Blu-Ray Review: ‘Justice League: War’

Justice League: War Blu-Ray Review

DC's latest animated feature tackles a whole lot of story

While Warner Bros. wrestles with how to put Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman together in a live-action setting, the studio’s animation arm continues to churn out movies more narrowly aimed at the hard-core fanbase, usually with pretty satisfying results. Held up against that high standard, “Justice League: War” loses the battle mostly by biting off more story than it can comfortably chew. Not only bringing together seven heroes but pausing to provide an origin for one of them, the interplay yields its share of moments but ultimately proves too frenzied and chaotic to deliver more than a few revisionist thrills.

Adapted from the graphic novel by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, “War” begins at a time when heroes like Batman (voiced by Jason O’Mara, a pallid substitute for frequent Dark Knight animation alter ego Kevin Conroy) and Green Lantern (Justin Kirk) have yet to meet, and only vaguely heard about some unbelievably powerful Kryptonian guy in Metropolis.

Pretty soon, though, they’re faced with a genuinely existential threat, as portals start opening (“boom tubes,” for the fully initiated) bringing forth an alien army of bug-like invaders, under the stewardship of the evil, nihilistic Darkseid (Steve Blum), who wants to terraform Earth and “repurpose” its “organic material.”

So faster than you can say “Shazam” (who, incidentally, is among the goofier additions to this version of the Justice League), heroes from all over are united to try warding off the assault. That includes Cyborg (Shemar Moore), although when first introduced, he’s just a football player who needs to be horribly injured and infused with space-age technology; Wonder Woman (Michelle Monaghan), an Amazonian emissary with a bad attitude; and the Flash (Christopher Gorham), who mostly cedes his customary comic-relief/wiseass role to Green Lantern.

There are, admittedly, some amusing flourishes in the instant sparks that fly between Wonder Woman and Superman (“You’re strong,” he says with admiration), which makes sense, if you think about it; and the bickering and hostility involving Batman and Green Lantern. Still, it’s a lot to digest, especially with waves of aliens to be beaten back, in a sequence that bears a more-than-passing resemblance to the finishing kick of “The Avengers” movie.

The main advantage of animation — beyond the obvious cost benefits — is that these heroes can unleash their powers in all their awesome fury, without requiring the budget of a small country in CG effects to realize them. These direct-to-DVD movies also assume viewers are quite familiar with the DC universe, although in a situation like this, that don’t-sweat-the-details latitude can become something of a double-edged sword.

DC has been shrewd about trying to reinvigorate its stable of characters by reimagining their roots, and there’s a lot in “Justice League: War” to enjoy on that level. Yet with the brilliant “The Dark Knight Returns” in the rear-view mirror and “Son of Batman” on the horizon, this latest contribution — for all its hectic pyrotechnics — might be considered one of the lesser lights.

Blu-Ray Review: 'Justice League: War'

(Movie; Blu-Ray release, Feb. 4)


Produced by Warner Bros. Animation.


Executive producer, Sam Register; supervising producer, James Tucker; co-producer, Alan Burnett; director, Jay Oliva; writer, Heath Corson; based on the graphic novel "Justice League: Origin" by Geoff Johns, Jim Lee; voice director, Andrea Romano; editor, Christopher D. Lozinski; music, Kevin Kliesch. 79 MIN.


Voices: Christopher Gorham, Justin Kirk, Shemar Moore, Jason O'Mara, Michelle Monaghan, Sean Astin, Alan Tudyk, Steve Blum

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  1. Kate says:

    Not really sure why it’s supposed to be amusing that Superman seems to like Wonder Woman because she’s “strong.” So only women with physical powers are worthy now? Yuck. What an icky message.

    • Joseph says:

      I thought it was a cute little moment, not necessarily amusing. What’s wrong with women with physical strength? Men are judged all the time by how strong/physically fit they are. It’s better than the more widespread message that only women with stunning looks are worthy.

  2. George says:

    Having thoroughly enjoyed the past DC universe releases, I was looking forward to this. Sad to say, I was very disappointed. The dialog and general plot was painfully fanboyish, one-dimensional and juvenile. Superman is a grinning lunkhead, “You’re stong ,” he says to Wonder Woman. This is dialog? Similarly, Wonder Woman is a super-powered airhead, “Ice cream is wonderful!” she exclaims after robbing a poor vendor of a cone at swordpoint. Green Lantern is a full-blown egocentric a-hole, unfit to wear the ring. He actually stoops so low as to call Batman a douchebag. Batman, Flash, and Cyborg escape relatively unscathed. Captain Marvel, here calling himself Shazam, is thrown in but has little to do, and just as well since he was not a founding member of the League.

    This is the first time I regret paying money for a DC release. Bruce Timm had a keen understanding of what makes a good DC story. Andrea Romano was an artist at vocal direction. This is the release you get without them, an unmitigated piece of crap. Don’t waste your money.

    • Joseph says:

      Andrea Romano was the Voice Director for the film, surprisingly, because I thought the voices were almost uniformly terrible.

  3. I would argue that DC has characters with roots going back to WWII, and the few at Marvel Comics who can claim the same (Captain America, Human Torch, Namor) have huge gaps in their publishing history, whereas Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman have never been out of print. Revision of origins within reason is fine, but these now-iconic characters were created before America became a superpower, let alone THE superpower, and that circumstance must be used to the DCU’s advantage, not swept aside in favor of flash and dazzle. A live action movie must reflect the WWII “greatest generation” core values of Siegel, Schuster, Kane, Finger, Peter and Marston to capture the enduring appeal of these superheroes, because that is what makes them special! Lois Lane was created 3 years before Wonder Woman and earned her own title in 1958, three years before the debut of the Fantastic Four. Getting Lois right is the logical way to get Wonder Woman right in a live action movie, not putting Superman and Batman into a mosh pit!

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