Welcome to DC Retrospective, a new weekly series where we will take a look at past DC properties in the worlds of film, television, and comics. We will discuss what makes them great, what makes them not-so-great, and why you need to experience them. This week we take a look at DC’s most recent animated film, Justice League: War. Enjoy!
Back in 2007, Warner Bros. Animation released the first of a new line of DC Comics inspired animated films, Superman: Doomsday, which told the iconic story of Superman’s Death at the hands of Doomsday. Now, seven years later, we see the newest DC Universe Animated Original Movie, the 19th to be released, Justice League: War.
Based on the first 6-issue story arc of the New 52 Justice League comics, collectively titled Justice League: Origin, this film takes us on a visual journey into the beginnings of the new League. We get to see how Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Superman, Cyborg, and Shazam all came together to form one of the greatest superhero teams ever created, and together they must defeat the powerful Darkseid and his legion of Parademons before their world is destroyed.
Directed by comic book animation veteran, Jay Oliva, Justice League: War shares a similar tone with some of the more recent DC animated features. Oliva previously directed several DC animated movies including Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 & 2, Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, and even several episodes of the great DC animated television series, Young Justice. He also worked on some marvel animated films in his earlier days such as Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, Doctor Strange, and The Invincible Iron Man.
Being a huge DC fan, I was really excited when I found out they were doing a movie based on the New 52 Justice League. It’s one of my favorite new series and Geoff Johns wrote it brilliantly. It connects nicely to Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox just as it did in the comics. But, just like every comic book adaptation, some changes were made.
The biggest and most obvious change was the use of Shazam (formerly known as Captain Marvel) in the place of Aquaman. The most obvious reason for this switch was to give the Shazam character a prominent role in the upcoming DCUA New 52 film continuity. There are also plans for Aquaman’s origin to tie in later.
There were a few smaller changes made as well, such as changing the name of the ‘Fatherbox’ to the ‘Motherbox’, having Shazam be the comic relief instead of The Flash, and adding a scene where Superman kills someone (which doesn’t happen in the scene in the comic). This particular scene actually shocked me, especially since there was so much controversy over him killing Zod in Man of Steel. I didn’t mind it happening, I was just a surprise. They also skipped over Shazam’s entire origin, which worked as a backup story in the comics. Other than that, the story kept pretty well to the source material.
The voice acting was good, overall. There were only two I had a hard time with. Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) was voiced by Justin Kirk (Weeds). He gave Hal a young arrogance which was definitely needed to portray him at this stage of his life. But there was just something about his voice I couldn’t get past. Maybe it’s because I loved when Nathan Fillion voiced Hal Jordan and now I judge based on that. Who knows. The other one that threw me off was Batman. Voiced by Jason O’Mara (Terra Nova, Vegas), Batman/Bruce Wayne’s voice took some time to get into at first. It just seemed off to me. But as the movie went on, I grew more accustomed to it and it began to work for me.
Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Suburgatory) did the voice of the Man of Steel himself, Superman. I didn’t realize it was him at first. I really liked him in the role, and would be fine with him sticking around for other New 52-based films. We also had Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman, Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings) as Shazam, Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds) as Victor Stone/Cyborg, and Christopher Gorham (Covert Affairs) as Barry Allen/The Flash.
Overall, I really enjoyed this film. I love the direction DC/Warner Bros. is going with their animated features. They’re getting a little darker and a little edgier, using somewhat harsher language and gearing it more toward the adults. And they’ve also started to utilize mid- and post-credit scenes to lead into future films. It started with The Flashpoint Paradox showing a Parademon emerging from a boomtube, which lead into this film, and continued in this one with a mid-credit scene which will most likely lead into the very first stand-alone Aquaman film. Which I’m very excited for.
So, if you haven’t seen this, hop on iTunes or head on over to your local video store and check it out. Then check out DC’s upcoming animated film, Son of Batman, the next in the DCUA’s New 52 continuity. It’ll be available on Blu-ray/DVD on May 6. 2014, a mere three days after Free Comic Book Day.
Check out the Son of Batman trailer here.