Justice League War is the newest animated movie from DC and based on the new Justice league origins the first storyline from the new Justice league series set in the new 52 continuity. As can be gathered from my review thus far this is new, brand new, so new you’re liable to cut yourself on the plastic wrapping and yet just like buying that new set of scissors and launching into it with teeth and claws it feels somewhat old. Just to clarify before we continue I will be focusing on the movie here and not the comic but of course some commentary on the new 52 is to be expected.
While DC has had a rather lousy run in live action the animated department has so far been quite good with a mix of adaptations of old graphic novels and brand new stories. However this one marks a change in the proceedings. Like in the comics this movie follows on from the flashpoint storyline where the universe was rewritten and already there are promises for a follow up with the throne of Atlantis storyline. In fact even the upcoming son of batman movie will carry Jason O’Mara over as Bruce Wayne so if we’re going to be putting up with this League of Justice for a while let’s see what they’re like.
This movie sees Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and Shazam already running round fighting crime and we get the inclusion of Cyborg before the end as thought somebody only just realised that not everyone in the world is a white hetro male with a well chiselled jawline and. Not that any of this matters however, as we’ve established this is all new and so the characters are reworked to make them fresh and well new. Not that this seems to be working very well for the heroes, most of them garner suspicion and mistrust from the population and after an hour and a half with them I can see why. Whilst the Green Lantern and Flash seem a bit green around the edges (no pun intended) Wonder Woman seems like an angry child, Superman is a brute, Shazam is even labelled a jerk and Batman is the almighty god like character we’ve come to expect for DC’s most prominent character. But perhaps I’m skipping ahead a bit here, let’s start at the beginning.
The movie opens with a Parademon running around Gotham with Green Lantern on his tail until Batman swings by to help out. The two characters butt heads a bit but the dialogue is quick witted enough to not bog down the scene too much. Not that the dialogue and characters are the focus here as Batman is whipped off on a rooftop tour of Gotham dangling from his bat-grappling hook that brings back horrible flashbacks of the cgi meets standard animation that started the 90’s Spiderman series, which is of course only a small step to the DragonLance movie from a few years back. The second problem is that despite going up against an unknown towering alien demon Batman still interrogates it like a common thug in fact if the scene had carried on much longer I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him dangling it off the rooftop. Bearing in mind that this is after all a Batman new to his career and yet none of this seems to bother him in the slightest, he even figures out GL’s ring and gives him tips on how to use it before we’re done.
After the demon plants an unknown device in the sewers of Gotham we jump over to Bill Batson and Vic Stone with a scene that only seems to be there to discuss teamwork and friendship. Once we’re past this instant cheese whiz we see GL and bats swing over to Metropolis in the apparent vain hope that Superman can shed some light on the device they’ve dragged along with them. Using Batman’s private satellite they figure out Superman’s flight path and land in his way, though later on this device will apparently just work off Batman’s excess awesomeness. At which point they proceed to beat the snot out of each other. There is some logic on Superman’s part what with seeing them dragging along a Parademon device though I found him a little too quick with his fists, a trait that defines Superman throughout the movie. Gone is the shinning beacon of justice and optimism and instead we get a knuckle cracking brawler but even so you’ve got to question why neither Batman or GL even offer an explanation. Fine it’s expected that whenever Superheroes first meet they’ve got to swing a few punches at each other, in the old days this was pretty much the whole plot but even so there was usually more of a reason behind it. Once we’ve had this throw down we find out that Bruce already knows Clarks secret identity and he begins to form the League around him which as a child of the nineties seems slightly off. After all it used to be that Batman was the guy on the outskirts of the league now he’s the founding member despite the fact that he’s still trying to pull off the gruff loaner routine. Now that those three are teamed up we cut over to Wonder Woman the token female of the team. This is where we see the anti-hero movement in full swing as they protest her arrival to the White house. Despite laying the ground work for this plot it’s clear that it is only here to serve as the climax when they are accepted and praised by ordinary folk like you or I, think the end of Sam Rami’s Spiderman films or on second thoughts don’t it would be hard to sit through another round of such schmaltz after watching this movie too.
