February 3, 2014

Movie Mondays: Justice League: War

War?  Something tells me there's gonna be lots of action

War? Something tells me there’s gonna be lots of fighting

Title: Justice League: War
Director: Jay Oliva
Writer: Heath Corson (based on Justice League: Origin by Geoff Johns, Jim Lee and Scott Williams)
Distributed By:
Warner Bros. Home Video
Starring: Jason O’Mara, Justin Kirk, Alan Tudyk, Michelle Monaghan, Christopher Gorham, Shemar Moore, Sean Astin, Steven Blum, Zach Callison, Rocky Carroll, Bruce Thomas, George Newbern
Release Date: February 4, 2014
MPAA: Rated PG-13

Welcome back to MOVIE MONDAYS!  Today we’re taking a look at Justice League: War, the newest animated movie from DC Comics and Warner Bros., which comes out tomorrow, February 4th.  Based on Justice League: Origin from DC Comics’ The New 52, a relaunch of their continuity, this film tells an alternate story of how the founding members of the Justice League would initially meet and team up to save the world from a crisis of apocalyptic proportions.  Aquaman is replaced from the original line-up (in the classic comics AND The New 52) in favor of Captain Marvel (now sporting the name Shazam), so that he can be saved as the main character in the planned sequel Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.  And the character Cyborg has been added to the roster of founding members in this modern retelling.  Now that you’re all up to speed, let’s dive right in, shall we?

One thing to consider is this movie is practically wall-to-wall action.  This film is far more action-oriented than any other previous Justice League movie, and even more action-packed than most action movies.  Think of it as Justice League through a sort of Michael Bay filter (which isn’t necessarily as negative a description as one might assume).  Now, this critic loves a good action movie, but it seemed like the few, and I do mean FEW, moments of dialogue and character building were only there as placeholders for the next fight scene.  The action started immediately after the opening of the movie, and was almost non-stop until the final scene.  I’d say over an hour of the nearly 1hr 20min movie was straight-up action. 

A Band of Brothers.. and a sister

A Band of Brothers…and a sister.

That being said, while the film is certainly an “action flick,” thankfully it isn’t a “mindless action flick” by any stretch of the imagination.  The movie still manages to make time for strong characterization and interaction.  One could compare it to other war movies where instead of bonding during a slow and quiet scene, characters form bonds during moments of intense action or those seldom quick moments of breathing room before the next big action sequence.  And truly living up to its name, Justice League: War is exactly that: a war movie.

Considering this story is a retelling of the origins of the Justice League, and Aquaman has been a founding member in practically all, if not all, versions of the Justice League, I would have loved it more if Aquaman had been in this film.  However, Captain Marvel (called Shazam in DC’s The New 52) was an entertaining replacement, so it wasn’t all that bad having him in he mix.  Plus, the scene revealing that the young boy named Billy Batson was actually Shazam was amazing.  In the film, Earth is being invaded by an evil alien dictator named Darkseid, and an army of genetically grown soldiers called Parademons.  And when Billy says the magic word “Shazam,” a magical lightning bolt transforms him into the superhuman powerhouse of the same name.  When one of these Parademons attacks Billy’s home it is an awesome sight seeing him shout “Shazam” while cracking a baseball bat across a Parademon’s skull and acting as a magical lightning rod.

Green Lantern was in this movie, but any avid reader of the comics will tell you something was very wrong about his portrayal in this movie.  Green Lantern, aka Hal Jordan, has often been a charismatic and sarcastic character, but in this movie the sarcasm is ramped up to new heights, and the charisma is replaced with a sort of brash air-headedness more reminiscent of Guy Gardner.  Also, Hal is creative, using his Green Lantern ring to make lots of cool constructs, but in this version his constructs come across as more outlandish and evocative of Kyle Rayner than Hal Jordan.  It was weird to see Kyle Rayner-style constructs and Guy Gardner-style attitude being combined into an unrecognizable Hal.  To non-fans, none of this paragraph made any sense, but to fans of the comics this is interesting information.  Viewers unfamiliar with his character will certainly enjoy his snarky attitude and creativity.  And long-time fans, rest assured that portrayal is still entertaining, at the very least.

Darkseid can't make up his mind on how much of the screen he wants to take up

Darkseid can’t make up his mind on how much of the screen he wants to take up.

Another minor complaint towards characterization goes to the film’s villain, Darkseid.  Usually portrayed as an inscrutable, cunning, evil, yet charming mastermind, here Darkseid is portrayed as a hulking monstrous brute.

