Review: Justice League: War

I am going to bring to light two critical low points of this DC Animated feature at the very start of my review: one is Wonder Woman’s episode of having a near orgasmic experience tasting ice cream for the first time; the second is the countless repeat of  Superman met Batman. If you can understand the reason why I identified those two points in this film as low points, then you will understand my disappointment in this feature.

The story is based on the “New 52” reboot of the DC Comic Universe.  That means the characters that we have known all along are reintroduced in new ways.  Captain Marvel (who goes by the name “Shazam”) exudes electrical energy, which is pretty cool.  Superman, though, comes off as cold, distant, and arrogant.  Nothing in his character reflects the tragic nature of his past that would make him humble and, well, Super.  Billy Batson is a brat who steals, and that’s just so damned uncharacteristic that it hurts to watch.  The one saving grace was the inclusion of Cyborg in a larger role.  I enjoyed his role as a member of the JL, but I felt his presence was nothing more than a walking computer to offer exposition when needed.

Wonder Woman, the star of one of the best and most underrated DC Animated features, has been reduced to the one-dimensional brute man in a woman’s body role.  The aforementioned ice cream scene, as well as an opening event dealing with a gender-confused man protesting her presence, undermines the strength of the character from the onset.

Don’t expect the familiar voices that have become staples for viewing.  Kevin Conroy and Tim Daly, the two best reasons for watching DC Animated films, have been replaced by a lifeless Jason O’Mara and an uncharacteristically flat Alan Tudyk.  The saving grace is that the greatest voice director ever, Andrea Romano, manages to pull out decent performances.  And as a brief side note, my mind kept imposing Nathan Fillion voiceovers every time Green Lantern spoke.  While I understand the key actors aren’t always available, I feel that DC needs to stick with what works.  Make the sacrifice to keep the quintessential parts of the DC Universe (their voices, at least) in place.

Yes, great characters are assembled for this reboot of the DC Universe that, frankly, should not be rebooted.  Well-selected villains such as Darkseid, Desaad, and the Parademons offer challenge to our heroes.  However, Darkseid doesn’t carry any of the menace or threat he did in the gripping Superman/Batman: Apocalypse.  Here, Darkseid is more of a blunt instrument conqueror with none of the character or imposing presence to make him worth of the entire Justice League’s collected response.

The art does look good and mimics the anime styling introduced back in Batman: Gotham Knight.  Altered with the influences of the “New 52” character designs, the revised versions of Superman, Cyborg, Darkseid, and Wonder Woman look fine.  Characters like Flash and Green Lantern had little or no change.  So overall, the look of the film is not a distraction.

The story, though, offers nothing more than a platform to reintroduce the key members of the Justice League and provide them with a reason to assemble.  Okay, that’s a good vehicle, but it has been done ad nauseum.  The remainder of the story shifts focus between Batman, Shazam, and Cyborg.  The others are reduced to support functions, and the poor Flash just punches things fast.

I may be approaching this review with a hyper-critical eye.  The assortment of animated features from DC have been great to superior, and Marvel has yet to match even the most average DC Animated offering.  With such a rich history of work that dates back to Batman: The Animated Series, DC has established itself as a quality producer of animated work.  We hold them to high standards because they have made the standards high.

The close of the film ends with an attempt at humor that falls terribly flat.  When asked by the president what the newly formed group would call itself, Shazam says it will be the “Super Seven.”  Granted, this may be humor aimed at kids, but this isn’t a kids’ movie.  That’s evident by the violence (Darkseid gets his eyes gouged out) and the language.  Cyborg pulls a Bumblebee and drops the ‘S’ bomb.  I didn’t mind, but the language conflicted with the goofy, kid-level gaffes peppered throughout the movie.

While watchable, War falls short of the quality produce offered from DC.  I don’t feel let down like most Marvel animated features, but I feel that other source material deserves attention.  Please, DC, let Guillermo Del Toro do the “Justice League Dark” movie with all the supernatural characters.  It’s a great concept!

Score: 1/5

Director: Jay Olivia Writer: Heath Corson (based on Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s Justice League Origin) Studio: WB Price: $15.99 Blu-Ray Release Date: 2/4/14