written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
Another DC Animated feature releases, and hot on the heels of the excellent Flashpoint Paradox I walked into this holding super high hopes. This also serves as the very first DC Animated feature to be set in the New 52 universe that launched three years ago. The way that Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams reinvented the origin of one of the most powerful super-teams in comic history was an absolute delight to read, one can only hope that watching it in action would be just as delightful.
The modern world is just getting used to super powered individuals, talks of a Batman in Gotham sit as whispers on the lips of gossiping kids and newscasters, a Green Lantern stands as a protector of a whole galaxy, a super powered alien is getting used to life in the big city, an amazon from a mythical island is under constant government surveillance, and a man faster than a race car protects the city he calls home… all wonders in their own right… and all working relatively alone. When a threat several worlds away sets its sights on the planet they call home, these super heroes need to put their differences aside and stand together as super friends to drive back the conqueror called Darkseid.
The movie adapts the first six volumes of the New 52 Justice League and does a pretty spot on job of it. The action translates well from panel to screen and while I was initially skeptical of some of their choices of voice actors, I felt they did a good job with it. The cast is completely new to the roles, unlike prior films where voice actor who played their respective characters (like Kevin Conroy as Batman) are cast, Andrea Romano (the voice director of previous entries in the DC Animated Universe) casts some strong actors to portray their super-characters. Justin Kirk (Weeds, Modern Family) steals the show as a sarcastic portrayal of Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, and while I absolutely love it when Nathan Fillion portrays the role, Kirk did a spot on job with the character. His sarcastic exchanges with Batman, portrayed by Jason O’Mara (Terra Nova, The Good Wife), were some of my favorite moments. Speaking of Jason O’Mara, I grew up in the age of Kevin Conroy as MY Batman and usually I am resistant to voices other than KevCon, but O’Mara did a fantastic job with the role and I am more open to him being Batman in the forthcoming Son of Batman movie.
As far as the rest of the cast goes: Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Frozen) as Superman, Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Mission: Impossible 3 Ghost Protocol) as Wonder Woman, Christopher Gorham (Popular, Covert Affairs) as Barry Allen/The Flash, Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds, Diary of a Mad Black Woman) as Vic Stone/Cyborg, and the duo of Zach Callison reprising his role as Billy Batson and Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Rudy) as Shazam round out the remainder of the heroes. Overall, the only choice that seemed out of place was Alan Tudyk as Superman. In previous DC installments, Alan Tudyk portrayed the role of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow and his dry, witty, slightly sarcastic delivery worked for such a character… but as the man of steel? I was hoping for a more strong sounding character voice, like Nolan North who voices Supe in Young Justice or George Newbern who voices the character in several other DC Animated features. I can’t complain too much about the casting choices though, bringing the new actors to the table fit well with the origin story the movie was hoping to deliver.
The animation quality is consistent with other DC Animated features and there wasn’t a lot of variation from the comic. My biggest issue was the change in some of their costumes, while there isn’t much variation in say Superman or Batman, the most obvious change was in Wonder Woman’s character design, going from her signature tube top to what looks like a sleeveless top just didn’t look quite right. While I understand that they wanted to keep it fairly consistent with the look of other DC Animated features, I just cant bring myself to understand the reason behind such a slight but character design change, did they feel Wonder Woman was far too revealing or something?
My favorite character design of this entire movie was Shazam, but that fact is overshadowed by my biggest complaint (and a pretty whale sized complaint) of this entire picture: WHERE. THE F*CK. IS. AQUAMAN?!? When the New 52 launched, Aquaman went from the butt of comic book nerd jokes, to absolute BAMF status. With all the changes the New 52 made, it’s safe to say that Aquaman “won” in those regards. But where is he? When the Justice League comic series began serialization 3 years ago, it was the big 3: Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, along with Aquaman, Cyborg, The Flash, and Green Lantern as the founding members of this new Justice League… pre-Flashpoint, the Justice League was a huge organization manned by countless heroes of various ranks, this super seven fit well with the whole origin story… but I can’t seem to figure out why they chose to add Shazam to the story (who eventually is introduced in future comic issues). Pretty much every scene that should have had Aquaman had Shazam in his place. I like Shazam as a character, but honestly I would have rather seen Aquaman commanding a Great White Shark to chomp on a legion of Para-Demons than Shazam throw in a World of Warcraft jab at Darkseid.
While I can’t say I didn’t like the movie, after The Flashpoint Paradox and the Dark Knight Returns, this first foray into the New 52 as an animated feature felt more lackluster. I am looking forward to the Son of Batman but after watching Justice League: War, I’ve learned to temper my expectations a bit.