Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE: WARWORLD
[Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers!!]
Directed by: Jeff Wamester
Written by: Jeremy Adams, Ernie Altbacker, & Josie Campbell
Starring: Stana Katic, Jensen Ackles, Darren Criss, Matt Bomer, Frank Grillo, John DiMaggio, Teddy Sears, Troy Baker, Ike Amadi, Robin Atkin Downes
Reviewed by: Joshua Raynor
Who are the mysterious gunslinger with a golden lasso, the barbaric warrior with a dark knight’s helmet, and the mild-mannered, bespectacled G-man? More importantly, how are they the key to rescuing Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman — who disappeared from Earth — from the waking hell that is the omnipotent battle planet Warworld? Their disparate fights for survival in seemingly unrelated time periods could lead directly to unraveling the fate of the entire Justice League itself — as well as a looming crisis in the DC Universe.
Justice League: Warworld made some fascinating choices, both aesthetically and from a storyline perspective. I love the look of the “Tomorrowverse” films, with their sharp, clean lines and soft, yet vibrant colors. Even the films that I wasn’t the biggest fan of recently (namely Green Lantern: Beware My Power) still looked great, and that has continued into this film.
And as far as the story goes, let’s start off with the three, almost anthology-like, segments that make up the majority of this 91-minute film, all three of which are fantastic in their own way, and are very different from one another, which I loved.
Wonder Woman In The Old West
It starts off with Wonder Woman in the Old West as essentially “The Woman With No Name”, which was an obvious reference to Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy”, which was a series of spaghetti western films starring Clint Eastwood, including A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966).
We get to see her go toe-to-toe with the infamous DC Comics outlaw, Jonah Hex, voiced by Troy Baker. I love that they took this opportunity to use a character like Jonah Hex, who I believe is criminally underutilized in all media. He’s ruthless, yet charming, and Baker plays that perfectly. I was also pleased that they didn’t change his backstory, keeping him as a former Confederate soldier. It’s something they could have easily left out or changed, but didn’t.
This first segment had the task of setting the tone and expectation for the rest of the film, and I think it did a great job of that, at least as far as showing the audience that this isn’t your average story, and isn’t told in the standard way. It also did a great job of utilizing the R-rating with some brutal kills from both Jonah Hex and Wonder Woman. Seeing her shoot bad guys in the head was a little off-putting, to be honest, but it fit the setting, and even though she’s a hero, she’s also a warrior and kills when she needs to.
This is her first time back in a Tomorrowverse film since Justice Society: World War II, and Stana Katic returns to voice the Amazonian, though, technically, they are different versions of the character, with this one being from Earth-1 and the Justice Society version being from Earth-2. Katic does a great job voicing this character, even though I had forgotten about her using an Eastern European accent and was a bit thrown off at first.
Barbarian Batman And His Sword
The second segment features the Dark Knight (voiced by Jensen Ackles) in a Conan The Barbarian/Dungeons & Dragons-type fantasy setting where Batman is a mercenary sent to kill The Warlord. I was shocked to see The Warlord in this, as he is a character I haven’t even thought about in years, but hopefully, this will inspire people to go back and read his comics and learn more about this fascinating character.
This segment gives viewer their first hints that something more is going on. What that something is, we find out toward the end. This was a perfect setting to put Batman in, as it allowed him to showcase his strength and abilities without the suit on. And seeing him with long hair was just an added treat.
Unlike the first segment, we get another Justice League member in this when Wonder Woman shows up, but it’s not the Wonder Woman we just saw. We begin to see that these aren’t just separate stories centering on one member, and that surviving takes you to the next “level”, so to speak.
Superman Vs. 1950’s Xenophobia
The final segment before the films third act sees Superman (voiced by Darren Criss) — or in this case, Clark Kent — as a 1950’s G-Man who’s in town investigating a UFO siting, alongside his veteran partner Agent Faraday. It’s a classic 50’s black & white sci-fi story, akin to Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Twilight Zone.
