Ah, yes. Another DC animated film, this time we're diving into the New 52 for the first time. Before I begin my review, I'm going to share my thoughts on this movie BEFORE it came out and also my expectations on it. So here we go:
Justice League: War is directed by Jay Oliva and for those who don't know, he's worked on MANY popular DC and Marvel animated films that were successful. My favourites being Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Batman: Under the Red Hood, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. Not to mention he did work on two of my favourite TV series: Young Justice and The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. Right off the back, I knew that Justice League: War would be in good hands. Scrolling down their Wikipedia page, I was scanning the voice actors for the characters. Unfortunately, I didn't recognize any of the voice actors and was disappointed that NONE of the original voice actors for the Justice League TV series were used. The only voice actor I noticed was Dee Bradley Baker who would be voicing the Parademons. He's a personal favourite voice actor of mine. But this meant that my biggest fear would be the voice acting of the animated film. Now, voice acting, to me, is extremely important and crucial especially in an animated film. I passionately adore voice acting as a talent and recognize that an animated film needs to have the perfect voices for each characters. There are many obvious reasons why but a personal one would be that because it would be THEIR voice I would be hearing whenever I read a comic book. For example, when I'm reading Detective Comics or any Batman title, I would always hear Kevin Conroy's voice as Batman whenever I read the dialogue. Same goes for Mark Hamill as the Joker. Tim Daly as Superman. So on and so forth. The point is, the voice acting defines the animated film itself. One more thing I want to add is that Justice League: War is going to be based off of Volume 1 of the New 52's Justice League. Same plot, same villain, and basically everything is the same. Good news is that the story will most definitely be incredible since its based off the source material. Bad news is that we won't be getting anything fresh and new. It' going to be a story we've already been told from the comic books. To me, it's kind of a "cop out" move: Relying on a 'already great story' and simply transitioning it into a animated film. Nonetheless, I was excited for this film but also was worried.
Here's my condensed review in a couple of sentences:
"Justice League: War is an accurate and exceptional representation of Geoff John and Jim Lee's story of the Justice League. Overall, the voice acting is either underwhelming or amazing, and some in between. Nonetheless, the characterization between characters is highly enjoyable with a few standout quotes. With its entertaining dialogue and spectacular fighting sequences, this DC animated film has introduced itself as a great start as it dives into the New 52 universe."
Now let's get into the details (that's jumbled and in no particular order) and my personal thoughts (which hopefully count for something)
No Freeze Breath?!
First thing I noticed is that Superman NEVER used his freeze breath. His heat vision is overused yet effective but his freeze breath isn't used at all and can be JUST AS effective. I mean like, if you're going to show off Superman's abilities, why leave out one of them? Did people forget that he can actually freeze things using his breath? This reminds me of how people always forget that Bizarro has freeze vision... I bet YOU didn't know that. You rarely see it, yet he possesses that ability. Go read Alex Ross' Justice.
I'm glad they didn't underestimate the power of Shazam's lightning bolt. When Billy Batson first used it on the Parademon, the lightning bolt was devastatingly powerful that it blew out all the lights in its radius. That mystical lightning bolt should never be underestimated! However there are some questionable things with Captain Marvel and the word Shazam. I always thought that when Captain Marvel said the word Shazam, he would immediately transform back to a kid (and vice versa) along with the magical lightning bolt hitting him. But in the movie, Captain Marvel introduced himself by saying his name as "Shazam" outloud. In theory, that should have made all that transforming and lightning bolt stuff happen. But it didn't. Captain Marvel said Shazam again to charge the Motherbox and it didn't happen again! I looked up on Wikipedia and it clearly says: "When Billy Batson says the magic word "Shazam!" and transforms into Shazam/Captain Marvel, he is granted the following powers...." It was a crucial error in terms of consistency throughout the movie AND in the comic books. Also, he never used the Shazam lightning bolt against Darkseid which is a bummer.
The origin story from Cyborg was illustrated very well. It's different from the comic book but it's an interesting take on how Cyborg actually inherits his mechanical being. I also enjoyed the drama and relationship between him and his father. It's down-to-earth and relatable. Also, having Cyborg as a main character and founding member of the Justice League is a big deal. He was never in the animated TV series with them, he was only in the Teen Titans. Suddenly, we saw him in Justice League: Doom. And now he's in the New 52 Justice League. He's a great addition to the team. Brings diversity and the technological smarts in which he works incredibly well with Batman. It's like he graduated from the Teen Titans and moved on to the Justice League.
