‘Justice League: War’ Review

Published 1 year ago by , Updated October 17th, 2014 at 9:11 pm,

Justice League War Reviews 2014 Justice League: War Review

War is only slightly better than its slightly good source material – but hopefully it will serve as a good introduction for mainstream viewers.

Justice League: War is the DC Universe animated feature adaptation of the Justice League: Origin “New 52″ reboot that ran in DC comic books back in 2011. The purpose of the reboot was to re-introduce DC superhero mythology in a modern-day setting, with modern ideas (and costumes) driving the origins of its famous heroes.

In this new vision, we get the story of how Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and other Justice League members first became aware of one another while banding together to defend Earth from an alien invasion spearheaded by Darkseid, evil lord of the planet Apokolips. But with so little experience playing with others, can the individual heroes of the League come together in time, before Earth feels the brunt of Darkseid’s wrath?

 Justice League War Flash and Wonder Woman Justice League: War Review

Justice League: War marks the newest DCU animated feature from director Jay Oliva, who has definitely put his stamp on the DC animated universe with features like The Dark Knight Returns 1&2, Under the Red Hood and Justice League: Flashpoint Paradox, which are some of the most acclaimed DC animated films in recent years (to varying degrees, of course). However, with Justice League: War, Olivia and Co. are handling the hot-button “New 52″ continuity, whose “tweaks” to the traditional DC Universe (and influence on other media like the Man of Steel movie) have divided fans. It also doesn’t help that JL:W goes further and makes alterations to the already divisive “New 52″ Justice League origin story, which was far from universally loved in its original form.

On the directorial front, Oliva is comfortable in the driver’s seat, and has nailed down the art of creating epic and action-packed DC animated movies. Justice League: War is pretty much all-out action, with character development squeezed in on the fly – yet it balances both halves (action and storytelling) very well. This is especially apparent in the opening act of the film, which smartly segments time according to the popularity of its individual heroes. That is to say: Cyborg and Shazam get much-needed backstory, while Batman and Superman can simply be introduced with little explanation (because really, who doesn’t know them both by now?).

Justice League War Green Lantern and Batman Justice League: War Review

Oliva has also managed to polish his anime-influenced animation style into something much crisper and elegant in motion – and the visuals are only more spectacular in Blu-ray HD. The character animations are, for the most part, well designed, adapted from artist Jim Lee’s New 52 visuals with some slight tweaks. However, in some cases (see: Superman), there is still the problem of some “non-neck” bulkiness as we saw in Flashpoint Paradox. As for the battle sequences? They live up to DCU standards, and make very good use of the Justice League team dynamic.

It is the script for Justice League: War that is going to be hard for some fans. Newcomer screenwriter Heath Corson loses  points for the occasional bad line of dialogue (the “edgy banter” between heroes often falls flat), but the pacing and actual angle of the story and character arcs are well-coordinated and developed – in some respects better than Geoff Johns’ comic book storyline ever was! Ironically, most of what fans will likely take issue with in the film stems from the source material, not the film script; for example, depicting a complex villain like Darkseid as a thinly-drawn, semi-mute brute for the heroes to pummel on.

Justice League War Darkseid e1391611137426 Justice League: War Review

One element of the film script that WILL have to carry the brunt of the blame is in the substitution of Shazam for Aquaman in the Justice League roster. To his credit, Corson makes the New 52 version of Billy Batson/Shazam fit into the Justice League Origin narrative with much more resonance and logic than Aquaman arguably had in the comic book storyline – but the King of the Seas is nonetheless missed (but only for a moment… more on that later).

The other big issue that will trip some viewers up is the overall new edge to the New 52 DCU. These aren’t the traditional depictions of the Justice League heroes (Superman is angrier, Wonder Woman more Thor-like, etc.), and in “modernizing” something traditional, there are inevitably those left dissatisfied with the changes. We haven’t seen these versions of our favorite heroes onscreen before – and  it is certainly something different that may take getting used to.

