With Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, Warner Brothers appeared to reboot their line of DC Animated features into a new DC Animated Universe. A move confirmed by producer James Tucker “It’s our own version of the New 52 Universe, our own start.” Future products further confirm this new start with a mid credit sequence that sets up the next Justice League film. The upcoming Son of Batman, while not a New 52 story, shares the same visual language as War and Batman voice actor, Jason O’Mara.
As the jumping off point, Justice League: War is a good getting the band back (or is it just getting) together story. While it dose turn into an extended action sequence in its back half, War dose excessive and gratuitous, violence right. Using the swarms of Parademons overhead to characterize and bring this team of heroes together, even if none will admit to being on a team or even liking each other very much.
Based on the first arc of the relaunched Justice League book from 2011, War deals with the not quiet secrete invasion of Earth by Darkseid. As the news reports say minutes into the feature, there have been a rash of kidnappings and bombings. The world is in a transitional period. Themyscira has opened up and sent Diana Prince known as Wonder Woman out as an emissary. An alien who may not know his own power is suddenly protecting Metropolis. There are rumors of a Bat-Man scaring criminals in Gotham City. Suddenly the world has gotten more fantastical at the drop of a hat. As Batman rightly puts it, “The world is afraid of us…and they should be.” This is normally where the critique about with a bit more time to world build and explore characters the end product would be much better. It holds true, however, this time, the normally hyper efficient scripting has a clear section that could be trimmed down and not severely compromise the stories integrity: the final 20 minute action sequence or any of the myriad minor ones that propel the plot forward. Nothing major but with such a big emphasis on action, even when it does it extremely well, seeing these characters talk to one another outside of life or death battles would’ve been nice.
Introducing seven characters in 79 minutes is a tough out. Writer Heath Corson maximizes efficiency in the same way Rich Fogel did in the “Secrete Origins” arc for the Justice League animated series by grouping everyone into smaller units allowing for a better overall sense of scale as all roads lead eventually to a battle with Darkseid. Batman, Green Lantern, and Superman are busy in Metropolis. Wonder Woman finds herself saving Presidents and eating ice cream in D.C. Victor Stone and Billy Batson find their lives slowly turned upside down as they are pulled into the conflict. In these discrete units Corson is able to quickly characterize just about every hitting on some extra textual cannon but more importantly setting up how everyone’s dynamic reacts with one another. War doesn’t have the instantaneous feeling of sheer correctness as the old Jusitice League animated series but is still a good foot forward. As an adaptation of the “Origin” arc War dose streamline and change things from the original Geoff Johns work in order to have it work as an animated feature. The changes to Victor Stone’s origin as Cyborg keeps the spirit while making it more tied into the plot of War. Billy Batson aka Shazam was added to the team, replacing Aquaman. Shazam creates for some well animated moments but overall his character was the least developed and just kind of there as a seventh wheel.
I’ve always wanted to see one of these on a big screen, War may not be the best of the DC Animated Features but with its extended action, War fills the screen in away most other features wouldn’t. The fight with Darkseid is excellent, simply put. This is a battle between 7 of the DC universes greatest heroes against a extraterrestrial despot, such an event should be as impactful and epic as it is inWar. The “Super 7” (if Shazam has his way) battle Darkseid and his hordes of demons through Metropolis slowly beginning to work together and defeat a common enemy. Coming together, that is the ey to what makes these continuous set pieces demonstrably better than all the hollow acts of mass violence seen in the cinemas this past summer. The violence has a purpose beyond the plot, it teaches the uninitiated about these characters in a way a smaller film wouldn’t have.
As a reboot it will be interesting to see if Warner Bros. is able to keep a consistent vocal cast. Jason O’Mara is the new Batman here and in Son of Batman. Voicing such a character (and of these characters really) is always an uphill battle, O’Mara manages a good enough Batman. IT won’t set the world on fire but over time could turn into something. Alan Tudyk playing Superman as someone who seems to understand he is playing with ants is an interesting take on the normally stoic character. Michelle Monaghan is a delight as Wonder Woman, exuberant girl power personified with an gleeful enjoyment of fighting. She’s the female Thor. After the screening it was interesting to hear the discussion of people condoning Wonder Woman being covered in the black blood of Parademons, even though such imagery is the same as in Flashpoint Paradox just without all the red and evilness. Overall the entire voice cast give good to great performances. The casting of Steve Blum as Darkseid is puzzling. In the film Darkseid maybe says 15 lines and is more a force of nature than character. Sonically Blum’s bassy voice fits the tyrant but with a actor like Blum his lack of use conflicts with his star power.
In totality Justice League: War is an entertaining spectacle with heart. It isn’t the best DC Animated Feature but is still a strong first step into this new DCAU.