‘Justice League: War’ Review

Published 7 months ago by , Updated August 17th, 2014 at 4:16 pm,

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:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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112 Comments

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  1. Wow. One of the worst films in the DC animated universe, IMO. Much as I despise ‘New 52′ I gave it a shot with an open mind and, man, I hope this isn’t the future of the DCAnimated Universe because if it is, it’s a dark one indeed. Horrible animation, dialogue was atrocious. WW was..was..I have no words. JL: Doom and Crisis are infinitely better than this drivel. I’m most surprised how many people on here actually like it. First Flashpoint, now this…all for the sake of getting that ‘cool, hip, edgier demographic’

    • I completely agree, but as for trying to be edgier and darker, it was actually corny and somewhat cringeworthy, especially the dialogue. I actually like the new 52 comics, but this movie wasn’t satisfying.

  2. I enjoyed the movie. I liked it a 100 times better than Ironman and Hulk Heroes united and 1000 times better than any of that Marvel Knights crap!! Why do they keep making those so called animated series. (Marvel Knights)

    Shazam was kind of a waste. But it was good and entertaining. Should of had Aquaman in it. But when I saw Oceanmaster I knew the next Aquaman film will be good.

    • I would take you opinion seriously but your grammar is so abhorrent that I just can’t.

      • I guess my grammar is as abhorrent as your attitude and personality. Good thing I don’t leave comments for your approval.

      • Stop being so pedantic. Communication does not need to conform to some ridgid academic standard. Conversations are supposed to be fun and free flowing.

        • Those ideas aren’t mutually exclusive. Communication does need to conform to a standard so that everyone can easily understand what is being communicated. I will, however, grant you the case in question was hardly worth making a stink over.

          On to the subject at hand, I am shocked at the high rating this was given here. I just finished watching the movie and I have to believe ScreenRant gave this movie twice the score it deserved. I would caution anyone thinking about buying the DVD, the poor characterization, hit-or-miss animation, and sub-par voice acting make this what could be considered the weakest offering offering to date.

      • you got burned

  3. Anyone thinking the way these heroes acted in character and costume alludes at all to a live version of this movie? They are talking up Darkseid as the villain.

    • The New 52 was basically created so that those versions of the characters could be in movies and TV shows.

      • What’s even worse, these heroes were only invented at all simply to sell comic books…

        • This is why all comic book superheroes were created.

  4. I loved it. Green latern and batman interaction was pretty good.

  5. Not sure I’d say Superman is “angrier”. Definitely edgier. I’m quite fond of a version of superman that doesn’t make him perfectly behaved. He may not be a (human) man, but he’s a living being and susceptible to emotion (anger, frustration, jealousy etc)

  6. I thought it was okay. The highlight was Bats and GL. Everything else felt off and a little out of place but then again I am not a fan of the New 52. The cross overs to the Marvel characters are very apparent in this movie. WW, although was awesome didn’t get portrayed well. The Darkseid character was just a joke. I would give it about a 2.5 to 3/5 at the most. Not the best DC film and a huge step down since JL Flashpoint

  7. I have to agree with Rebel, JL:War was to rushed and not one of DCU best! Green Lantern’s voice and one liners we’re horrible. I loved it better when producer Bruce Timm was around, he left just before Flashpoint:Paradox. I love the New 52 Reboot, I get Aquaman, JL, and Scott Sndyer’s Batman comics each month. This does Not Hold Up, I felt bored at times, and what Jim Lee and Geoff Johns did was Great work. This movie just seems to use some certain moments and ‘ Why replace Aquaman,, you know in the sequel your going to need him? I’m sorry, I rented this off iTunes last night, watched it twice and still this will be the first DC animated movie that I won’t be buying.

  8. I bought JL:W last night and watched it. Overall, it was very good. Nice job on Cyborg’s origin. Though I’d rather see DC make more TV series like this, they sure do have a plan on getting us to by these movies. If they develop a Netflix like service that may be worth it.

  9. I’m only 5min into the movie and i already hate it. The voice acting is absolutely terrible! What were they thinking?

  10. Just watched Justice league War I really liked it. There were a few things that could have been better Darkseid for 1. They didn’t have him talk enough like in the old Justice League and Justice league unlimited.

    I hope they don’t portray him like that in a live action Justice league movie. Give him more of a evil personality, or just a personality. I was hoping to see Steppenwolf and Kalibak in the movie but oh well. I still enjoyed it.