That new approach to the material also filters into the voice casting of Justice League: War. Those hoping to find fan-favorites like Kevin Conroy or Tim Daly are going to be disappointed: new voices for a new Justice League. The new blood represent some odd choices in voice casting, and with the exception of Jason O’ Mara (Terra Nova) – turning in a solid Batman for the second time after Flashpoint Paradox - they are all something of an acquired taste.

Justice League War Wonder Woman Cyborg Green Lantern Shazam Justice League: War Review

You have Justin Kirk (Weeds) as Green Lantern; Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds) as Cyborg; Michelle Monaghan (True Detective) as Wonder Woman; Sean Astin (LoTR) as Shazam; Christopher Gorham (Covert Affairs) as Flash; and fan-favorite Alan  Tudyk as Superman. The voices are no doubt jarring at first, but (at least in my case) they grow on you.

In the end, Justice League: War, like the entire New 52 reboot, is going to have a hit or miss effect on people. For those not already familiar with the changes it is going to be an adjustment; and even those who already read the comic source material will find new adjustments will need to be made to view the film. In a strange way it feels more cohesive and organic than the Justice League: Origin story arc of the comic books, which (in my opinion) was just slightly above average to begin with. In that sense War is only slightly better than its slightly good source material – but hopefully it will serve as a good introduction for mainstream viewers to get the know the new DC Universe, for better or worse.

NOTE: Be sure to catch the mid-credits button scene for the Aquaman animated feature – coming soon!


WATCH: Son of Batman Preview  


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Justice League: War is currently available on DVD/Blu-ray, VOD services and digital download. It is Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some language.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. To answer the question: “Are all of DC’s animated films made to be shot-for-shot film adaptations of the graphic novels of the same name?” The answer is definitely NO. The most primitive core concept of the literary version is what gets transferred. Other than the most basic shell of the concept, the other thing that is most likely to accompany it is the character dialogue. However in the film the conversation is typically between two different characters, or at a different point of the story etc. the most recent adaptation did away with Aquaman completely! Replaced with Shazam ( as he’s apparently being called ) to ‘better’ fit the flow of the story. Whatever that means. I kind of liked it, but nowhere near as much as I enjoyed Flashpoint. May b a biased opinion because Flash is my all-time favorite character in all of comicdom. My biggest beef with these films is a very simple one. Why in the hell is the running time for all these damn movies less than 80 measly god#!*& minutes?!? What would be so F’n difficult in making one of these films 100-110 min? Doctor Strange got a film over a hundred minute run time! F!#k Strange! So much of the plot is simply gutted to meet the ridiculously low run time. I dunno, that’s my beef, thanks for chattin

    • Alright thanks for clarifying. Like I said I only watched a little bit of it but it looked almost word for word. From what I saw atleast.

  2. I wanted to say that I just now watched Justice League: War and… if THIS is the direction that DC will be continuing to go with their animation than they just lost yet another fan. I picked up the New 52 Superman first few issues after it came out and read them and promptly gave them away to someone else because they were not Superman. In fact, The New 52 is nothing less than the complete and total butchery of beloved characters that have been around since long before my childhood. Though I enjoyed the latest superman movie “Man of Steel”, I can say that this …thing… that they are producing as superman in (and yes I put the “s” lower case intentionally) the comics these days is nothing but absurdity. The artwork I will say is rather well done but the story, the characters… no thank you. Now, Make mine Marvel.

      • I disagree, Marvels just as good as DC, and those two movies don’t even make it on Marvels top 5 worst movies, much less if we included all of DCs lackluster outings, shall we say idk 80percent of the Batman movie franchise, and you can include that last one, which was terrible. How many things can you say bad about that, um, everything, some face could have been salvaged if Tom Hardys get up wasn’t so convoluted but, it was, and he didn’t remind me of Bane in anyway shape or form.

        • What a SNORE!

  3. Just watched this movie. Justice League: War and they butchered all of the characters. No thank you. DC just lot another fan. Make mine Marvel.

