It’s an interesting phenomenon. While DC continues to set themselves up for film franchise failure, they continue to do solid work with their animated movies. The most recent release, Justice League: War, is a solid ninety minutes of comic book action. Coming off their last release, Flashpoint, Justice League: War takes place in the New 52 timeline, telling the story of how the Justice League first got together.
It’s the dawn of superheroes, and humanity isn’t very happy. These beings of incredible power are scary, uncontrollable, and thus are subjected to protests and picket signs. Not helping is the fact that creatures that look like bats are kidnapping humans. The public fears this is the Batman, a shadowy creature elevated to being a vampire by legend and hearsay. While on patrol in Gotham City, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) comes across one of these bat creatures. It isn’t Batman, but rather an armored creature with an impressive wingspan.
Attempting to apprehend the creature, Green Lantern runs afoul of Batman, who surprises him by actaully existing. The two trade quips, blows, and sarcastic one-liners before deciding to work together to find out who these creatures are and what the computerized boxes they leave behind mean. GL and the Dark Knight head to Metropolis to see if the all-powerful flying alien can shed light on the box. Turns out Superman is none to happy to see new faces in his town. These three do battle, until they also realize they must work together.
Justice League: War does a superb job of not rushing the introductions. Director Jay Oliva and screenwriter Heath Corson, allows for solid backstories on Wonder Woman, Cyborg and Shazam. When they come together to battle the big baddie, Darkseid, their personalities have been set, so the banter between them feels really natural. Oliva and Corson are smart not to get too heavy handed with the backstories – they focus as much as they can on action and fighting.
As with any animated film, it all comes down to voice casting. DC nails it here. Jason O’Mara does a solid Batman, though to me, Kevin Conroy can never be replaced as the Dark Knight. Same with Superman. Firefly’s Alan Tudyk is good as Superman, but really, it’s Tim Daly or nothing. Lord of the Rings hobbit Sean Astin is perfect as Shazam – he walks the fine line between little kid and angry hero perfectly. Covert Affairs male lead Christopher Gorham is great as the Flash, playing the sarcastic do-gooder role perfectly. Michelle Monaghan is thunderous and regal sounding Wonder Woman. The standouts are Criminal Minds hunk Shemar Moore as Cyborg – he brings actual dramatic gravitas to the role – and Weeds’ Justin Kirk as Hal Jordan, who has laugh out loud moments in the film.
The animation is American computer animation with just a hint of anime to it. Standard animating procedure for DC. Just once I wish the company would stretch the animation budget and give fans something different. Regardless, Justice League: War is kick ass movie, one of the best DC has turned out.
One quick hint. Stay for the after-credits scene. It’ll explain the glaring lack of Aquaman.