The Fight Scenes
The fight scenes were AWESOME. Every character's abilities and skills were utilized greatly (except for Superman's freeze breath). Wonder Woman's combat with a sword is highly entertaining as she slice 'n dices up all those Parademons swiftly and effortlessly. The Flash using his lightspeed abilities to its full potential as he runs on water, creates cyclones and outruns Omega Beams. The way he was fighting with all that speed was fascinating too. Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel and Cyborg were equally amazing as expected but Green Lantern stole the show for me. His green constructs were amazingly detailed in this animated film as he used various objects as he fought. Such as a dragon, elevator, the classic baseball glove, a locomotive train, bear trap, bank safe, multiple chains, robotic machine shooting missiles and so much more! I thought it was very creatively done. I also noticed that the fighting sequences were violent and bloody. Which is a good thing, especially for DC. DC should be more darker, gritty and edgy when it comes to dealing with villains as oppose to Marvel. Just picture all of Batman's villains and what they're all capable of doing.
When they first released the trailer for this movie, all the fanboys instantly noticed that Aquaman is not in the movie and is actually replaced by Captain Marvel. Hardcore Aquaman fans were upset and felt that he's not getting the respect that he deserves, since he's usually seen as a joke. Personally, I was surprised because since I thought they were following Geoff Johns story where they had Aquaman instead of Captain Marvel, I wondered why would they deliberately replace him? Was it because he was THAT much of a joke? Plus, having Captain Marvel on the team is just way too many powerhouses with super strength now. But there's good news. 1. Captain Marvel was one of the best things in that film. 2. Aquaman is actually getting his OWN DC animated film next! According to the post-credits of Justice League: War at least. So there you go. DC is making up for all those hardcore Aquaman fans.
Unoriginal Story From DC
I've mentioned this before but I want to stress it out again. Justice League: War is taken directly from a comic book. It's a good thing because the story is great and we get to see it as an animated film. But the bad thing is that DC relies on original stories so much and that we already know what's going to happen. They are afraid of trying something new and going into a creative direction. The fans always want to see something new! So far they've done Under The Red Hood and the Flashpoint Paradox. Both in which are my ALL-TIME favourite animated films but at the same time they're taken directly off from the comic books. Now, they're making Son Of Batman which is yet another story taken from the comic books. Although, the story is taken from the comic books, not everything is copied so I guess it's that all that bad as I make it sound.
Vulgarity & Extreme Violence
Oh. My. Goodness. Let me begin by saying that there was quite an excessive amount of swearing and name calling in this film. Although I shouldn't mind it too much, it's just that I've NEVER heard superheroes swear. Not in the comic books and not in the TV series. But they do so in this movie! Hal Jordan called Batman a "phenomenal douchebag". REALLY? I busted out in laughter after he said that. That is ridiculous and out of character. Also, the word "idiot" and "moron" is thrown around a lot from Green Lantern and Batman, along with "son of a bitch" and "smartass". But the one that blew me away was when Cyborg was trying to get the Motherbox to work in order to get Darkseid back to his home planet and in doing so he momentarily failed to have enough energy and whispered out "SHIT." WHAT. NO. WAY. I had to replay it again just to make sure he actually said that. I laughed out so hard. Even harder than the "phenomenal douchebag" part. So yeah, there's some vulgarity in this film. Works hand-to-hand with the extreme violence.
Which brings me to my next point. I know that the violence was pretty cool and enjoyable but there were some over-the-top ones which made my jaw drop. The first being when Victor Stone get blasted by the explosion from the Motherbox, only to see Victor Stone's pink muscle tissues around his body... Kind of disturbing. The other one was when the Flash took a crowbar and jabbed it straight into Darkseid's eye... and a hell lot of blood came spewing and dripping out of it. Really unnecessary and over-the-top. I like violence but those two moments were too much.
I LOVE cameos. Especially in superhero TV series such as Arrow and Marvel's Agents of SHIELD. So when I saw T.O Morrow working with Silas Stone, I smiled a lot. Also seeing Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen at the end were pretty awesome too even though they didn't have any dialogue. You can also count Steve Trevor for being in the film too. But nonetheless, cameos and superhero references are my favourite things in the world. No idea why. They just make me happy.
