‘Justice League: War’ Review

Published 5 months ago by , Updated February 5th, 2014 at 6:39 am,

Justice League War Reviews 2014 Justice League: War Review

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!

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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:

4 out of 5
(Excellent)

TAGS: justice league

110 Comments

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  1. I really liked the Justice League Origin story arc. Darkseid was thin I agree but I thought the introduction and the banter of the characters were great. Especially Batman and Green Lantern’s conversations. Those were the stand out moments of the book.

    • Those are still intact in the movie, you’ll be happy to know :-)

  2. I loved it, Shazam felt unneeded though, and Hal a bit too much of a goof but his interactions definitely brought the funny whereas youd think theyd use flash.
    I loved this version of wonder woman.
    Superman was there….he had…cool action? Not much about him.
    And Batman was awesome, as always.
    They invested a lot in cyborgs story I must say.

    I really loved Darkseids theme music, he himself was cool and imposing and the parademons were cool.

    Couldve trimmed a few edges, replaced shazam with aquaman, but hey its alright we’ll see him soon.

  3. Thanks for the review, Kofi. The mobile site still doesn’t show the rating you gave it though.

  4. Another very solid entry in my opinion. The battle with Darkseid is great to watch. I also prefer Wonder Wonder the be more warrior-like. Didnt like her in the WW where Terry Russel voiced her, uncertain etc, if you’re raised as a warrior from the time you can walk your be a badass and not a disney princess lol. Anyways, O’mara’s bats has grown on me, he basically a gruff sounding Adam West which I kinda dig now. Also my initial reservations about Darkseids too human sounding voice (from the preview) where nicely fixed with the digitized tweaks to make it sound more god-like, ominous.

    • To me they finally got WW right. Warrior attitude, no doubt, no b*******, just very direct. Costume was cool too. Functional warrior-like but with that “superhero” modernized flair.

      Kind if think WW and AM would have just been the same honestly, or rather similar attitude/behavior so I didnt miss him at all. Shazam was ok, though he had the hood now in the new 52? Seemed like just the old costume. Though he had some funny lines.

      As far as “button end credit scene” that was probably the worst I’ve ever seen. It gets the point across.. But seriously feels like it was written by an 8 year old kid.

      • @LazerBlazer after reading your comment, I went back to watch the credits. Had no idea a scene was inserted. Thanks

  5. Wonder Woman really STOLE the show for me. Her demeanor and fight scenes really stood out. LOVE the sword fighting… Batman also was written really well considering he has no powers they did a great job of highlighting his intelligence, which makes him such a valuable asset to the team.

    • @Julien I agree! Wonder Woman was finally the warrior she was meant to be! She was somewhat naive about man’s world but it all made sense. And Bats once again impressed me as well with his intelligence. He will always be the true leader of the League in my view.

  6. Dear Kofi,

    It’s Jay OLIVA not Olivia. You kept on typing his name incorrectly :(
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Oliva

    • Thanks, I stand corrected.

  7. Not at all terrible, but definitely the weakest DC animated film to date.

    • Whaat, nooooo….
      Id watch this again over than Jl: doom or crisis infinite earths

    • Agreed. Doom and Crisis were better.

  8. A well deserved rating. It was a very good movie..keeping close to the source material…but putting some new stuff in that mostly worked.

    Missed the Sharks scene from the comic…..That would have been EPIC…..I still don’t really understand the need for Shazam… Throne of Atlantis would be nice..but they’d have to change why Aquaman was on earth in the first place..That’s the one problem I have with this movie….but Shazam wasn’t too bad.

    Superman-Wonder Woman romance is also slightly alluded to….

    Totally onboard with the new voices…thought everyone did a good job.

  9. I thought the plot was too simplistic for my taste. The reworked characters were refreshing but I found Green Lantern quite annoying. Batman was as you’d expect with the exception of his voice (it takes getting used to). Superman was much darker in nature than we’ve seen him in previous versions. Cyborg was actually the more matured member of the group considering he was a high school kid. Darkseid was just meh. While big and opposing, he was too one dimensional for my taste.

