×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Blu-Ray Review: ‘Justice League: War’

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

With:

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

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)

Production:

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation.

Crew:

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.

With:

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

More Film

  • Colin Farrell Dumbo

    Colin Farrell To Star in Andrew Haigh's BBC Two Thriller 'The North Water'

    Colin Farrell is set to star in “The North Water,” the BBC Two thriller which will be directed by critically acclaimed filmmaker Andrew Haigh (“Lean on Pete”). Based on Ian McGuire’s novel, the four-part series is being adapted by Haigh and produced by See-Saw Films for BBC Two. Set in the U.K. and in the [...]

  • New Fox Appoints Wayne Borg to

    New Fox Appoints Wayne Borg to Los Angeles Studio Role

    Wayne Borg, who has headed the Fox Studios Australia operations in Sydney for the past four years, has been appointed president and general manager of studios at New Fox. He will relocate from Australia to Los Angeles. Fox Studios Australia, which is to remain part of 21st Century Fox and will become part of Disney [...]

  • Lisa Borders Time's Up

    Time's Up President Lisa Borders Resigns

    Lisa Borders has resigned as president of Time’s Up, she and the organization announced on Monday. Borders is resigning due to family issues, she said in a statement. Time’s Up COO Rebecca Goldman will now serve as interim CEO. “As Time’s Up continues to grow, I am proud of the work I have done to [...]

  • Keira Knightly as "Rachael Morgan" in

    Film Review: Keira Knightley in 'The Aftermath'

    Less widely seen (and acclaimed) than it deserved to be, James Kent’s debut feature “Testament of Youth” was one of the great recent love-in-wartime dramas, translating the intimate romance and sprawling human tragedy of Vera Brittain’s WWI memoir with a grace and heft worthy of its David Lean allusions. Four years on, it’s not hard [...]

  • Inside Amazon's New Feature Film Strategy

    Amazon's New Film Strategy: Straight-to-Service Titles and Starry Sundance Buys

    It was close to midnight when Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke got the text. The company had failed in its quest to acquire “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” a body image dramedy that captivated Salke when she saw it at Sundance. A sales agent on the project messaged her to say that a competitor offered a [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content