    Batman and GL interactions was good. I wish they would have shown how Batman got Superman under control on Apokolips. They didn’t really show Supes and Bats together enough to see them form their friendship. That will probably come in the next movie.

    I liked it over all. and glad I bought it.

  11. IMO it was pretty DRY.. No where near as fun as Flash-point. The action in JLW was kinda lame and a little unbelievable. I felt like Batman was doing a lot of things he is incapable of doing. Queen Diana should have been more up to date with humanity. Superman being edgy is boring. Ironically, the boring Superman is little more fun. Its no way Hal would have been appointed as the GREEN LANTERN with idiotic and hot headed nature. Cyborg and Shazam were okay (gotta live with em)… Flash was his usual self but his normal way was kinda taken by the green Lantern. I like that they try to make the Flash a little more serious now-a-days. The music wasn’t even good in this one.

    • Yeah that’s what I was thinking how and why did the ring pick Hal?

  12. How does “War is only slightly better than its slightly good source material” translate into a 4/5 stars Excellent review?

  13. Hi, I’m Green Lantern. Hey, it’s Batman. Look, Wonder Woman. Oh yeah, the rest of the team is here too. Oh no, Thano.. I mean Darkseid is coming with his Chit… I mean bat creature things to take over the Earth. Oh man. This guy is impervious to everything we throw at him individually. GO GO Power Ran.. I mean let’s hit him at the same time. OH MY EYES, NOT THE BEES, NOT THE BEES!!!! Man of Steel gets a lot of grief for all the action and destruction but these animated movies are no different. But I did like the way Batman just stole Green Lantern’s ring right off of his finger. It made me laugh out loud. (Yes, I know Darkseid came before Thanos in the comics, it’s a joke).

    • And that’s why I never understood the complaints about MOS. It’s like the people hating the Metropolis destruction had never read a comic book before. Or played a video game. Or seen a movie/TV show.

      • Soon as I saw Jay Oliva directed it I lost all interest. After what he did with the awful, putrid and downright insipid adaptation to DKR he really shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near any more DCU content. If he can manage to completely mangle one of the all-time classic stories of the genre to fulfill his own need to put his stamp on a story that isn’t actually his I can imagine what he’ll do to this one. He should either be put only on original projects or, more to my liking, never allowed to have anything to do with the business again.

      • I don’t know what’s so hard to understand about the complaints with MoS. Superman used to be about limiting civilian casualties, not exacerbating them. And there’s the difference between a little collateral damage and leveling a city of 10m people. But, in the end, what can you really expect when the guy sits and watches his adopted father die to preserve a “secret” anyone with Google can unravel in a minute anyways. (hint: Superman doesn’t wear a mask and even in a rural town like Smallville they would have taken class photos, which would in turn be easily, readily available to find).

        It had it’s moments, but overall was a poorly thought out and poorly written film that wasted a pretty solid cast.

        But I know… GRITTY, “realistic” and srs bsns. Ooooooo, must mean it’s gud stuff.

  14. I was a fun animated movie. Every part with Batman and Green Lantern was great. I would love the live action JL movie to be similar to this I think it would be awesome, Kofi what do you think?

    • you were a fun animated movie ?

  15. As far as WW’s attitude you have to remember that the story is very early in all the it careers. In the comics the JL book jumps like 7 years after Origin. WW is literally fresh off the island. I thought her attitude was what you would expect from someone whom was raised in a warrior culture then thrown into our society.

    I felt that Superman wasn’t used well here. His personality shift was fleshed out in his titles at the same time JL was rebooted but if you just watched the movie you don’t know certain things that explain his attitude. The Kents not being alive being a major factor.

  16. Real quick I don’t like Shazam’s inclusion either. I understand the emphasis on his lightening abilities though, because other than that he’s basically Superman.

    Superman’s power levels were perfect in my opinion. The fact that he and WW have a romance brewing will be a great story because it freaks people (Batman in particular) out. Hope they do Trinity War at some point.

  17. Grade: C+

    This was a weak effort by DC Animation (DCA), especially following The Flashpoint Paradox, Doom and Crisis on Two Earths. It was let down critically in several areas, namely in Voice acting, Characterization and Plot.

    I feel they let themselves down by approving an underpar script and miscasting Superman. It doesn’t compare favorably to past efforts though still watchable for fans.