This is definitely more of a classic, mild-mannered Clark Kent than his confident and ready-for-action counterpart, Superman, but he fits perfectly in this story. And he gets to play off of the more confident Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince, who both show up in this segment. It quickly shifts into a who’s-the-hidden-alien tale, leaning on the xenophobia and group fear that was heavily prevalent during the 1950’s because of McCarthyism and the Cold War. And, of course, Wonder Woman’s foreign accent makes her a quick and easy target for this anti-foreigner sentiment.
The story unravels even more as they begin to experience flashes of memories that they just don’t understand, and we even get an appearance by an unexpected visitor… Martian Manhunter. Remembering back to the great Justice League animated series, and the episode they did about Warworld, I had hoped to see him appear in this, but wasn’t really expecting it.
Which leads directly into the third act of Justice League: Warworld…
Mongul And Martians And Mayhem… Oh My!
The wayward members of the Justice League have finally escaped their mind prisons and awaken on Warworld where they learn an imprisoned Martian Manhunter is being forced to create these intricate illusions. But he’s been fighting to reach the heroes and bring them back to save him and themselves. It was a great surprise to see J’onn J’onzz in this, even if his fate isn’t what I would have hoped for.
The third act is actually filled with surprises. We get Lobo back for the first time since Superman: Man of Tomorrow (voiced by John DiMaggio), and he’s working with Mongul to help him find the key to unlocking the full potential of the weapon that is Warworld. But this key is tied directly to Martian Manhunter and the White Martians, and Mongul will do whatever it takes to get it, even creating a Matrix-like system of pods to hold prisoners for these Westworld-like scenarios. But, unfortunately for Mongul, his plans don’t go quite the way he expected.
A Looming Crisis?
The film ends with an unexpected appearance by Harbinger, setting up the recently announced Crisis On Infinite Earths adaptation that’s coming out next year. I’m curious if this version of Crisis will encapsulate the entire, nearly 20 years of animated films, which started with 2007’s Superman/Doomsday. It would be incredible to revisit some of those worlds as the multiverse collapses into one universe.
Also, I feel like this will need to be their very first three-part film, as it will be the biggest story they have ever told, and that way they can really dive into all the different worlds and give this story the respect it deserves.
Alright, this film, while I really enjoyed it, has some definite flaws.
I would have loved the segments to be longer. I would’ve definitely watched all three of them as their own, full-length, Elseworlds story.
Maybe I’m just being nitpicky about this next one, but I was a little put off by Jonah Hex’s willingness to murder an innocent child. The Jonah Hex I’m familiar with always had a code of honor to protect the innocent, and this just felt like a big deviation from that.
The third act with Mongul and Warworld felt very rushed. We never got to see the classic gladiatorial fights that are synonymous with Warworld. I understand that they went a bit more cerebral with the battles, but it would’ve been nice to at least see a shot of some random people being forced to fight it out in the pit, showing that Mongul can utilize different forms of battle.
And lastly, and certainly least, the voice DiMaggio used for Lobo was a bit too close to that of his Futurama character, Bender, and it occasionally took me out it. Wasn’t that big of a deal, but I thought it worth mentioning.
The Blu-ray release for Justice League: Warworld includes two featurettes breaking down the events of the film.
Illusions on Warworld – Go behind the scenes and inside the process of designing and creating three distinct genres for the Justice League to inhabit on Warworld.
The Heroic, the Horrible and the Hideous – Dive deep into the origins and histories of the key players on Warworld and learn how the filmmakers brought them to life.
While I enjoyed them both quite a bit, I was disappointed that this was all we got. They didn’t even include any episodes from the vault like they usually do, and they could’ve easily included the aforementioned “War World” episode of the animated series Justice League, which they even mention in one of the featurettes.
I also miss the days when we got a sneak peek at the next film coming out. Now, I know the next Tomorrowverse film is the recently announced Crisis On Infinite Earths adaptation coming out next year, but there is still at least one more non-Tomorrowverse animated film coming this year with Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen – Part 2 (which comes out on Halloween), so they could’ve put a little sneak peek of this film at least.
Overall, this was a solid entry into the DC animated universe. The three segments where hands down the best parts of the film. I absolutely loved them. But the lackluster third act definitely hindered what could have been an all-time great. I’d still recommend it, as the first 70 minutes or so is some of the best stuff they’ve put out, and you don’t want to miss that.