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Review: Justice League: War

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Directed by Jay Oliva

Justice League: War is the first DC Comics Animated Movie of 2014, and the first DC Animated Movie to adapt an storyline from the New 52, following last year’s adaption of The Flashpoint Paradox. The movie adapts the origin story and formation of the Justice League from Geoff Johns’ first Volume, entitled Origin – and the end result is unfortunately mixed. Both The Flashpoint Paradox and The Dark Knight Returns may be more entertaining and awesome then what is on offer here but it’s certainly far from a bad film, providing some very action packed, fun and awesome scenes.

Green Lantern and Batman

Green Lantern and Batman teaming up.

Justice League: War is basically DC’s equivalent of Joss Whedon’s Avengers, only animated. It brings Batman, Green Lantern, Superman, Shazam, The Flash, Wonder Woman and Cyborg together to prevent the alien that is Darkseid from taking over Earth. However, humanity still fears and despises superheroes – and the team’s origin gets off to a rocky start when Green Lantern and Batman head to Metropolis to question Superman regarding some alien activity in Gotham – only to get drawn into a conflict. The plot is pretty straightforward and lacks the emotional investment that the other two movies boasted, with the characters being relatively unlikable and there wasn’t really any connectable superhero here which was a shame.

The characters and the voice acting is, like most of DC’s animations, a mix of quality. Hal Jordan, (Justin Kirk), is one of the highlights of the film – his quips are delivered very well and his interactions with Batman easily steel the show – with Kirk delivering a strong voice that quickly identifies to the audience that he is Hal Jordan, and cannot be mistaken for any other Green Lantern. Batman (Jason O’Mara) and Flash (Christopher Gorham) are also successes. However, it’s Cyborg (Shemar Moore) who easily gets the best parts of the film as the audience’s way into the supernatural, as we look at how Victor’s transformation turned him into Cyborg during the events of the movie, with his character arc with Shazam (Zach Callison) being one of the strongest parts of Justice League: War. 

Wonder Woman (Michelle Monaghan) is where the voice acting and character portrayal slips up however in this movie. Her initial scenes are okay but when she joins the Justice League it becomes a ‘let’s impress Wonder Woman’ competition, which doesn’t really work and feels more like interactions between young children than superheroes. This is a shame because Diana easily had a chance to become one of the best parts of the film. Superman (Alan Tudyk) is also where the film misfires, and needless to say anybody who had problems with his portrayal in Man of Steel will find something to hate here – which is another disappointment.

Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Shazam and Green Lantern head to battle.

Cyborg, Wonder Woman, Shazam and Green Lantern head to battle.

There are several changes from the source material. Shazam for example, who whilst reduced to simply a series of backups in the New 52 series replaces Aquaman as a founding member of the Justice League here which is another disappointment particularly because Aquaman has been so awesome in the comics so far it would be great to see an animated version of his character in the New 52 DCAU. However, this gives fans hope that Throne of Atlantis may be a movie that is adapted in the foreseeable future, as Aquaman’s introduction to the League. You can’t help get the feeling though that this movie is very much missing Arthur Curry – particularly if you’ve read the comic – but it’ll be interesting to see how this works when it comes to future adaptions.

The plot, as mentioned before, is thin and is your standard alien invasion film that doesn’t really feel fresh or new. However, despite what has already mentioned, the real highlight of this movie is the characters – with their interactions making up for it even though the action scenes feel like video games and not proper movie fights. They do become repetitive after a while and quickly get old, with the best action sequences coming at the beginning before the League is fully formed.

One of the movie’s biggest strength  is its visuals, which are stunning. The artwork really works here looking and feels amazing – and is one of the best parts of the film. It’s just a shame that the plot feels weak in places, and not all of the characters are pulled off as well as they could have been. For Justice League: War to really work it would have had to have given us more likable characters and a plot that gives us more emotional investment. There is nothing unpredictable here and the movie as a result ends up being enjoyable – but fairly average, which is a shame because given the universe that the film is based in it could have been so much better.

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