    Weak JL genesis plot. Darkseid’s invasion play has no clear motive other than to obtain Kal-El. The rest of the heroes are just there because…well…they need to be there to.become.the.Justice.League. Right? ;)

  18. wow, some of the dialogues reminded me of playground conversations I had when I was about 5 or 6 years old. I felt somehow embarassed listening to that stuff…
    hopefully they make these characters cool again until I have kids on my own

  19. I enjoyed Cyborg’s back story along with the inclusion of Shazam on the team. The animation was crisp and the voice acting was good. The Batman/Superman stuff was alright, but, as usual, Superman is just way too friggin powerful for me to care about. Green Lantern was so g****** annoying. I get it, he was supposed to initially come off as a smug, dickface so that it is a big moment when he finally comes around to be a team player, however I just didn’t give a s*** about him. Nothing he did worked. F that guy. And why the hell does Wonder Woman look like some pre-teen nerds whack-off fantasy? I dig the bad-ass, warrior queen with a sword gimmick buy why does she need to look like an Asgardian stripper?

    2.75/5 – Netflix it on a night when the wife isn’t home.

  20. A decent entry into the DC animated series and I’d put it somewhere in the middle. Excellent review by Kofi too, really spot on. I’d probably go more 3.5 out of 5 as there are some DC animated movies that are a full star better but not a 5.

    Like Kofi said, Superman & Wonder Woman have different demeanors which I really liked. Bats was the absolutely awesome anchor of the team as you’d expect. I also loved the Flash & Cyborg takes. I love GL as a hero but they made him too obnoxious in this movie and he really needed to be toned down. Shazam didn’t matter to me either way and I would have preferred Aquaman even though he may not have been able to physically match Darkseid as well as Shazam.

    For me the movie picked up when Vic became Cyborg and was able to determine Darkseid’s plans. Everything from that point was great including great action.

  21. I absolutely enjoyed the film. I liked the chemistry between the characters. Batman and GL, GL and Flash, Shazam and Cyborg, and finally WW and Superman.
    I enjoyed how Superman is shown with more confidence, attitude, and some what immaturity…and I mean that in a good way.
    The characters felt fresh and new. Which fits with this being a relauch story. I understand why WW acted the way she did. Superman still dealing with his emotions. Batman so what more reserved and examing, sizing up the situation but his new allies as well(contingency plans). GL soo full of himself, like a young man who just got one of the most powerful weapons in the universe. Flash could used a little more screen time but what time he did get was enjoyable.
    All in all, great film and interpretation of the new 52 Justice League comic with some timing and pacing issues, but giving the time the film had to show the whole relaunch story,it was ssuccessful.

  22. Mneah…basically one long fight scene. The GL/Bats stuff was great. Really missed the voice actors from previous films though. And what the heck was going on with Wonder Woman?? O.o Darkseid was a huge letdown. Yeah, I’da left it at a 3.5 Kofi; the animation was good, but not good enough to elevate it another half point.

  23. I enjoyed the film for reasons that I usually am caused to dislike a film. Example, SHAZAM (not Captain Marvel) replaced Aquaman. Normally I wouldn’t like such a blatant deviation from the publication but I have to admit, I like Captain Marvel Waaaaaay more than Aquaman. I didn’t like the way that he was ‘shoehorned’ into the story, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying it. The NEW 52 is happening people, make your peace with it or go start reading Marvel comics. The only thing I’d change in the film would to have been to make it longer. Aquaman is still being re-vamped by Geoff Johns, and has his own stuff about to break onto the scene in an ‘Origin story’ kindly way soon enough…The story had loads of action, and I don’t really know what more you can want from an animated action flick. Personally, I’m a lifelong DC fan, I don’t really go out of my way to see or read Marvel stuff. If you don’t like, agree with or enjoy things and products that are NEW 52, just walk away lol. Simple as that….

  24. Skilled action and dramatic director Jay Olivia does his best with a screenplay by Heath Corson that is mixed, with dialogue and characterizations could have used a second pass. Both are undermined by this being the most miss-cast film in the DCUAOM history. Even legendary Voice Director Andrea Romano can’t squeeze the right emotional performances out of this cast at virtually any moment, crucially the critical ones. Shazam is played by Oscar nominee, SAG winner, and LORD OF THE RINGS Trilogy star Sean Astin.

