×
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

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Wins for Best Film, Director at European Film Awards

    “Cold War,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white romance set in the 1950s, scooped the prizes for best film, director and screenplay at the 31st edition of the European Film Awards on Saturday. “Cold War” star Joanna Kulig also won the award for best actress. Marcello Fonte, the star of Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” won for best actor. Armando Iannucci’s [...]

  • The Favourite Bohemian Rapsody Star is

    The Best Movie Scenes of 2018

    When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene — or maybe the greatest scene — in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining. They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of [...]

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Box Office: 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Soars Toward $35-40 Million Debut

    “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is swinging into theaters on a high note. Sony-Marvel’s latest output is launching to $42 million from 3,813 North American locations in its debut, though other more conservative estimates place that number at $35.5 million. The animated superhero story picked up $12.6 million on Friday, easily leading the pack for the weekend. [...]

  • Ventana Sur : Cinema226 Closes Four

    Cinema226 Announces Four Intl. Co-Productions, Hints at More (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexico’s Cinema226, run by Marco Antonio Salgado and Sam Guillén, is driving into a raft of Mexico, Argentina and Spain co-productions, playing off the current vibrancy of Mexican film production funding and distribution outlets. Among the projects are titles which have been standouts at Ventana Sur’s Blood Window, the next film by Mexico-based Argentine filmmaker [...]

  • Ventana Sur Debates Gender Parity in

    Ventana Sur Debates Gender’s 50/50 in 2020 for Argentina Film Industry

    BUENOS AIRES — Despite recent gains, namely the equality pledge towards 50/50-2020 signed at the Mar del Plata Film Festival on Nov. 12, producer Magalí Nieva, pointed out that no representative from INCAA was present following the apparent resignation of its vice-president Fernando Juan Lima. “We are left without an interlocutor to discuss gender policies [...]

  • Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass

    Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass Attendance, Structural Growth

    BUENOS AIRES — Celebrating its 10th anniversary with a huge hike in attendance to over 4,000 accredited delegates, the 2018 Ventana Sur will go down in history on multiple counts: Sales and pick-ups on movies which combined social comment and entertainment value, increasingly the new foreign-language movie standard; new sections, led by a Proyecta co-production [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content