Many think pieces have been written about how Marvel Studios, responsible for “The Avengers” and all of the superheroes involved, have been running roughshod over DC Comics. And on the big screen, it’s true. DC Comics is clearly trying to catch up to Marvel by making Superman vs. Batman (or whatever it will be called), and prepping a Justice League movie. However, in the realm of the small screen, DC Comics have been cranking out short movies that perfectly capture the comic book spirit, most recently in “Justice League: War.”
“Justice League: War” starts off in an interesting place, given that it is the 18th entry into the animated DC universe. It’s based on a run of stories called Justice League: Origins, which reintroduced characters such as Batman, Superman, and the Green Lantern. When “Justice League: War” starts none of the superheroes work together, and only know of each other through rumor and the media. That soon changes when strange creatures begin abducting people around the globe, which leads to a full invasion by the Justice League’s most powerful enemy.
“You weren’t concentrating.”
The first half hour of “Justice League: War” is incredibly strange and scattered, since none of the superheroes know each other. If the viewer isn’t warned ahead of time that this is a new continuity, early scenes where Green Lantern and Batman meet can be confusing. It certainly was to me. It doesn’t help that the film has a huge roster of superheroes, and jumps back and forth among them. The whole movie is less than an hour and a half, and it’s a shame to see so much time wasted on scattered introductions.
Once the plot gets going in earnest, and the superheroes band together to stop the invasion, “Justice League: War” improves considerably. Since this is a cartoon the action is much less grounded than something you would see in “The Dark Knight Rises;” there are explosions everywhere for little reason, there is barely any blood, and the idea of a man being turned into a cyborg because his iron lung-esque machine became sentient and turned into a form fitting body is not ridiculous in the slightest.
The cast of ‘Justice League: War” is surprisingly stacked, given that it’s a straight to Blu-ray film. Alan Tudyk plays Superman, Justin Kirk of “Weeds” fame is a fantastic Green Lantern, Sean Astin of all people is Shazam, and Michelle Monaghan, most recently seen on “True Detective,” is Wonder Woman. The only actor who doesn’t fit their role is Jason O’Mara as Batman. Maybe I’m just a traditionalist who likes his Batman played by Kevin Conroy, but Jason O’Mara’s voice isn’t deep enough, and he talks so fast that his potent lines lack gravitas.
“…And we’re not friends either.”
My other major concern is with the villain, a super mutant who is one of the Justice League’s fiercest enemies. It’s very strange to see these disparate heroes bond during a fight against a guy who is one of the most powerful villains ever. It lessens his overall threat, and does not leave the series with many places to go. Once you’ve defeated the best, who’s left to fight?
In comparison to “Man of Steel” or “Iron Man 3,” something like “Justice League: War” can seem fairly paltry, just a quick direct-to-Blu-Ray release that’s bound to be terrible. However, it is one of DC Comics’ flagships, and while it might not have a massive budget, or an equally massive length, “Justice League: War” is an impressive and entertaining animated feature with an impressive cast and slick direction.
My Rating: 7.5/10