Dialogue & Friendships Between Characters
The dialogue, for the most part, is spot on, witty, and genuine. Geoff Johns take part of the writing for this animated film so it was expected. So even though Wonder Woman's voice acting was not all that great, her written lines were fantastic. The writing aspect of an animated film is equally as important as the voice actor who voices the characters. The lines need to be in character and at the same time be creative and witty for the audiences to keep up with. It's really hard to write dialogues for characters. It's a respected talent. You'll appreciate it if you read comic books a lot, then you'd understand.
I loved Batman and Green Lantern's dialogue that they trade among each other. It's really funny and enjoyable. They're not supposed to get along which is why their dialogue is entertaining. Hal Jordan is an arrogant, cocky, hard-headed and reckless superhero. On the other hand, Batman is a strategic, patient and proud superhero who keeps to himself. They both try to earn each other's respect by trying to outdo one another and see it as a competition which is why their friendship between each other is so great and fun to watch.
I also loved Captain Marvel/Billy Batson's dialogue with Cyborg. Billy Batson really looks up to Cyborg and praises him every time they see each other. Captain Marvel is literally the same person but in a different body and it is equally fun to see a grown man praising him exactly the same way. Captain Marvel is a childlike and goofy character who balances Cyborg's mature and humble self. The lines they share with each other is just as entertaining as to Batman's and Green Lantern's.
I also want to add that the Flash had some great lines too and a few stand out one-liners! Another favourite part of the movie is Green Lantern and Flash's reaction to seeing Batman as a real thing. Classic dialogue right there.
The Flash Running Out Of Breath?
Yeah. So there was that one scene with the the Flash running away from Darkseid's Omega beams and when he finally escapes it, he is seen out of breath. First of all, the Flash has superior endurance. The only time he is seen out of breath is when he fought Lex Luther/Brainiac as he was running around the world delivering punches to him. THAT I understand. THAT was a iconic and epic moment in Justice League history. But now we're seeing him out of breath dodging laser beams? Inaccurate and inconsistent. But then again, I'm just nitpicking. Still though.
Batman And Superman's Encounter
Loved this scene. When they first encounter each other, you can see Batman testing the water and seeing how much potential Superman has as an alien from another planet. In this scene, you can see how resourceful Batman is against a super powerful alien and also how persevering Batman is as he gives it everything he's got. At the same time, you can see how mighty Superman is. He's tanking everything Batman's got effortlessly and without flinching. This is how I imagine how Batman and Superman are going to meet during the movie adaptation!
Now let's talk about the voice acting:
Wonder Woman. One of the worst voice acting I've ever heard for Wonder Woman. They did it right in the Justice League TV series (Susan Eisenberg) and also in her own solo animated film (Keri Russell), but this one by Michelle Monaghan was off. Really awkward voicing for an Amazon princess. I was scrunching my face whenever she was talking. You can tell how amateurish the voice acting is as they introduce Diana Price into the movie. Not very confident and charismatic at all, especially since she's the only female superhero among the bunch. If you check out Monaghan's discography, you notice that she has done absolutely no work on voice acting at all.
Darkseid. Nevermind about Wonder Woman's voice being bad. Darkseid's take the medal for being the WORST voice in the film. Terribly overdone and echo-y. They tried to make him sound like a true supervillain by making his voice deep and evil. That backfired and instead, they made him sound like a ridiculous and cliche cartoon-y bad guy voice. Couldn't take him seriously at all. Fortunately, he didn't have many lines.
