Justice League: War Review

24 01 2014

Over All Score: B

With Warner Bros developing a live action Justice League movie, Justice League: War is a perfect source for them to draw ideas from. Rather then attempt to introduce origin stories for each hero, with the exception of one, War focuses on the origin of the League itself. JL: War’s fast paced action, simple plot, and surprisingly interesting character dynamics showcase all the things that not only make comic book’s fun, but shows why DC’s heroes have endured for so many decades. While the voice acting falls flat and dialogue feels forced at times, it doesn’t take away from the over all fun that this film offers.

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Plot: B

For some reason, many creators think that origin stories have to be filled with for-shadowing, secret origins, and plot twists. The truth is that many of the best origin stores are simple. Superman is the last survivor of an Alien Race. Spider-man was bitten by a radioactive spider, and feels responsible for the death of his uncle. Tony Stark built a fucking super suit. I love the more adult interpretations we get from films like “Man of Steel” but there where times during the film I caught myself thinking, “When the hell is Clark going to put on the freak’n cape?!” JL: War takes a more direct approach; “Darkseid’s here bitches!” is how the film opens up. Within the first five minutes we have a fight scene that forces two heroes to team-up. As the invasion continues, more heroes are forced both into the fight, and they quickly realize that as individuals they can’t hope to win. That’s your plot. You don’t need to know where Wonder Woman comes from, and you don’t need to know how Shazam got his powers. If you want to know those things, look’em up on Wikipedia. It was refreshing to have a story about the Justice League, that was actually about the Justice League, instead of a story about how each hero got their powers.

 

 

Characters: B

This film is going to cause a division among fans. In JL:War, the heroes kill, and most of them are damn good at it. While some fans will approve on the more modern takes of the heroes (especially fans of “the Man of Steel” and the new 52 version of Wonder Woman) many fans will not approve of Wonder Woman decapitating enemies or Superman disintegrating foes. While the voice acting often fell flat or forced causing some scenes to loss their impact, the chemistry between the characters themselves was nothing short of classic. The Flash quickly befriended everyone, while Batman and Green Lantern battled egos. Green Lantern ends up stealing the show, in no small part due to how he naturally bounces dialog off of his teammates.

 

Villain: A

Many writers have said many of the best movie monsters are like natural disasters. They appear without explanation, immediately destroy everything in their path, and have no clear means of defeat. In the comic books, despite how Darkseid is stated to be “The most dangerous threat in the DC universe” there are few stories I have read where that holds true. I recall a Superman/Batman issue where Darkseid’s face was kissing Superman’s fist on nearly every page. His reputation as DC’s premier villain was fading. JL: War threw Darkseid back to the top of the food chain. As Darkseid floated in the air, his mere sight would level buildings. He literally battled some of the heroes with his hands behind his back. He didn’t have an elaborate plan or a sympathetic backstory. Darkseid’s story is, “I am here to kick your ass. What up?” And quiet frankly, that’s all a Justice League villain needs to be. A threat so great Superman and Batman can’t stop it a lone.

 

Fight Scenes: A

Say what you will about the DC heroes killing creatures, but the fight scenes where fantastic! We get an actual Batman vs Superman fight, cyborg’s powers in action are freak’n cool, and I’ve never seen Green Lantern’s constructs used so fluidly in an animated feature. JL: War makes the powers of our heroes become so alive that the next time you read them in a comic book, a part of you will feel cheated.

