot and resolution. If his current comic book counterpart is anything like the Cyborg in this film, I’ll have to look into picking up books featuring him.

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Other than the voice acting and animation critiques, there really wasn’t anything glaringly wrong with this movie. (Except perhaps the nipple chairs. The nipple chairs were weird.) I’m not a huge fan of the New 52, as I found the reboot overwhelming and was frustrated by the new Stormwatch team, among other things. The only titles I regularly read are Animal Man and Wonder Woman, but perhaps it’s time I add more to my pull list to include this fresh new take on the Justice League… since I definitely enjoyed their time on screen in War.

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