Justice League: War
Justice League: War is the cartoon equivalent of a Michael Bay movie: lots of action, explosions and silly women. If that's what you're looking for in a comic book feature, then this DVD from the guys over at Warner Bros. Animation is just the thing.
However, if you're like me and was a fan of the DC Animated Universe and its unparalleled success at creating a hugely entertaining inter-connected continuity with superior screenwriting and world building, then you'll be disappointed.
The reason that this new feature is so underwhelming is that it (as one of my friends put it) sounds like it was written by twelve year-olds. Not only do the characters all come off sounding like completely self-centered dicks, Wonder Woman is an absolute idiot in this movie.
At one point she actually utters the sentence, "Ice cream is wonderful!" I shit you not.
In another context, it might have worked, but this is supposed to kick off DC Animation's relaunch in the DC "New 52" continuity For those of you who don't follow DC Comics, in September 2011, they basically cancelled their entire line of regular superhero books (52 titles) and started again. The reboot was met with mixed reactions (I've only read a few issues, but generally thought it was lackluster), but did improve sales.
Justice League: Origin, the Geoff Johns/Jim Lee story arc, was the new introduction to DC's preeminent superhero team and it's that arc that this film is based on. With the animated films now following the New 52 stories, I understand why the had to field this particular movie, but it doesn't change the fact that the the source material is mediocre to say the least.
It starts out with Green Lantern and Batman chasing a Parademon (an alien warrior) through Gotham City. As the plot progresses, other members start to show up, eventually joining up with the two starters for a big battle with Darkseid (the leader of the aforementioned alien warriors) at the end.
I won't bore you with too many plot details, since it really is a simple alien-invasion-forces-them-to-work-together type of story and it doesn't take much to make that work. It works in the numerous times the DC Animated Universe has used it, it worked in The Avengers, it worked in Independence Day. Hell, it worked in Monsters vs. Aliens.
What screwed it up was the ridiculous portrayal of the team members. It wasn't just the screenplay, either. It's the way that each of them come off as either unknowing morons, or complete douche bags. There are scenes where they try and play it for laughs, but the comedy is so broad and unrelated to character, that it feels forced.
The scene above where Wonder Woman wades into a crowd of people that are protesting her is an example. In it she focuses on one man and lassos him with her magic rope. She forces him to tell her his "truth." His secret is that he cross dresses and likes to cosplay as her from time to time and he hates himself for it. She laughs at him and says something about embracing his "truth".
Now I don't know if that was in the actual comics (this isn't one of those I've read), but the scene is painful, both because of the writing and Michelle Monaghan's unconvincing voice work. I love her in movies (Mission Impossible III, Source Code, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) but from what we see here, she doesn't do voice acting to well. Similarly, Alan Tudyk (Firefly) and Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds) aren't good fits for Superman and Cyborg respectively. They're great in live action stuff (and Tudyk is funny as hell and has done voice work on other, lighter roles), but they don't work well here. Both came off as arrogant jocks. Only Jason O'Mara (voice of Batman) seemed to lend any gravitas to his role. The rest seemed to be doing it for fun.
Green Lantern was probably the worst, only because Nathan Fillion did such a great job in previous outings. Here he's done by Justin Kirk, who just doesn't compare. All I remember from him is the "Batman? You're real?" line.
They've tried to add in some development here, like Wonder Woman acclimating herself to the outside world or Cyborg's origin drama with his father, but for the most part, this is your Summer blockbuster in animated form; action set piece after action set piece. If they'd cut out all the silly try-hard stuff, it might have worked.
I also didn't like the overly Japanese style of animation. One of the things that I've adored about DC Animation is that for the most part, they try and honor the style of each arc they cover. Dark Knight Returns was an homage to the original Miller graphic novel. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies was an nod to Ed McGuiness' style. This feature looks like your generic anime cartoon. It does about as much for me as that terrible Iron Man: Rise of Technovore that we got last year from Marvel last year. When you have a series drawn by Jim Lee you don't waste it, goddamnit.
Other than that, though, the action is solid. Those that only want a beat 'em up will be pleased with the pacing here.
If you're willing to fast forward through all of the dialogue and just watch the fights, you're bound to like it more. In the end, the movie is a serviceable entry into the Superhero Cartoon Movie library, a completely average action picture.
What sucks is that those who have grown up with the DC Animated Universe and the subsequent features knows that they're capable of so much more than the average.