Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Movie Review - Justice League: War

DVD Release Date:  February 4th, 2014
Actors: Alan Tudyk, Jason O'Mara, Michelle Monaghan, Shemar Moore, Sean Astin, Christopher Gorham
Director: Jay Oliva
Writer: Heath Corson
Producer: James Tucker
Run Time: 79 Minutes


I think that my opinion is somewhere between the party line and the outsider, when it comes to what other fans seem to think. Here it goes: I flat out liked it, as a whole. As someone who has just recently (within the last three years or so) gotten into the DC Universe, including the various animated series and the comics [mostly new 52 stuff], I can't say I'm a die-hard fan. But I have always loved superheroes and the different journeys that they can take us mere mortals on. I have been recently watching the JL and JLU animated series - marathoning them to be more truthful. And while I appreciate other fans' take on Kevin Conroy (Batman), Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman) and Tim Daly/George Newbern (Superman) being the definitive voice cast, I feel like the new voices are a nice change for a new direction in the storytelling.

Jason O'Mara as Batman - I love the serious, gritty voice acting on his part and the slight humorous edge they seem to be trying to convey with the animation in this one (though his face does seem almost overly surprised at times). I always thought Batman had a wry sense of humor about things. To me, O'Mara fits in with the new casting and is a worthy successor to Conroy.

Alan Tudyk as Superman & Michelle Monaghan as Wonder Woman - I'm grouping these two together, because it seemed like that's kind of what this movie did too. I loved the flirtations between the two of them and how obviously fish-out-of-water they were on Earth compared to the rest of the JL. That said, as other reviewers have pointed out, this film didn't quite succeed in making them three-dimensional characters. And Wonder Woman was overly Thor-ed in terms of characterization. Yes, puny mortals and all that. We get it. The whole thing with the ice cream truck made me chuckle, but it also made me shake my head in bemusement. THAT'S what you choose to do with one of the ONLY spotlight scenes for WW in the entire film, DC? Okay then...I found myself hoping that in "Throne of Atlantis" we get to see more humanizing aspects of our goddess and alien JL members. The voice acting itself, while solid, was nothing overly special or memorable.

Justin Kirk as Green Lantern - Wow, they came on kind of strong with the whole 'Hal is an arrogant prick' thing in this one. I liked the voice acting and the smarmy personality, to a degree. But as someone mostly unfamiliar with Hal (more familiar with Jon Stewart, actually), it got kind of off-putting. I did like the push-pull dynamic between him and Batman. Also, the interactions with Flash allowed me to see a glimmer of their friendship, which is something I really liked in JL: Flashpoint Paradox. Kind of interested to see what Nathan Fillion, who I really like as an actor, does with the role in TOA.

Christopher Gorham as The Flash - Got probably the least amount of screen time out of all of them, but was likeable enough. Curious to see if he'll get his own solo film, due to the popularity of the new CW show or if they'll keep riding the Batman/Superman train till it derails.

Shemar Moore as Cyborg - Completely unfamiliar with him before this movie. I knew he was part of the new Justice League and is (supposedly) going to have his own, live action film. I can honestly say that this character was the most likeable in the film. The connections to Billy Batson and even the Flash, through his scientist Father, before he got his powers made me curious. The scenes between him and Doctor Stone, that first fight scene with Darkseid's minions and the overall advantages to which they utilized Vic was really well conceived. In what is supposed to be the Justice League's origin, it's also a showcase of Vic Stone's metamorphosis from every-man to superheroe and how alone that makes him feel. The JL gives him a place to belong and a purpose for his life, after his football dream is obviously over. Obviously cliched in terms of story, but done with so much heart that I couldn't NOT like it! Plus, the whole interaction with Billy, which leads me to...

Sean Astin as Shazam & Zach Callison as Billy Batson - The New 52 origins for Shazam are a lot more relatable that his original, perfect and priggish personality. In this he's a street-wise, tough orphan who has been wrung out through the foster-care system and back. He is still untrusting and a little thief, even now that he's in a home where he can semi-relax. The only thing I wish is that we could have seen Billy get his powers, instead of him already having them. Also, do the other kids in his foster home know about the powers? In the comics they are in on the whole thing. But I get that due to time constraints they couldn't tell two origin stories in depth (and I'm glad they chose Vic, to be honest). To Billy, Vic Stone was a hero when he was just a football player. When he becomes Cyborg, he has this immature, overly musclebound magical guy named 'Shazam' chanting "Vic-tory!" in his ear and cheering him on. I don't think it really sets in for Cyborg that anyone can be a superhero until he finds out Shazam's identity. There are a couple great moments between the two of them near the end of the film. I also laughed when Wonder Woman commented on his acting immature and Billy's suggestion for a JL name and the others' reactions. It was a good choice to have different voice actors for the adult hero and the child alter-ego and both did a really great job, in my opinion. I just hope Billy isn't shoved aside for Arthur in the next film. I'd like to see him continue to be part of the League as well.

Darkseid - I was surprised they pulled out the big gun for something that was mainly an "origin" of the League. Also, the conflict just seemed a little overblown for how quickly it got resolved. I would have liked to see a different villain, on a grander scale. But the New 52 is what it is, and generally that's enough for me. Just didn't translate super great in terms of visuals in my opinion.

Overall, the animation in this was better for me than it was in the popular animated "Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox." I am especially glad to see that they've redesigned Aquaman for the next film. My brother, whom I watched both movies with, commented that Aquaman looked like he had a block for a head in JL:FP - and I agreed. Some people didn't like the design for Diana in this one, but I like that even while being an ass-kicker she still looked feminine (I can't stand the New 52 comic designs for WW and thankfully this didn't adhere to them). Probably the actual animation I liked the least, was the design for Batman. Like I said earlier in the review, I felt like the default face for him was a perpetual "O" mouth in surprise and he just seemed kind of underdeveloped in terms of detail. The visual representation on him wasn't so great for me. Not my favorite film, but I can honestly say I highly enjoyed it and I like the direction they are taking things in with this New 52 business and the new voice cast. Now, if only the Throne of Atlantis is as good as the trailer makes it look...

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