It's that time of year again! The good folks at DC Comics and Warner Brothers are getting ready to unleash this year's series of direct-to-video animated films. And the whole thing kicks off with...
Justice League: War
Directed by Jay Olivia
Starring the voices of Alan Tudyk, Jason O'Mara, Michelle Monaghan, Christopher Gorham, Justin Kirk, Shemar Moore, and Sean Astin
Backstory: So, a few years ago, DC Comics felt that their continuity was in need of a reboot once again, bringing us to the current incarnation of the DC Universe known as "The New 52." The first story in the New 52's Justice League title was Origin, which brought us the rebooted origin of the Justice League. But that's not all. Apparently, Warner Brothers felt these straight-to-DVD movies are in need of a reboot, too. It was just announced that Warner Brothers is going to take a cue from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that 2 of the 3 movies they release every year will now share a continuity. This is the first film in this new "DC straight-to-DVD Shared Continuity Universe." So, much like the original storyline in the comics, this is meant to build a world and hook us into it. Does it succeed?
Plot: "Superheroes" are still a new concept in this world. People are unsure if that alien from Krypton who's begun policing Metropolis is friend or foe. The urban legends of a "Bat Man" stalking criminals at night has Gotham City on edge. And despite being a political ambassador from the island nation of Paradise Island, Wonder Woman's style of dress and warrior attitude is leaving a lot of folks uneasy. But these three and other heroes such as Green Lantern, the Flash, and Shazam, are soon brought together as they investigate some mysterious abductions, and alien invaders planting mysterious technology around the globe. It's not long before the invaders bring forth their commander, the warlord known as Darkseid. And now, these heroes must band together to fight off Darkseid, and it looks like the key to victory will be a young man caught in the middle of it all named Victor Stone. Will our heroes be able to stave off the invasion and save the world? Will humanity finally accept them as heroes?
What I Liked: As always, the interplay between our heroes is key. Batman and Green Lantern have a great variation on jurisdiction that we've seen in countless cop shows. Superman and Wonder Woman start with the flirting right off the bat. Young Cyborg is the most complex, with a strained relationship with his father, and having to deal with the hero worship he gets from Shazam. And I found it surprising that, even though they've always shot for for a PG-13 rating with these films, it took this long for someone to finally say "shit." There's a few great action scenes, too, as these folks always know how to animated a great Superman/Darkseid throwdown. However....
What I Didn't Like: There's too much action, as we barely get a chance to know the characters and let them breath. For great stretches, it seems like little more than the final act of The Avengers but with DC characters. And it's a story that's been told far too often in superhero tales now. An insurmountable threat, so the diverse heroes band together. O, however will it go?
Final Verdict: It's OK, but man o man, the "been there, done that" is one big dark cloud hanging over the proceedings.
Bonus Features: For bonus features on the Blu-Ray, you get a featurette about artist Jim Lee, a featurette about the original comic book storyline, an animation progression reel, four bonus episodes of various other DC cartoons, and a sneak peak at the next film, Son of Batman.