 

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Modernization: C

It’s clear from the beginning that JL:War is an attempt to modernize characters many have viewed as “out-of-date,” JL: War succeeds when it simply tries to tell a comic book story set in present day. JL: War fails when it attempts to “Be more Adult.” Sprinkled through the story we have characters yelling “Damn it!” “Shit” but they never feel organic. In one scene we hear Green Lantern say, “Let’s rumbas spooky” and in another scene he says, “Stab that son of a bitch in the eye!” The use of vulgar words come off as though during an editing session a middle school boy was hired to throw in a few curse words where he thought they would sound cool. Another example of right idea wrong delivery was when a throw away character said Wonder Woman dressed like a whore. Her costume has always been the subject of feminist debate, so I appreciate DC’s attempt to break the forth wall by having someone within the story address it. My problem is Wonder Woman’s respond to “You look like a whore.” We have Wonder Woman called a whore and the next scene she is ice cream with a 10 year old girl. I shit you not, that was the transition. Rather then take an opportunity to fully address her costume, or give a solid reason for her garb, Wonder Woman says “This costume makes me feel powerful” and then she leaves for ice cream. It was a missed opportunity for something bigger.

 

The new 52: B

The whole purpose DC launched “The New 52” was in order to make their comic book line new reader friendly. After watching JL: War, the viewer has a solid image of modern day DC comics and should be able to transition into the books without being confused as to why Green Lantern is a different ethnicity. The decision to replace Aquaman with Shazam is a little disheartening; especially after all the work DC has done to improve Aquaman’s status.

 

Over All Score: B

When you watch JL: War you get what you wanted. You see your favorite heroes, kick ass and take names. This film isn’t going to replace the fond memories fans have of Justice League Unlimited or Young Justice, but it will quickly show new audiences all the things we love about comic book super heroes.

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One response

4 02 2014
anonsaga

This movie had many, many problems. The voice acting was subpar and the script, surprisingly juvenile. But the biggest problem would have to be troubling characterization which portrays most of the ‘heroes’ as unheroic at best and as villains at worst. Family unfriendly Aesops abound. The two biggest offenders: WW and Superman. In this movie, WW is supposed to be a goodwill ambassador from Themiscyra here to meet the POTUS. However, she demonstrates her ‘goodwill’ by 1) swinging her sword at noncombatants, 2) humiliating a civilian, 3) shirking off her political duties, 4) nearly causing a fatal plane crash, 5) [literally] bathing in the blood of Parademons/Darkseid’s VICTIMS, and 6) demonstrating baffling stupidity about basic customs. A sad characterization for comic book’s most well known feminist icon. Superman is no better. In this movie, he embodies the stale concept of ‘might makes right’, demonstrating this by 1) attacking GL and Batman without provocation while mocking their attempts to defend themselves, and 2) ‘claiming’ WW, then asserting his alpha male status in front of GL and Shazam (a little kid!). Speaking of Shazam (or Captain Marvel as many know him), in this movie he is an unrepentant con artist who mocks his foster family’s concern for him. Wait, WHAT?? Is this the same virtuous, incorruptible Billy Batson that was given his powers by the wizard Shazam? Clearly not. In this movie, Billy only demonstrates immaturity, even in his adult form (wisdom of Solomon, my foot). Cyborg was interesting, although his origin story in this movie is remarkably close to The Guyver. The bigger problem is how the subplot with him and his father is resolved. In short, it isn’t. Basically, Dad says football (and by extension, his son) is meaningless in a world of superheroes and now that his son is one, congratulations, he has meaning again. Like I said, family unfriendly Aesops abound! I’m sorry but this script really does feel like it was written by a 12-year old. The ‘heroes’ act so immature. Superman leads with his fist. Cyborg acts like a spoiled brat. GL calls ‘dibs’ on WW. WW has no common sense. Shazam’s alter ego is a klepto. The only ones that manage to escape the immaturity of this script unscathed are Batman and Flash, although Batman suffers from another problem altogether. In his movie, he apparently thinks he and GL are the same (?). I guess that makes sense since he is able to dodge Superman’s punches and survive a punch from Darkseid (stupid). Oh, and move Darkseid with his belt (also stupid). Speaking of Darkseid, what was his motive anyway? Just another casualty of terrible writing. If you want a GOOD Justice League origin story watch the first 3 episodes of the animated series. There’s no pointless profanity and the heroes are actually heroes.
* BTW, one of the extras, From Animatic To Pencil Test, shows that there actually was a deleted scene in this movie.

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