Just forget the words and sing along

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Justice League: the New Frontier Review

Well, I picked up this DVD on Friday, watched it a couple of times, so let's do a review!

Justice League: the New Frontier

Directed by Dave Bullock

Starring the voices of David Boreanaz, Miguel Ferrar, Kyle McLachlan, Lucy Lawless, Jeremy Sisto, Neil Patrick Harris, Brooke Shields, and Keith "Yes, I have the most awesome voice ever" David.

Backstory: So, when Warner Brothers and DC Comics announced that they'd be doing a bunch of straight-to-DVD animated films, and that The New Frontier would be in the bunch, it instantly became the most anticipated. Based on writer/artist Darwyn Cooke's love letter to the Silver Age of comics, The New Frontier re-imagined the origins of the Justice League by plopping them all into the real world of the 1950s. When I first heard about this, I ran down to the library and checked out the original graphic novel. It was a pretty good read, and I was ready to see how they'd adapt this for animation.

Plot: The 1950s was a turbulent time for America, what, with the growing Cold War and the growing paranoia of whether your neighbour might be one of those dreaded Communists. Not even superheroes were above reproach, as there was growing pressure for superheroes to have "nothing to hide" and unmask. Under the growing pressure, there were those like the Justice Society, who chose to retire from superheroing and fade into society. There were those like Superman and Wonder Woman, who swore loyalty oaths to the USA and became government agents. And there were those like Batman and the Flash, who continued to operate as hunted fugitives. Throw into the mix a couple of lost souls: Hal Jordan, a soldier branded a coward because of his refusal to kill, and J'onn J'onzz, the last Martian, stranded on Earth and attempting to assimilate into society. But soon the world is threatened by a demonic force known only as "The Centre," and it's time for all these heroes to put aside their differences and personal politics and do what they do best.

What I Liked: This movie is faithful to the original graphic novel the way Sin City is faithful to its original graphic novel. You swear that all they did was take the comic and use it as storyboards. Granted, to make it a 75-minute film, lots of stuff had to be cut out. This plays out like a hyper-compressed version of the graphic novel, and all the highlights are definitely hit.

What I Didn't Like: As I already mentioned, they had to cut out quite a bit in order to get down to the 75-minutes. Some of the subtleties of the original comic had to be made a bit more blunt (ie preachy) in the interests of time. And despite it being fanboy dream casting, I thought that Lucy "Xena" Lawless came across a little bland as Wonder Woman.

Final Verdict: While still no Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, it is a damn good piece of DC Comics animation.

3.5 Nibs

Bonus Materials: I sprung for the 2-disc special edition, so on disc 1, you get a documentary on the history of the Justice League, a running commentary with the director and producers, a second running commentary with the graphic novel's author Darwyn Cooke, and a preview for the next straight-to-DVD animated film, Batman: Gotham Knight. On disc 2, you get a documentary on the history of super-villains, a featurette on the original graphic novel, and three episodes of Justice League Unlimited.

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