Justice League: War (2014) / Animation-Action
MPAA rated : PG-13 for violence and some language
Running time: 79 min.
Cast (voices): Michelle Monaghan, Alan Tudyk, Sean Astin, Shemar Moore, Christopher Gorham, Justin Kirk, Jason O'MaraGeorge Newbern, Steve Blum
Director: Jay Oliva
Screenplay: Heath Corson (based on the comic, "Justice League: Origin" by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee)
Review published January 21, 2014
Justice League: War is an animated adaptation of the 2011 "New 52" DC Comics kicker, "Justice League: Origin", written by Geoff Johns and penciled by Jim Lee. It's a reboot origin story for the Justice League of America. At only 79 minutes, you can probably imagine that with seven superheroes to introduce to us and each other, along with its own major villain and Earth-about-to-be-destroyed plotline, this is a story that is going to take a lot of shortcuts to go from A to Z.
In this film, a horde of dangerous, hideous alien underlings (dubbed 'Parademons') come to Earth in order to sow the seeds of invasion. Several of Earth's elite superheroes each stumble upon this plan almost concurrently, and end up inadvertently joining forces to stop the vicious galactic overlord known as Darkseid (voiced by Blum) and his horde from the planet Apokolips.
The problems with Justice League: War stem mostly from its pedestrian script, which prefers sophomoric snarky banter among its lead characters in place of actual dialogue befitting of an alien-invasion apocalypse of this magnitude. Wonder Woman (Monaghan, Expecting) has been stripped of all personality except as some sort of blood-thirsty warrior to the point where even she becomes comical (she rejoices the flavor of ice cream and the man who vends it), threatening everyone with her sword -- she comes more like a grown version of Buttercup from "The Powerpuff Girls" than any incarnation of Diana that we've known in the past.
In fact, all of these characters seem off in a major way. Even taking things at face value and assuming we're no longer beholden to typical continuity, this would be a fairly weak collection of heroes to have to follow without a good deal of back story, so the creators are assuming we'll want to see age-old heroes in a new light. Yet, they hold no appeal, no intrigue, and no connecton -- they are merely conduits. Cyborg (Moore, The Seat Filler) is the new kid on the block, going from completely out of sorts with his machine body to just as good as the rest in terms of fighting skills within the matter of a few hours. This film appears to be made by people with contempt for the audience, thinking we must only care about fighting and banter.
The voice work is passable at best, and those who are used to certain performers in the roles of Batman and Superman in their own animated series may find their newly voiced characters a bit weird to listen to. In addition, the introduction to these heroes is very scant, so it definitely helps if you have a passing familiarity with the Justice League and the powers of its members before going in. In place of characterizations, we get lots of cute interplay and a heaping helping of violent confrontations, neither of which is particularly stimulating without adequate context of build-up.
The animation is nothing to praise either, looking about on par with what you might find on a weekly TV show, though a bit more on the unappealing side. In particular, there are numerous instances of CGI aliens that fly around all in the same pattern, which especially increases toward the end. It's like watching a team-based video game for the final boss-fight conflict between the heroes and Darkseid, with each one finding a way to contribute based on their unique abilities into the overall slugfest.
Parents of young children may need to be warned of that, though this is a cartoon featuring DC Comics heroes, it is PG-13 rated. There is some mild foul language and quite a bit of violence that normally wouldn't be shown in any of their shows on television.
Justice League: War will likely only appeal to undiscriminating animated superhero fans who are just happy to see some of their favorite superheroes in action, regardless of how minimalist the story is or how poor the quality of the production. As far as animated direct-to-video superhero flicks, this is one is average-to-substandard in most of the important departments, and as a story, it's about as moronic as they come from a major animation studio release.
-- For those that make it to the end and still care what may happen next in this "New 52" series, there is an extra mid-credits scene.
©2014 Vince Leo