Justice League: War (2014)

"Wait, you're not just some guy in a bat costume, are you? Are you freaking kidding me? What, nobody asked you to prom so you now dress as a bat and prowl around your parents' basement?""Wait, you're not just some guy in a bat costume, are you? Are you freaking kidding me? What, nobody asked you to prom so you now dress as a bat and prowl around your parents' basement?"

“Wait, you’re not just some guy in a bat costume, are you? Are you freaking kidding me? What, nobody asked you to prom so you now dress as a bat and prowl around your parents’ basement?”

It’s no secret that there is a battle over which comics company reigns supreme, or at least the fans think there is. The studios themselves don’t see any competition between the two but leave it to social media to stir the pot. At least it’s interesting to watch, right? Why can’t we all just enjoy the content that’s being given to us and not make a big deal out of it? Personally, I love both DC and Marvel equally with all the superhero content that we’ve been blessed to consume over the years. Some of it has better quality but the effort is greatly appreciated.

One thing DC has over Marvel is its animation, while Marvel has taken over live action. Animation is critical to DC’s success because it gives creators the freedom to fully unleash the best superheroes ever created for a page or a screen. Justice League: War is just that type of project. Based on the comic Justice League: Origin by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, it’s the first story in DC Comics universe relaunch after the Flashpoint storyline changed the DC Comics landscape. Taking inspiration from the comic allows the option for a shared universe to be explored instead of constantly being seen as stand-alone films. 

In Gotham the Green Lantern (Justin Kirk) stops a kidnapping from taking place. The media believe the culprit to be the mysterious Batman (Jason O’Mara) but when he shows up, those accusations turn up to be false. Beings known as Parademons have been snatching up humans for their master Darkseid (Steve Blum) to turn into an army. Batman and Lantern seek out Superman’s (Alan Tudyk) help in Metropolis. At S.T.A.R. Labs Silas Stone (Rocky Carroll) is studying a device called a mother box which the Flash (Christopher Gorham) supplied. 

“Wait, what? It is a real honor to meet you, sir, Batman. Sir, Batman, sir. Ahem.”

Justice League: War tells a more modern origin story about the greatest heroes ever created while adapting the comic run almost identically. With a short runtime a lot of ground and backstory has to be covered since not everyone Is well versed in comic book lore and mythology. Screenwriter Heath Corson is able to tell a complete story with a three-act structure in just over an hour. That’s the beauty of animation – since these characters are mostly well known (even if its surface level) the storyline and relationships between each hero is easy to pick up and follow along with without feeling helplessly lost or having to read the source material. Instead, backstories are given in 1-2 sentences that is able to catch people up with who is on screen.

Most of the backstory comes with the lesser-known characters. Not many people who Victor Stone/Cyborg (Shemar Moore) is so his origin story is crucial to the film being successful. When there is a lull in the action, Justice League: War is Victor’s film. He is the one who is able to fully understand the technology even though he just was given his unique abilities. Every other member is well established already in this universe where not much else needs to be explained. Director Jay Olivia and Heath Corson understand their target audience with how much time is spent on Victor establishing him as a valuable member of the team. 

The downside of introducing a new character and fully investing him into the plot is the lack of any struggle within him. There are quick moments, but his entire body and life has changed yet we aren’t given enough time to sympathize with him; the action takes priority. What is focused on instead is Victor’s relationship with his father. It’s a messy and complicated relationship with a more lopsided perspective on it. Victor just wants his father to actually care about him while Silas is too consumed with his work. These scenes are written to take Victors side in the matter. 

“This is bigger than I am and it’s bigger than you are. Get out of your own way. Focus on what’s important here. Everyone else. Regroup with the others.”

Conson’s script’s strength is in the humor of the dialogue. There is a balance of serious moments from the more stoic characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman (Michelle Monaghan) but leave it up to Green Lantern, Flash and Shazam (Sean Astin) to provide the much-needed comic relief. At times the dialogue feels a little questionable, the protesting scene in particular but overall, it’s not a lot to affect the outcome of the story as a whole. 

Members of team up films like Avengers have a unique dynamic between each character. With Justice League: War there isn’t much room for an internal conflict since Darkseid started invading earth almost immediately. Batman is notorious for not being a team player but his character understands this fight is bigger than he is and thus put aside his ego for the team and civilians to save the world.

Since the run time is just over an hour, the pacing starts fast and barely slows down for the heroes to catch their breath. A lot is going on in every scene with the abundance of action – at times it can be difficult to tell what side is winning with the sheer amount of carnage. 

Justice League: War is a solid reintroduction to the heroes we all know and love. Adapting it in line with the relaunch of their comics universe paid off well since this is one story set in a larger universe. Questionable dialogue in certain scenes aside, there is a lot of cheesy humor that lands without the impression of feeling overdone. A longer runtime with a couple of scenes could have helped break the quicker pacing allowing for breaks in the action. It’s a decent addition to the DC animated family. If I were to rate Justice League: War, I’d rate it a 3 out of 5. 

So, tell me, have you seen Justice League: War and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

Justice League: War is directed by Jay Oliva is Rated PG-13 and has a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. Justice League: War was released on February 4, 2014 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 19 minutes. Justice League: War can be streamed on HBO Max.

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