Speaking of Darkseid being a gigantic brute, a criticism must be made about the animation.  Darkseid constantly goes off-model throughout the film, meaning his animation design fluctuates from one scene to another.  There were times when Wonder Woman came up to his thigh, and then another scene where Flash was roughly the size of Darkseid’s head.  The character shifting in size was just distracting.

Complaints aside, there was a lot to like about this movie.  From the fluid animation to the impressive voice acting, the few grievances I have toward this film are far outweighed by its excellent qualities. 

Don't mess with Wonder Woman's new friends!

Don’t mess with Wonder Woman’s new friends!

The voice-acting is top-notch.  Michelle Monaghan gives a rousing portrayal of Wonder Woman.  As wonderful as her performance is, one must note that it’s a combination of wonderful acting and great writing.  A perfect example of this comes in two scenes: one where she is confronted by an angry mob that fears the outsider, and verbally assaults her and calls her revealing spandex superhero costume into question.  Without revealing too much, the leader of the mob makes a startling confession, only to be consoled and reassured by Wonder Woman.  The other scene shows Wonder Woman as equal parts tough chick and fish out of water, where she befriends a little girl who introduces her to the joys of ice cream.  While enjoying the snack, an army of Parademons pours into the street, attacking civilians.  The instant shift from reveling in the joy of her delicious treat to slaying Parademons was simply awesome!

In a surprising performance, Alan Tudyk (Wash from Fire Fly) superbly embodies the authoritative and self-assured Superman.  Shemar Moore gives a heartfelt and very grounded performance as the voice of Cyborg, really making the viewer feel his emotional turmoil as he goes from neglected son to reluctant hero.  But the show stealer was Jason O’Mara as Batman!  He was utterly terrific, right up there with Kevin Conroy and Bruce Greenwood!  Furthermore, they handled the characterization perfectly!  A born leader, helping rally the other heroes to rise to the occasion, and stepping up to the challenge while being constantly reminded that he’s the only human in the group.  His characterization is filled with little touches that show that the writer knew how to write Batman.  There’s a moment when Batman is casually picking up a hat and coat presumably left behind by the citizens that ran away when the attack started to cobble together a disguise, all while still planning the next stage of attack and guiding Green Lantern to take command, firmly cementing this portrayal as an excellent depiction of Batman.

Batman may be human, but he's still Batman!

Batman may be human, but he’s still Batman!

The real stars of the film

The real stars of the film.

The character interactions are the real backbone of the film, with certain superheroes finding commonalities with one another.  For instance, the two powerhouses, Wonder Woman and Superman, finally find someone with whom they can relate.  Batman, the human vigilante with the gadgets, and Green Lantern, the human intergalactic cop with the super-powered ring, bond through their sense of justice.  And Cyborg and Shazam bond over the fact that they’re the two rookies and youngest members of the team.  Oddly enough this leaves The Flash without a counterpart.  Not necessarily a bad thing, just odd.

Overall, I have to say I enjoyed it well enough.  Not great.  Not terrible.  The film is so full of fun characterization and fantastic action that it more than makes up for what it lacks in story.  The few missteps the movie makes in regard to certain character portrayals are forgivable because of just how much it gets right with other characters.  Justice League: War earns a respectable score of 7 out of 10.

Aaron Nicewonger



  1. Kristin

    I wonder if the Green Lantern thing was on purpose. Combining three characters into one. Wouldn’t be the first time.

  2. The Darkseid size shifting kind of threw me off at times too! lol Especially when WW was fighting him and then, as you mentioned, Flash appears and is no bigger than his head?! I will say that I liked the way Vic became Cyborg because it seemed more natural than his original transformation which just screamed “convenient” and if I remember correctly that’s pretty much how GL was written in those New 52 Justice League origin issues so I thought it actually fit.

    I have heard people complain about the language in the film and the mature tone it takes. I guess they were expecting a film they could show to their very young children but that rating is there on the package for a reason lol

  3. Nathan

    Character rape rendered to animation. You were to kind in reviewing this movie. The only characters in character were Flash, Batman and Cyborg. Everyone else was 2 dimensional overly edgy characters trying to vie for the coolest one liner. This movie was utter trash and is reflection of the 2 dimensional characters self-serving and contrived characters that now represents the New 52. Shazam is a complete and utter abomination light years short of representing what the wisdom of Solomon and power of Zeus is. Green Lantern was a pale reflection of Hal Jordan and complete utter douche bag. Wonder Woman was a witless bore of a barbarian-like Amazon. If this is what the future hold’s for DC comics and its future animation, I’m putting a gun to my head and pulling the trigger. Stop defending this garbage and let’s get some quality back! I’m going back to watching some quality DC animation that really showed an honor to the source material by Bruce Timm.

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