    Wonder Woman was the most drastic change of them all. Her costume and hair were new and her personality as well. She was fearless and myopic. And she was always in warrior mode. I think this version fits her character perfectly. BTW, the language was pretty dark so beware if kids are viewing.

  10. haha, guess I’ll be alone in this then. Wonder Woman was kind of a brutish dumb jock type to me, as was Superman who had an additional dose of angsty d-baggery. I cringed so hard when she said to him, “You’re strong,” and they shared that look as in setting up a romance. Bleh! This is 90210 crap. They’re pushing that crap from New 52.

    Billy’s powers are weird, the Shazaam thing. He also feels not like Billy. Being kind of a d*** to his foster siblings and doing all those illegal things to see the game and taking Victor’s jersey. The Victor-y thing was a bit much. I like the relationship they develop but Cyborg just feels really forced just as he did when New 52 JL came out. I really disliked his inclusion in the comics and here as well.

    The thing I liked though was Flash even though he had a small part. His powers doesn’t seem fully developed which is cool by me.

    Soon as I started treating this movie less seriously and just took it as like an action/comedy movie, I began to enjoy it. I liked the humour in this. You should have posted that hilarious gif of Hal:

    http://oi57.tinypic.com/29ygr2b.jpg

    Probably the best part of the movie for me. Feels so weird but I think Batman and GL felt more like bros than Batman and Superman. I’d rather watch a movie devoted to a team-up with them over one involving Batman and this Superman. Sad.

    • Lol! No Moz, you are not the only one. I hated how they changed/portrayed the characters. Darkseid was supposed to be a relentless super villain with twisted philosophical edge who tears apart the whole Justice league, not some dumb hulking brute who smashes around buildings and gets beaten the same way a video game boss in the final level does. I liked the way how they presented the new warrior type Wonder Woman but i don’t get why she acted all childish didn’t take the conversation with the President seriously when she was supposed to be the political ambassador and future leader of her own people. Not that I am a fan of the original character anyway. Superman was arrogant, violent and reckless throughout the entire movie. The romance between Wonder Woman and Superman felt forced and unnecessary. Shazam acted like a jerk.
      Best part of the movie was the animation and Cyborg. With proper characterization and a better plot the movie would be lot more enjoyable. Definitely not one of DC’s best. 6/10 from me.

  11. I really enjoyed the relationships of this one. Cyborg & Shazam were the unsung heroes and I’d certainly look forward to seeing them reprised in another feature. Shemar Moore impressed me with the level of emotion he brought to the part. The friendship/humor between Green Lantern & Flash was also noteworthy, as was GL’s time with Batman.

    Jason O’Mara ended up being a decent choice, better than I had expected and second strongest behind Shemar Moore. At the opposite end, Alan Tudyk was an awful choice for Superman. There would have been greater irony casting him as Hal Jordan, given their common bond of being pilots. It’s feeling more and more like the casting director is trying to squeeze in a Firefly alum into every feature. They have George Newbern in the cast but use him instead to play Steve Trevor … odd.

    The villains were completely forgettable, but I’m used to Michael Ironside’s Darkseid rather than what we were given here. Wonder Woman was an interesting departure, too. I didn’t mind Michelle Moghnahan’s delivery but the character was a bit stand-offish for my tastes. Still, the film was very enjoyable — minus a bit of language (some of which was well-placed).

    It’d be nice if they would choose one JLA film and do a sequel. This or Doom would be fine by my standards. I’d even watch a new movie based on the JLU series, so long as we got more John Stewart and Hawkgirl.

  12. Have not watched it yet, but from the still shots I love the costumes. That first and foremost. Simple, modern, functional, stylized.

    Not having read the New 52 comics, I’m curious as to how the story will strike me. Darkseid-type plots generally appeal less to me than the Justice League dealing with real-world stuff, but we’ll see…

    And while I’m certainly no expert, I just don’t get Shazam. Why is he even still being used as a character? Seems so hokey. But maybe I’m missing something.

    • For what it’s worth, he fit well in this one. I’m not a huge fan of the character, so I can’t speak to how accurate or faithful he was to the comics, but his introduction and back story within this adventure worked well and served its purpose.

  13. 4 out of 5 stars!!!

    You’re off your rocker.