Batman. At first I didn't like it at all. Batman's first line in the movie was: "What were you doing at the docks... I want answers!" Jason O'Mara said it so terribly off that is was awkward. They should have redone that line. The thing is that, I've watch the Batman: TAS, Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, Batman: Gotham Knight, Justice League: Doom, Batman/Superman: Apocalypse etc. etc. and concluded that Kevin Conroy IS Batman. So when I hear another voice actor playing as Batman, in which Conroy has voiced since '92, it's absurdly weird. But I really tried to have an open mind on other voice actors who've voiced Batman in the past. Like William Baldwin in Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (which I found was terrible as well) and Rino Romano from The Batman TV series (which was pretty decent). BUT, I actually got used to O'Mara's voice acting for Batman. I probably hated it for the first half hour of the movie, but then I ended up liking it. Good thing I ended up liking it because he's going to be Batman again in the next Batman animated film: Son of Batman
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan). It was decent. You don't actually see Hal Jordan in animation so hearing his voice is sort of new. The only times I've heard Hal Jordan was when he's voiced by Nathan Fillion in which he does a fantastic job. I thought this Green Lantern's voice, done by Justin Kirk, was a tad too immature and comical than his usual self. Overall, it was passable.
Superman. This one was also decent. You can hear a bit of Tim Daly in this Superman's voice. Alan Tudyk's voice for this Superman wasn't too charismatic and distinct. It was like a watered down version of Tim Daly's take on the voice. Still, I never scrunched my face whenever I heard him speak, so it was passable as well.
Cyborg. Really well done. A very mature and solid voice acting for Victor Stone. I always thought that the voice actor for Teen Titan's Cyborg was great but I guess it was only meant for that show. Above average voice acting.
The Flash. Also very well done. That voice actor was correctly chosen for the voice of the Flash. I can really hear the familiarity of the character. Second best voice acting in the film.
Billy Batson/Captain Marvel. The best one of the film. Really genuine and lifelike. Both voice actors that provided the voice for Billy Batson and Captain Marvel nailed it. You can hear the cleverness, curiosity and slyness of Billy Batson. At the same time, you can hear the enthusiastic, fun and man-childlike voice in Captain Marvel. Excellent voice acting for both characters.
Bonus Favourite Scene
I have to conclude that the ending dialogue between all the characters at the end was the best thing in this movie for me. It was the part when the President is giving his speech and the characters are talking among themselves. The lines are flawless and highly entertaining. I don't know how else to describe the whole scene so I'll give you the script...
President: Today marks a momentous day in human history, in our darkest hour, these superheroes don their colour costumes -
Green Lantern: Costume? This is my uniform!
Green Lantern: Oh, NOW you want to bark orders? After I did the heavy lifting and pulled everyone together?
Batman: You’re referring to when you botched my simple directives and Wonder Woman lead the charge?
Green Lantern: Cyborg show you a video…?
Batman: -smiles- He emailed it to me.
Green Lantern: I really hate you, Bats.
Cyborg: I shouldn’t be up here.
Captain Marvel: Are you kidding me? Of course you should, we won. Be proud, your dad looks like he is. By the way man, thanks for not talking about the… other thing.
Cyborg: Don’t sweat it. And thanks for seeing me in here.
Captain Marvel: What? You’re the bomb, Victory!
Cyborg: I know, I know. You keep reminding me.
Captain Marvel: Victory! Victory!! Victory!!!
President: These super friends used their super powers to protect us -
Green Lantern: And we’re not friends either.
Batman: We’ll let them think we’re both.
Green Lantern: Why?
Batman: So it’ll keep Gotham PD off my back. The air force off yours.
Captain Marvel: I don’t know. A team? I got a lot of… responsibilities.
Wonder Woman: As do I.
Green Lantern: Well I have a whole universe to protect, people. So there you go
The Flash: C’mon, we can do it together.
Green Lantern: Yeah? Can you fly into space?
Superman: I can.
Green Lantern: Not my point. Look, we are not friends! We’re not a team.
The Flash: I don’t agree, Hal. I kind of like being a part of something.
Green Lantern: Yeah you would. Listen, this was just a one-time deal, okay?
Batman: And what if something like this should happen again?
Green Lantern: Please! What can possibly happen?
President: …That said, I am very pleased to introduce to you – Gee I didn’t even ask. Do you guys have a name?
Captain Marvel: Yes we do!
Cyborg: We do?
Captain Marvel: That’s right! You can call us… The Super Seven!
Superman: Aw no
The Flash: No, no
Wonder Woman: Hera help us.
Green Lantern: The Super Seven?
Captain Marvel: What you don’t like it?
And that concludes my review! A very long one, indeed. But it feels good that I poured out everything that I wanted to say about this animated movie. If you read my whole review, damn, leave a comment saying that you did
I give Justice League: War an 8.8/10