    He seems to be the only one having fun and perfectly cast in his role. Christopher Gorham (TV’s ‘Covert Affairs’) is a passable Barry Allen/The Flash, while Michele Monaghan’s part as Wonder Woman is so poorly developed, you can’t really fault her for playing the role as written and directed. Justin Kirk of TV’s ‘Modern Family’ appears to be playing Hal Jordan/Green Lantern as an over-the-top arrogant ‘Plastic Man Green Lantern,’ but he fails to find humanity nor any humility in his performance. Ditto Alan Tudyk of TV’s ‘Suburgatory’ and ‘Arrested Development’ as Superman. Rarely has the Man of Steel been annoyingly, and disturbingly, arrogant, aggressive, violent and unintelligent. Shemar Moore does shine as Cyborg, and the subplot involving his relationship with his father is one of the best aspects of the film. Finally, there’s DCUOM’s new Dark Knight – Jason O’More, of TV’s ‘Terra Nova’ and last season’s ‘The Good Wife.’ He has his moments, but he mostly reaffirms Kevin Conroy and Bruce Greenwood’s performance dominance of the role in animation from 1992 – 2014. Up until Bruce Timm’s departure, the DCUAOMs were – more often then not – sophisticated, adult fare, with HIGH caliber acting talent to match the incredible animation, music and sound effects. Since his departure, I think it’s safe to say the days of hearing an Emmy and SAG winner like Bryan Cranston play a Jim Gordon; a Kevin Conroy, Bruce Greenwood or Peter Weller play Batman, or an Oscar nominee such as James Woods play a key villain like Owl Man are over. If this is what passes for ‘epic’ now in the world of DC Universe Original Movies, the end of the entire line may be near.

  25. Animation and voice acting aside, I was disappointed with JL: War. I did enjoy the Cyborg origins and…no there’s nothing else. Cyborg’s beginnings was all I enjoyed about this film. I don’t get why Hal’s Green Lantern has to be “the comedic relief guy”. It’s not as if Ryan Reynold’s haha funny approached worked or was particularly successful. Another thing I don’t quite get is why Superman needs to be grittier, edgier for people to like him? Is that even what that change was for? IDK. I mean, I don’t like him either way, but if he’s not a jerk then that’s at least one less eyeroll he’ll get out of me. Batman was the most offensive. And yes I’m a rabid Batman fangirl and therefore I might be biased, but I didn’t love to see him take a back seat to what I perceived as an attempt to toughen up the image of Superman. Wonder Woman is so controversial, I just don’t know. It’s obvious though that they (anyone associated with putting anything Wonder Woman out to the public) are confused about how to present her as a heroine to younger women/girls and keep her interesting to men/boys. It might help if they spent a couple of hours TALKING to women/girls. Just a thought. Crazy, I know. Anyway, I preferred JL: DOOM and Flashpoint Paradox (and I wasn’t even a fan of The Flash before). That said, I know plenty of people who liked JL: War and thinks it’s one of the best. I’m just not one of them.

  26. I felt the film was ok, but it felt rushed. There where character backstories and crucial areas that the film either skipped over or aluded to. I felt the film was made for fans already familiar with the source material. As far as the average moviegoer, they will feel lost and have a hard time following this movie. I know universaly everyone knows who Superman and Batman are, but the film did not explain or even touch on their back stroy. Wonder Woman was done very well. When she took command in the film it was absolutely brilliant. However there was no explanation of Paradise Island or why she was in America. As for Steve Trevor, why was he even in the film? As for Shazam, where did his powers come from? The Flash was in the film but completely under utalized. Darkseid was the weakest element of the film. The film did not really explain his reason for invading earth or the significance of needing Superman. He was a very one dimentional villain. Cyborg was the strongest element of the film. Also Green Lantern I felt was very well done. I loved how they explored how his cockiness and ambition affected his willpower.

  27. Justice League War was just awful for my taste. I never understand why DC Comics writers do everything in their power to bury Captain Marvel as much as they can. No matter what the project, it is DC Comics mission to make sure he is much less than Superman. And no matter how many aliens there are in the DC Comics universe, it must be company directive to make sure that Superman is above everyone of them. If DC Comics writers are so enthralled with making Superman have all the powers of every single character in their creation, then why even have a so called Justice League? The movie is entertaining, but it sure is hard to get past the ultimate Superman crap and the Green Lantern can’t do anything storyline. Awful writing DC Comics.

  28. 4 stars? Guess Screen Rant needs those free review copies.

    This one was awful.

  29. Question. Now, from what I watched of it, it seemed like it was a line by line adaptation of the comic book. Starting from issue 1 of the New 52 reboot. Are all the animated movies like that? I haven’t watched many of them so I ddn’t know.

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