    Flashpoint Paradox was a solid 4.5 out of 5.

    This was lazy in the script, lazy in the voice acting, and poorly executed music.
    2.5 tops. TOPS

    WB releases some solid animated flicks, Batman: Under the Red Hood, Flashpoint Paradox (as mentioned), Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, Batman: Year One, Superman: Unbound, even Green Lantern: Emerald Knights was a bit of a shake up.

    • Oh, I had a final point there…

      WB releases some solid animated flicks… this was not one of them. This felt like Marvel… OOoooo

      • Yepppp! I didn’t wanna risk starting a flame war so I erased it from my earlier post. It felt like I was watching one of Marvel’s live action movie, DC’s Avengers. Why was Darkseid so huge? Doesn’t he have henchmen to do his fighting for him?

    • I’m amazed at all the positive Wonder Woman comments on here. Her voice acting was terrible, and apparently she’s at the intellectual level of a caveman. This was a pretty average installment for DC animated.

      • No shes just foreign, almost like she grew up on an island-oh wait she did.

        • Guy… I have literally thousands of comics. Using that as a reason to explain why a final product is weak does not work.

          The script was bland, soft… uninteresting, Blame the formatting of a comic to film, I don’t care.

          When you come back explaining to me why it was such a good film, maybe then I’ll invest the time explaining to you why the writing in this was so poor.

    • disagree on all accounts.
      and if you had any script problems, blame the comic.

  14. Still don’t like “Reverend” Superman’s collared shirt.

    I agree that the New 52 Justice League story was just slightly…very slightly above average. To have even more changes made to that will be interesting to see…probably more disappointing :-/ Guess I’ll have to wait until next week to see for myself.

  15. I thought this movie was absolutely awesome. Batman and Green Lantern’s relationship was the highlight for me as well as their first encounter with Superman. My only two issues with the movie is the pacing, it moved kinda fast in the beginning. As well as Wonder Woman, she annoyed the hell out of me, and I usually like her in the animated features. A 9/10 for me!

  16. Justice League War…sure, I’ll give it a watch on Netflix.

  17. I’m getting this tomorrow can’t wait to check it out.

  18. My biggest disapointment was the disrespect to aquaman.

    New 52 aquaman displays an attiutde that shocked many when it was released. He’s not the oh haha aquaman…he throws a parademon on to the surface pretty much tells batman and group what’s what and then volenteers to be leader….that veiw would have floor people like green lantern who is cocky as f**k and batman who in all honesty I don’t think expected another hero to rise from the sea.

    I like the concept of shazam but I hate him. He’s a child in a mans body with magical powers…meh superman ripoff with lightening.

    Cyborg was cool. Shamar moore really did solid as the voice.actor.

    Also loved ww. Finally we don’t have the princess but the warrior we’ve seen. The new costumes took some getting used to, but I have to say if they want to use this ww as inspiration for gadots live action version I’m sold 100%.

    • I was mad when they announced that Shazam will replace Aquaman. But hey, after seeing that mid-end credit, I’m pump for the next installment. Throne of Atlantis arc is the story that shines Aquaman much more. It seems that Aquaman is not the King of Atlantis during the invasion and now that Ocean Master is the new King, all hell broke loose when the Atlanteans attack the surface world.

  19. Didn’t expect anything less from a DC Animation, now I’m so far behind. Which was the last one I saw…hmm…I think it was Superman Unbound.

  20. I’d give it a 3.5. On first viewing, I felt disappointed. However, by my second view I realized it was primarily the script that bothered me; I thought JL had the weakest kickoff of all of the New 52.

    The voice acting bugged me at first, but like Kofi notes, grows on you, and was mostly just nostalgia screwing with me. Once you accept that the script doesn’t encourage a lot of dynamic range in the performances, its easier to buy in. The character’s new interpretations and interactions are solid, but action eats up most of the dramatic beats. For better or worse, it’s a comic book, all action and exposition.

    The animation is choppy in places, and while it’s really awesome where they’ve focused on action, consistency needs improvement. The DCAU made its living on simplicity, but the new direction has promise; this shows the new style at it’s best and worst.