Wonder Woman is here sporting a new costume designed for the movie and while it isn’t the worst costumes, not even in the new 52 (see Earth 2 Alan Scott for that honour) it looks rather bland and generic and doesn’t come across any more dignified than her usual costume. Diana is off to see the President and after waving her sword around at the crowd and not really getting anywhere she goes inside. What we can guess to be two seconds later she comes out again and starts talking to some random girl she finds in the park who tells her of the wonders of Ice cream. The two friends go off to get some from a passing by seller all the while Diana is swinging her sword around. Now the approach of Diana being new to the world outside of Themyscira is not a new one it is also not a bad one however this Diana does not seem to just be new to America but also to life as an adult. Throughout the movie she seems off in the way you would expect from Shazam or Tom Hanks in Big. Perhaps this is gone into better in the comic or the Wonder Woman series but it leaves a weird taste in my mouth. We later learn that the President was in the air at this moment in time and while this begs the question of why Wonder Woman was being driven there to meet him if he wasn’t even there it still seems off that Wonder Woman would storm out of the white house instead of waiting in respect for the leader of the country she is in. After all Diana is Themyscira’s diplomat to the outside world surely they would have taught her basic ettiqute and manners first but then you’d think she would be aware of the basics of barter system instead of just waving her sword in the shop owners face and demanding ice cream for her and her new friend.
We then cut over to the birth of cyborg the apparent token black guy on the team. I was originally a big supporter of Cyborg going up to the big leagues and joining the Justice League but that was support for the Titan and long-time hero, while this Cyborg is not a bad interpretation of the character it will seem out of place to see such a newbie fighting alongside heroes who have clearly been operating for a while. It may have worked had we been introduced via the Vic Stone character and he served as the audiences eyes and ears in a similar fashion to Logan in the first X-men movie but as it is both he and Shazam feel slightly out of place on the team. Anyway after Cyborg disintegrates a creature with “white noise” and Superman robs the attack on the President of any urgency and drama by stopping the falling plane in mid decent without even a scene of bracing and levelling he then blasts the oncoming wave of Parademons in a scene reminiscent of one of those flash game adverts you see hovering on the side of your screen. From here we head into the end game which I will not spoil for you though as this is based on a long running comic and stars the Justice League there will be no prizes for guessing who will win.
My final points are the question of Superman and Wonder Woman hooking up which I hope is fleshed out and better written than in this movie. As is, they are simply two good looking people who are really strong and seem to like fighting. While I am not outright opposed to the idea of these two getting together I would like to think there is a bit more to their relationship than that.
The nature of Shazam’s name and powers. DC has finally ditched the captain Marvel moniker out right with the statement that more people know him as Shazam anyway though I have to question who these people are. Captain Marvel has never been a big hitter for DC and in my experience people either know him as Captain Marvel or don’t know him at all. Yet I can see the logic in the name change with threats of Marvel doing a Captain Marvel movie in the near future (although the idea of a female led superhero seems too far out there to be a concern for DC to worry about) it seems like a good a time as any to change the moniker over. Yet for those who don’t know Billy Batson becomes captain Marvel at the shout of the magic word Shazam something that is carried over in this iteration of the character and yet now he must introduce himself leading to some question over how his powers actually work.
My final bone of contention is Bruce urging Superman that the world needs Clark Kent but it doesn’t seem that way to me. After all excluding Diana who doesn’t have a secret identity it seems everyone else gives some screen time to their non-costumed identities all except for Clark who is merely mentioned. However I think this is something better saved for discussing the new 52 in general and the Superman character and comics.
In conclusion I wouldn’t say this is the worst animated DC movie they’ve put out since they started this run back in 2007 but I would stress that this is far from the best. While I would say to anyone collecting and enjoying all these movies to get this one I don’t anticipate the future of the DC animated universe and hope we can get back to random tales both adaptations and new rather than following this rather thuggish, dark and brooding League through too many more features.