I’m not personally too much of a fan of the New 52 Continuity that the Powers-That-Be at DC came up to reboot themselves with. I think it’s probably because I had to endure two of them already with the 'Crisis on Infinite Earths' and then 'Zero Hour' and I found these reboots are far from flawless. Rather, they tended to be riddled with continuity gaps, inconsistencies, and glitches that left me confused and characters’ histories completely muddled or mangled beyond recognition. Don’t get me wrong, I thought that the 'Crisis' reboot was badly needed to straightened out the mess that DC Comics was laboring under. 'Zero Hour' though—eh, not so much.
Personally, I think that DC seems to have barely managed to sort, readjust, and fix all of the crap that they had inadvertently spawned from the 'Crisis' and now it seems that they have to start all over AGAIN.
"Justice League: War" is the animated version of the New 52’s Justice League and it’s a pretty decent adaptation of their origin story but it does suffer from a few failings. It essentially drops you off in the middle of the deep end and expects you to understand exactly what is going on. I think that they did this adaptation in the expectation that only comic book readers would watch it. While it is their target audience, I do think that they are expecting a bit too much from casual viewers or people who just watch the animated movies like a friend of mine does as he used to read the comics but over the years, his interest has waned in reading it and simply watches the movies and stuff.
However, I did think that they needed to do something to help define some of the characters a bit; sort of like what they did at the "Justice League: New Frontier" movie a while back, where they had like a montage of scenes in the opening credits that helped set things up.
I’m not saying that they needed a full blown origin sequence that would just be too much considering that we have seven major characters to focus on, but brief glimpses of say Krypton exploding and the Kents finding Kal El; a young Bruce Wayne standing above the dead bodies of his parents; Princess Diana’s life on Themyscira; Barry Allen getting struck by lightning; Billy Batson meeting Shazam; Hal Jordan gaining the Green Lantern Ring; and looming over the whole thing would be Darkseid.
Therein lies the primary weakness of "War"; someone who is not familiar with some of the characters and their backstories will be probably feel hopelessly lost. Particularly the presence of Captain Marvel/Shazam and Cyborg as the others; Superman and Batman are fairly well known while the rest—Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Darkseid I think most people are only modestly familiar with.
The movie is otherwise a bit thin on plot as it’s primarily more an hour of extreme action sequences which is the strongest part of the film. They had precious little in the way of character development and even less on the backstories of the characters; which is another weakness of the film in my opinion as again, it seems primarily for comic book fans (like myself) and less for regular audiences who are expected to be in awe of the animation and spectacular fights. I did like how they implied an attraction between Wonder Woman and Superman though. Give Lois Lane some competition guys!
The animation is top notch. Thankfully, they’re not using the god-awful CGI stuff like they used for "Green Lantern: The Animated Series" or "Beware the Batman" but more along the lines of the recent "Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox" and the "Young Justice" series with a hint of anime to them. The fight scenes are brilliant, I particularly enjoyed Green Lantern’s imaginary constructs but Wonder Woman was gorgeously gory in her takedowns of the parademons. One of the few weaknesses in the animation was in some of the character designs. I’m glad that they didn’t use the Flash’s new 52 costume and Wonder Woman’s outfit was great as well. However Superman’s suit just wasn’t quite as impressive and I thought that Green Lantern needed some more energetic effects for his suit sort of like that glowing lantern symbol construct that they use for dramatic effect in the comics.
The voice actors were a broad mix with an outstanding performance by Michelle Monaghan (Wonder Woman) and Jason O’Mara (Batman). I thought that Justin Kirk (Green Lantern) did a decent job, but I did think he was lacking in some of his scenes. He started off rather strong and I was expecting more trash talk and battle banter from him in the big throwdown with Darkseid and he didn’t live up to his early performance promise. I just wasn’t as impressed with Alan Tudyk (Superman) and I thought Sean Astin (Shazam) was just plain annoying and Steven Blum was just not too intimidating as the evil Darkseid with that weird electronic reverberation that they did.
Basically, "Justice League: War" feels just a little too fast-paced with a truncated storyline and characters with too heavy a focus on the battle sequences. I think that they did an impressive job, considering that they managed to squeeze in seven major heroes working together in about 80 minutes but the characters could have used a bit more exposition dialogue, even the villain seemed to only rule a planet consisting of one lackey and a bunch of brainwashed henchmen. Maybe they should have just cut out Shazam who seemed mainly superfluous and filled in some screentime with the other superheroes or more Darkseid and in a sequel added Shazam in like they seem to be doing for Aquaman. But "War" lives up to it’s dramatic title as we get to see Earth’s Greatest Heroes up against a huge threat and taking no prisoners. Blinding a guy, even a supervillain isn’t exactly what you expect for superheroes; but it’s a great modernistic take for a bunch of classic heroes and reinventing them for a 21st Century audience.
RATING: 3 and 1/2 STARS.