The 2014 straight to video animated feature ‘Justice League: War’ is now available on Netflix for comic book fans, and fans anticipating the upcoming “Batman V Superman” movie. In this other telling of the formation of the Justice League, the most powerful heroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, and Shazam team up to stop an alien invasion force led by the evil Darkseid, all while the origin of Cyborg takes place. These aren’t the same heroes that fans are use to as they don updated costumes and carry new, often conflicting, attitudes. There is even a nice tease of Batman taking on Superman in their first meeting.
This new origin story starts off in a fun way as Green Lantern runs into the infamous Batman, a man he knows only through stories that he thought possibly were not true. Superman is also an unknown alien hero that’s running around Metropolis. The dialogue between the two normal men and the dialogue of Wonder Woman as she runs around Washington DC enjoying mortal things like ice cream for the first time are humorous, and witty. The action is nonstop, full of animated violence including explosions, superhuman fisticuffs, human suffering, and even death. Once the action kicks in and Darkseid arrives with his alien army there is no moment of pause to catch your breath.
Notable celebrities provide the voices of the heroes, bringing emotion to life as much as the script allows. Alan Tudyk, known by fans for his work in “Firefly” and “Serenity”, voices Superman with a calm almost cold attitude. Michelle Monaghan gives life to Wonder Woman, giving her a warrior spirit with a touch of innocence. Sean Astin voices Shazam and Shemar Moore speaks for Cyborg. While the voice talent does an efficient job giving the characters sound, the writing leaves much to be desired in character development.
Viewers get no back stories on Wonder Woman or Superman. While Superman is called the Big Gun, the writers have also opted out in giving him much character at all. In this version of the man of steel viewers get an alien that is suppose to be very powerful but is taken out by the alien invasion quite early. Superman also is nothing more than muscle as he shows no real heroic or leader like abilities. There are no emotional stories about Batman, just a quick statement of his past, same with Green Lantern. It’s as if the writers made this animated feature for the actual comic book readers alone, and those that just wanted to see a lot of mindless fighting.
While full back stories are not fully necessary, some character development would aid in having the viewers actually like the superheros. The only full back story given follows the accident that turns Victor Stone into Cyborg, and it’s not really that great, or believable. Victor Stone goes from a celebrated quarterback to a sudden computerized superhero after a horrible accident. His is the origin viewers get to follow, and it’s as boring as the character himself.
Another character desperately needing development is Darkseid himself. Little information is given about the would be conqueror except that he has chosen to invade Earth. Aside from wanting to conquer Earth the writers never truly show how evil this creature is. There is never a real moment when viewers will fear him, and fear for the Earth. There is a moment when the aliens celebrate in taking Superman prisoner, an alien Darkseid and his army somehow know all about. The writers and animators make Darkseid godlike, taking everything the heroes can give through most of the movie, then suddenly the attacks begin to hurt. The same attacks the heroes have been using a moment ago are now suddenly effective.
None of the superheros actually act like heroes, quick to jump into the fight and with no hesitation to kill. There really isn’t even any team work that is presented, just everyone attacking at once, not in any kind of plan. Any plan that is designed is thrown out the window due to someone not following orders. The animation is well done, and most of the designs are impressive, while others just feel uncomfortable. Superman’s new attire is as cold and confusing as his character.
‘Justice League: War’ has the opportunity to present a new view on the beginnings of the famous heros, instead it literally follows the overdone cliched story of an alien invasion and no one else has the power to save humanity but the heroes in costume. Viewer’s have seen this done over and over, and honestly much better in live action. Hardcore fans and casual fans both will agree, for an animated feature, ‘Justice League: War’ is flat out terrible and a disappointing tale of some of the most popular superheros to grace comics.