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Justice League: War (2014)

Josh Reviews Justice League: War

February 19th, 2014

I am thrilled that DC’s series of Direct-to-DVD animated films exists, and I always look forward to the newest release.  That being said, there’s no question that this series has been very hit-and-miss.  There have been a few spectacular films (like Batman: Under the Red Hood), and a number of very good if not great ones (the adaptations of Frank Miller’s two classic Batman stories, Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns; Superman: Doomsday; Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox), and a few quite terrible, unwatchable ones (with Superman/Batman: Apocalypse probably being the worst).

The latest animated film is Justice League: War.  It adapts “Origin,” the Justice League story by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee that was the kick-off arc in DC’s totally rebooted “New 52” universe from a few years ago.  I am pleased to see that this film is a direct adaptation of a specific comic-book story-line, something I have wanted to see more of from this film series.  I was also intrigued by the announcement that this film would launch a tighter continuity between these films, with aspects of the story-lines, and the voice-cast, carrying over from film to film.  That’s also something I have been eager to see from this film series, as I have missed the tight continuity from across the many terrific DCU animated TV shows masterminded by Bruce Timm (starting with Batman: The Animated Series and carrying through Superman: The Animated Series, Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Justice League Unlimited).  So all of these were ingredients that might have made me enjoy Justice League: War.

Except, oy vey, this film is a mess.

It doesn’t help that I don’t think very highly of the source material.  I wasn’t a huge fan of DC’s decision to reboot their entire universe and start all of their series and characters back over from zero.  Had that led to exciting new stories, that would have been one thing, but other than Brian Azzarello’s brilliant reinvention of Wonder Woman, I haven’t been that bowled over.  Geoff Johns and Jim Lee are two hugely talented comic book creators, and I spent quite a while on this site last year writing about Mr. Johns’ phenomenal years-long Green Lantern epic.  But I found the six-issue Justice League: Origin story to be hugely underwhelming.  What was intended to be an exciting, widescreen reinvention of the Justice League for a new generation wound up being, to me, simplistic and childish.  I didn’t find any of the characterizations of the characters to be that compelling — quite the contrary, all of the “heroes” came across as juvenile idiots.  It’s one thing for these characters to be inexperienced, at … [continued]