In many versions of their origin tale, the Justice League came together to thwart an alien invasion, and thereafter pledged to work together to defend Earth. For the DC Comics "New 52" reboot a few years back, that origin story was retooled for modern times, hinging on DC supervillain Darkseid's attempted conquer of Earth, and the League rising up to send him packing.
That Justice League relaunch story - penned by DC Creative Chief Geoff Johns and drawn by legendary comic book artist Jim Lee - is now the subject of DC Universe's latest animated feature, Justice League: War - but have some major changes to the storyline and voice cast doomed this film to mediocrity?
Besides the epic action and anime-style visuals by director Jay Oliva (Batman: Under the Red Hood), you may have noticed that the first big upset in this interpretation of the New 52 Justice League is a glaring lineup change: Aquaman is out, and has been replaced by Captain Marvel (now officially named Shazam, apparently). During the Justice League: War panel at New York Comic-Con it was revealed that Aquaman is currently being mined for his own animated feature-film, which is why Billy Batson/Shazam is now in the film.
While saving up Aquaman for something bigger is admirable - especially to fans of Geoff Johns' modern overhaul of the character - Aquaman was definitely a standout of the Justice League relaunch, and not having him definitely feels like a missed opportunity to prove to a new crowd why this character (who is so often a punchline) actually belongs beside Superman and Batman - on the big screen as much as the small screen.
The second big upset this trailer's overpowering techno-beat score tries to mask, is the questionable voice acting in the film. Voice casting guru Andrea Romano has long been the secret weapon behind the iconic voices of DC animated characters (like Kevin Conroy's Batman), but here it seems she may have missed the mark. Eagle Eye star Michelle Monaghan doesn't sell Wonder Woman all that well; and while we love Firefly's Alan Tudyk, we don't necessarily love him as the voice of Superman. Irish actor Jason O'Mara (Life on Mars) as Batman? Weeds actor Justin Kirk as Hal Jordan? We could go on, but the actors' delivery (what bit of it you can hear in that trailer) sounds as if they are as uncertain of themselves of we are of them. Not a good sign.
Still, the action looks epic, and for those who have not yet endeavored to discover the modern world's Justice League (and were perhaps confused or put off by Man of Steel's representation of that), this is a pretty good way to get your feet wet in that pool - especially if it's one that DC movies like Batman vs. Superman and TV series like The Flash will be drawing from.
Justice League: War will be on DVD/Blu-ray and Digital Streaming and Download sometime in first quarter 2014.