    • My main beef with this whole “new 52″ reboot is that DC comic editors just decided to throw away 40 years worth of comic book history/continuity down the toilet.
      I mean clearly they are aiming for a younger readers demographic, but you don’t just alienate the old school readers like that.

      It’s like DC way of saying ” nobody over 30 reads comic books anymore” . Well guess what, we STILL DO from time to time. We buy the collected graphic novels editions. We buy the action figures at comic cons. We are a paying consumers.

      But if this is the new direction that DC comic has chosen, well good luck to them. I hope this younger generation of readers will as faithful as the old ones.

  4. Yeah, I’m trying to keep up with DC, I try to like all their efforts, but 52 was too soon after 2 of the largest comic events in history, well to me. Anyway, the new designs could be worse, they seem fairly appropriate, I, as you, just wish they took this big push and and put it behind the prior universe. It does feel detached, however campy the history is, it’s hard to like something, like this from the ground up, knowing so much has been pretty much erased. Though I do feel obligated to say, it’s not exactly their fault, the art and scripts seem to be spot on, but as Tim said, somethings a click off. They’ll find a healthy medium by the time the next movie comes out, hopefully.

  5. Only thing I liked about the movie was batman. =) Even the voice for him was ok since I was used to it from flash paradox movie. Cyborg was ok. Hal Jordan was annoying. I’m not used to him being so cocky. Superman and wonder woman felt dumbed down, didn’t care for it, but I guess i’m too used to how they are depicted in the justice league animated series. Never really cared for aquaman so he wasn’t missed, sorry. Flash and shazam seemed ok, overall, the movie was great when batman was there, and just ok everywhere else. xD

    • WTF did they do to DIANA?? I am flat out disgusted with the googly-eyed gushy girl cheerleader they have turned her into as a superman side-dish. What happened to the AMAZON PRINCESS that fought in Superman/Batman Apocalypse that was so much more than a 2D Xena?

      Batman was solid, because he is the GD Batman, as usual. (Still wanted Conroys voice coming from the cowl, but this guy doesn’t completely suck, I guess.) Would have preferred a little more maturity from the voice of Jordan, but Flash was a good fit, and Cyborg too. I like the rivalry with GL and Bats as an idea, but it felt a little forced, maybe due to the immature cockyness of Hal. It was an okay ride overall, but I can’t stomach the … well, for lack of a better word, “emasculation” of Wonder Woman.
      She feels minimized and yet somehow made more masculine in her fighting and warrior-ized version here.

      Frankly, if this is what “modernizing” the Justice League does to Diana as a character, then this is exactly symptomatic of what is wrong with modern society as a whole. I can’t really like this film because of that massive flaw in concept that sees things like “Ice cream is wonderful” and “I’ve NEVER met ANYONE like YOU…” coming out of her mouth. BARF and BARF AGAIN. I’m horrified at the vision and disgusted with the writers.

  6. One thing for sure with DC COMICS is there still is an agenda to bury Captain Marvel in every single movie they do. It seems like the company has never gotten over the fact that Captain Marvel was the first character to fly and that his books were kicking butt in the sales department when Captain Marvel first came out. But DC COMICS need to get over their obvious hatred for Captain Marvel, heck, that was in 1941 when Captain Marvel first came out by a rival company. DC COMICS, Captain Marvel is your character now and he has been for a long time since your company bought it. So stop with the stupid agenda of burying Captain Marvel in any every issue your company has Superman in it. We all get it that your company wants Superman to be the ultimate character of all characters. No matter how many aliens are around, DC COMICS has to make Superman the ultimate alien. Get some better writers or let the writers be more creative. But if your writers are going to keep burying Captain Marvel at every chance they get because of some company agenda, then stop drawing Captain Marvel at all and let another company have him.

  7. Just watched this movie and all I can say is… wtf? With the exception of Batman, every single character is a total ahole. Every one… even the people they are suppose to be saving are aholes. Its a planet of jerks. Honestly, i was rooting for Darkseid.

