Movie Review: Justice League: War (2014)

Justice League: War (2014)

I have been into DC’s animated movies every since they debuted in late 2007 with Superman: Doomsday. I had planned to buy it, but read a very bad review and decided not to. It wasn’t until I came across it on Pay-Per-View that I decided to watch it with the idea that if it were any good I’d go out and buy it. My expectations were not high, for I had no clue as to what the makers were planning on doing with it. I naturally assumed it would simply be a movie length cartoon, something up to the same standards a Saturday morning ‘toon would have, just with better animation.

My first notion that this was not going to be the case was when I saw Doomsday kill a deer. Did he just “kill?” Then he attacked a human, and from what the twisted and gnarled hand looked like, it appeared he may have actually killed again. And a person this time.

Killing a deer!? Killing a human!?

The moment I realized what demographic these movies were aimed at was when I saw Luthor, in shadow, aim a gun at his assistant, and shoot her dead. These were not going to be your average Saturday morning ‘toons stretched out to movie length. I knew it was rated PG-13, but sometimes a rating doesn’t mean much until you actually see the movie. Then Toyman’s death, and the fact that they showed his blood splattered all over the place, well, that just about sold me. Finally, a new crop of DC animated movies that were not shy about showing the “status quo” of life and death among man and superkind.

Ever since then I’ve been a diehard collector of these films, missing out on only four of them. Two (Batman: Gotham Knight, Green Lantern: First Flight) because I was not fond of the storyline and the other two (Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns) simply due to lack of money. Neither of the former two were based on any kind of deficiency in the animation. In fact, every one of these films have had excellent animation, in both the character designs and the action, and for me that’s the first thing I look at when deciding if I’m going to add one to my collection. That goes for any kind of animation. I first have to like it; if I don’t, I simply have no desire to see it. Luckily, these flicks don’t suffer in that department at all.

In the foreseeable future, I do see myself adding those latter two to my collection. I have even collected that 25-minute short movie, Superman/Shazaam! The Return Of Black Adam that also housed those 13 minute shorts DC made on various heroes (Green Arrow, Jonah Hex, The Spectre) and recently just added the newest flick, the 53 minute JLA Adventures: Trapped In Time to my collection.

As I understand it, starting with last year’s release of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, these new crop of DC animated movies are being based on The New 52 line in which DC decided to simply remake their superhero universe, thus these new movies are now are loosely connected to one another. I have no problem with this, as long as the stories are good and the animation remains superior. The only problem I have ever had with these flicks is because of how well they sell Warner, who foots the bill, will only put into production films based on the Justice League, Superman and Batman. Apparently their standalone Wonder Woman animated movie didn’t sell well, which obviously has the studio wanting to take less of a chance with certain characters that deviate from Supes, Bats and the League. This means it’s highly unlikely we’d ever see a Supergirl or a Swamp Thing animated movie unless, perhaps, WB was to greenlight live action versions of them.

Based on the graphic novel, Justice League: Origin, the movie starts off with superheroes being a relatively new phenomenon in the world. Batman is noticing something insidious happening in Gotham, kidnappings and the sightings of these weird, hulking monsters. One of them is loosely disguised to resemble Batman and he’s on the hunt for one of these things when he encounters someone new in the form of Green Lantern.

It’s obvious Hal doesn’t like Bats, but that’s beside the point. The more pressing matter is the weird ass creature they’re battle and the equally weird device it sticks to the wall in the sewer. It’s last words—“for Darkseid”—however, gives you a real big clue as to who the main villain is.

This movie also acts an origin story for Cyborg as Victor Stone, during an argument with his scientist father, does something stupid and gets his body blown up. His father does what he can to save him and mixed with the alien elements from the explosion Cyborg is born.

As the subtitle suggests this movie is indeed about War and it gets even more war-like the moment Darkseid makes his ultimate appearance. Here’s where Bats, Supes, Shazam/Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman, Cyborg, Green Lantern and Flash have to literally put aside any differences they have with one another, band together and reclaim their home.

I tell you it never gets old watching someone as powerful as Superman do something grand like lay waste to hundreds of alien soldiers in one fell swoop with his heat vision.

Some of the character redesigns took a little getting used to. I enjoyed Superman and Batman’s; still on the fence about Green Lantern and Wonder Woman’s, but for the most part, this was an immensely fun flick to watch, and pretty brutal as they battled Darkseid. The character and action animation were impeccable as usual and I always enjoy the more “adult talk” these characters use. And what I mean by that is some of them aren’t afraid to swear. “Ass”, “hell” and “shit” are spoken with this particularly contentious exchange between Batman and Lantern as Batman tries to dissuade Lantern from going off to fight after his arm’s been broken being a favorite:

Batman: “What are you trying to prove?”
Green Lantern: “I’m not trying to prove anything you phenomenal douchebag!”

I also liked Batman and Superman’s first meeting. Obviously it resulted in fisticuffs as Superman thinks Batman is in league with the creature he was just battling and Batman throws everything he’s got at him and finds none of his tactics has any affect on the Man Of Steel. And then he calmly says Clark’s name, stopping Superman in his tracks and making him momentarily wonder how his alter ego’s identity was found out. I thought that was quite a clever way to stop the fight.

Stick around during the end credits because there’s one final scene mixed in showing how Aquaman will fit into the next Justice League flick.

Warner Brothers released Justice League: War on standalone DVD, a 2-Disc Special Edition and a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy this past February 4th. This review covers the Blu-ray and the 1080p 1.78:1 anamorphic high definition transfer looks superb, with a 5.1 Dolby Digital audio configuration that was excellent, too. Subtitles exist in English and French.

As for extra features on the blu-ray you get:

  • A Sneak Peek at Son of Batman (9:29): A quick look at the next DC animated movie and the 2006 adapted Batman And Son story arc it’s based on.
  • Deconstructing Justice League: War with Jay Oliva and Jim Lee (21:26): In lieu of an actual commentary you get Director, Jay Oliva and Artist, Jim Lee commenting on choice scenes from the movie.
  • Creating Heroes: The Life and Art of Jim Lee (37:19): A very thorough biographical look at Jim Lee that chronicles how he got into making a living drawing for comic books and ending with how got involved with The New 52. This was very fascinating.
  • Justice League: War Act D (23:45): With Jay Oliva narrating he tells (and shows) how a script gets animated.

You also get some choice episodes from other ‘toons like Justice League Unlimited Season 3 “Destroyer;” Batman: The Brave and The Bold Season 2 “The Malicious Mr. Mind;” Young Justice Invasion: Destiny Calling Season 2 Part 1 “Happy New Year;” and Young Justice Invasion: Destiny Calling Season 2 Part 1 “Earthlings.”

I was never a die-hard comic book reader, only noticing them in high school because of the fantastic art on their covers and then spending a brief year in my early 20s actually collecting and reading them. I, however, have always loved cartoons and animated movies centered on Marvel and DC heroes, probably always will and with DC’s animated movie line finally moving in the direction of adapting some of their New 52, I’m still on board as a fan.

Justice League: War Blu-ray Art Front Justice League: War Blu-ray Art Front

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