    The special features are very good, and the Jim Lee documentary is flat out awesome for fans of pop art. Do not miss it; Jim Lee will one day be in the comic art pantheon with Schuster, Finger, Kirby, Ditko, et al.

  21. I thought this movie was awesome and a good move forward after flashpoint. If I’ve learned anything from all of these animated movies it’s that bats and supes are the foundation of the league. It makes me even more curious to see BvsS and how all these characters come together, and more importantly how Snyder handles the friendship of the two big guys.

  22. I really liked the movie. I admit I’ve had a hard time with Jason O’Mara’s Batman and though I don’t think I’ll ever love, I accept it. I loved his banter with Green Lantern. I prefer John Stewart to Hal Jordan, but I thought Justin Kirk stole the show. I’ve always loved Shazam, so his inclusion was great and Flash was as expected. I liked the inclusion of Cyborg’s origin, but I don’t think I will fully accept a Justice League without Martian Manhunter. I know most people are upset about Aquaman, but MM missing from the lineup just feels so wrong!

    The main issue I had though was Wonder Woman. I thought her character design was really cool and I loved the idea of her more warrior-like personality, but the voice acting! It was so stilted and lifeless. The only word I can think of when it came to lines the attempted to convey emotion is bombastic. Also, I really dislike the allusion to romance between her and Superman. Granted, I might just have been conditioned as a child by Bruce Timm to want to pair her with Batman, but I found her “chemistry” with Superman awkward and weird.

    • Martian Manhunter was/is still part of Justice League of America (being renamed soon in the comics) and is also a part of Stormwatch so he’s already in two teams, one of them being a JL.

  23. I agree that the movie is a step above the material from the new 52 and I generally liked the movie but wasn’t crazy about the voices, or Hal Jordan. But by far, the Wonder Woman as Thor characterization was horrible. The whole I’m a warrior, not a diplomat falls flat when we know she’s been trained since to succeed her mother and one day rule the Amazons. If she had been the child in a superheroes body, then her behavior would have made since. The scene on Airforce 1 r

  24. LOVED IT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was action packed and the remarks back and fourth between GL and Batman was funny as hell ( you have your own satellite ) LOL I have to say Flashpoint was a little better but I love this one as well.

  25. DC just does it better.

    Let me just say that Wonder Woman’s, “this world belongs to everyone” statement, seems kind of corny. LOL

  26. 4 out of 5? Really? I mean, I respect that all films are subjective, but I think a 4 star is a tad bit high. Overall, I thought the movie was okay- well paced, action packed and everything. But it was very poor when it came to dialogues, character building and the biggest of all- the depiction of Darkseid. I always believed that a movie’s protagonist(s) is depicted strongly upto the extend of how well its antagonist is depicted. So when there are godly heroes such as the justice league, why show Darkseid as this “thinly-drawn, semi-mute brute”? A better portrayal was much needed. Therefore, as a movie fan (and a novice comic book reader), I was disappointed, especially after waiting for its release since JL Flashpoint. I’d give it a 3, not more than that.

    P.S. Wonder Woman was friggin awesome and badass.

  27. 4.5 of 5.

    I absolutely loved this. Dynamic, fresh take on the 1st 6 issues of New 52 JL.

    The Aquaman to Shazam change up was welcome & made sense, since they’re capitalizing on such a great New 52 Aquaman title & giving that its own DC Animated feature. And because the New 52 Shazam is my favorite iteration of the character in a very long time. Maybe my fave ever.

    Someone mentioned they thought they were watching a Marvel Animated feature. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that whatsoever. They did :-(

    OH well, can’t please everyone. I’ll be getting the Blu Ray! ;-)

    I’m wishing for a follow up to this.

  28. Nice….. but i was up set they took out the small superman, flash fight scene… And the after credit scene made no sense…

  29. Just watched it twice and I loved it. Shazam seemed less powerful than he really is. and Hal Jordan was a turn off. They should have went with John Stewart. I don’t think Hal Jordan works anymore. Cyborg was bada$$.

    Disappointed about no Aquaman but can’t wait till his movie.I really didn’t like the fact they didn’t use all of Darkseid’s followers like Stephenwolf, Granny Goodness,Dasaad, or his son Kalibak. But it was good none the less.

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