  8. I really disliked the film. In terms of quality of story, dialogue, all of it. I don’t care if it’s faithful to the source, there are literally a thousand other JLA stories that could have been adapted and “War” from the New-52 reboot seems more like a studio-pushed “self-promotion” (but then again, so does every single one of the WB Animation pieces save for The New Frontier, Wonder Woman and Year One) for the upcoming DC/WB slate.

    I disliked how Diana has become a warrioress in the Xena-sense, rather than, y’know, a Wonder Woman who is fighting to keep piece. I disliked how Superman was reduced to a team-strongman, or how Cyborg is being pushed as a core League member. What happened to Martian Manhunter or Aquaman or even Zatanna? Most of all, Darkseid is a little more than a one-dimensional monolith, and no that does not add to his appeal. He is no Lord Sauron from LOTR, at least since he doesn’t have the same level of menace to him. The entire piece was, in line with the recent animated ventures of WB Animation, a terrible rehash of a once great superhero team. Young Justice is better. JLU is better. If you really want to watch a good origin story for the JLA, watch The New Frontier. It’s amazing enough to be on the same level as MASK OF THE PHANTASM.

  9. Worst depiction of Wonder Woman EVER. The only characters that seem right are Green Lantern and Flash.

  10. This movie was attrocious, predictable and flat out boring at some parts. I just couldn’t believe the complexity of the dialogues: “Chains? You’re funny” I rolled my eyes every time Superman said a line. Green Lantern was too annoying. Batman was just too unbelieavably badass and not because he shouldn’t be, but because the script was so poorly done they couldn’t figure out a believable way to fit him in the story.
    All in all, a total disappointment.

  11. Just picked up JL-War this weekend. I thought the story had good bones, but the dialog ruined it for me. Why is it now required for Heroes to use profanity? Are they not suppose to be roll models? Is this what we want our children to become? DC/WB, you really need to take a step back and review the rich history these Heroes have. A foul mouth is NOT an attribute of a Hero.

  12. Just watched it; the animation was pretty good, the fight with Darkseid had some good points.

    But; it was kinda boring. Darkseid goes completely to town on Diana, and 3 seconds later she is up and punching him in the face again.
    Shazam got hit by 3 Omega beams, shrugs it off whatevs. (Superman, who they are depicting as clearly more powerful than Shazam gets knocked out by a single lonesome beam – Shazam took at least 2 direct hits with dual-beams, and at least 1 hit with a single beam – this is lazy plot beams.)

    The previous animated movie (is it Justice League: Doom?) was far more interesting.

    And; a previous commenter mentioned the running time. This movie was short; it FELT short, but was so predictable it would have been painful to watch too much more.

    I am probably pretty close to what the New 52 is trying to appeal to (someone who isn’t mired in the past mythos, not attached to any particular story having not read it – my only exposure is some of the previous movies and JL/JLU), but this plot was fairly weak.
    Justice League and Unlimited both did stories like this much better, and they were limited to 22 minutes a piece.

  13. I found this film to be horrifically funny. I watched all the justice league stuff, saw the comic and was around in the 80′s, so i’m famillar with a lot of this crap. But I noticed little changes to this. I don’t think in any way this should be taken seriously.

    Also, anyone noticed how the lip flaps for all the characters are straight on, but darkside talks like he was from a dub japanese movie?

  14. While I’m not saying this was great, Im not as critical on the plot and writing. I was rather mad that the final scene has the vertical America flags backwards on the white house. Come on who’s sleeping in the animation department.

  15. While I liked the movie, I didn’t like some character aspects. Green Lantern was the most dislikeable character in my opinion. He seemed almost idiotic at times. Some of his dialogue was cringe-worthy. And Superman and Wonder Woman lacked their usual wisdom and nobility. All they did was punch or throw things. And the sparks flying between the two? Ugh.
    Loved Cyborg and Shazam, though I don’t know what happened to displace Aquaman.