Thursday, February 20, 2014

Justice League: War Review

We live in an age where comic books have become a primary source for big summer blockbusters. Whether it’s Avengers, Man of Steel, or X-Men: Days of Future Past, we live in a world where if you’re based on a comic property, chances are you’re going to make an insane amount of money. What some people don’t know though is that while live action comic book movies are a huge hit almost 90% of the time, animated comic book movies… aren't that big of a hit. Barely anyone knows that they exist, and most people don’t particularly care about them unless you’re a die hard comic book fan. Enter Justice League: War, a movie that is trying to start a shared universe between all DC animated movies. I say try, because the result aren't really too promising.


The problem with trying to do a summary of War is that there’s barely any plot to begin with. To explain War, I first need to elaborate a bit on The New 52, the DC reboot of its entire comic universe in 2011. In September of 2011, all of DC’s comics went back to issue #1 with no previous continuity, new interpretations of characters, and a lot of fan backlash. Some people are still sore about The New 52 three years later, despite the multiple good series that exist because of it. Still, the first series that was relaunched was Justice League, and its first arc, Origins, was essentially describing how the team came together. Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman united to stop an invasion against the all powerful Darkseid. And… that’s your entire story. Heroes team up to fight against the biggest baddie of them all.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out why this doesn't work. War is an adaptation of Origins, and like the arc it’s based on, is all action with no character development. We see each character for a little bit, but we don’t go in depth with any of them. We just see the team assemble one at a time, then everyone’s together for when Darkseid shows up to conquer the world, and then it’s an all out brawl from there. Just seeing a bunch of iconic superheroes punch things is not that entertaining. People have made the same argument about Man of Steel, and while that movie might not have fully developed Superman’s character, it still developed his character to the point where we were rooting for him because he’s a good guy and not just because he’s Superman.

What I would give to have Aquaman in this movie, and that's saying a lot!
The only character that has legitimate development is Cyborg, who starts off the movie as being Victor Stone, but we see him turn into Cyborg after a parademon attack and see all the stress and pressure it’s giving him. We see him adapt to being a cyborg and what he can do to be a hero and find a place for himself in the world as a hero and by the end of the movie, he’s a better and stronger man. Contrastly, Wonder Woman’s character is so un-Wonder Woman that it’s kind of jarring to see her act the way she does. She’s insanely violent, she humiliates a man in public, she acts like an idiot when experiencing pointless things like ice cream, and even forces a romance between her and Superman with a few short glances at each other. And yes, her and Superman are in a relationship in the comics now, but just because it’s a part of the comics does not make it acceptable. Wonder Woman deserves much more development and depth than she has in this movie.

As for the rest of the characters, Superman is arrogant and comes off as being a bit of a jerk, Green Lantern actually has good banter with a cocky attitude that’s really fun to watch, Batman is brooding in the most boring sense possible, The Flash is barely in the movie to get a hold of his personality, and Aquaman doesn't exist. Aquaman has instead been replaced with Captain Marvel, or Shazam as he’s called here. I’d actually be okay with having Shazam instead of Aquaman as long as Shazam wasn't annoying, but guess what? He’s cocky and arrogant in all of the worst possible ways! While Green Lantern is fun to be with, Shazam just comes across as being one of those high school cool guys that think they’re “awesome” and don’t have any of the merit to back it up. He just acts like an asshole for lack of a better phrase. I would say that he’s the worst character in the movie, but Wonder Woman still leaves a sting in my mouth…

That’s not even mentioning Darkseid, the biggest baddie in the entire DC universe. We’re talking about a man who searches for the Anti-Life Equation to eradicate all existence. We’re talking about a man so powerful that he has conquered a planet and leads an entire army of obedient servants that will die for him at a whim… and I can’t understand a goddamn thing he’s saying. He sounds like if Dr. Claw was auto tuned, and you can’t understand a thing that he’s saying ever. Instead of being intimidated by him, I’m just struggling to figure out what he’s trying to say. I have a legitimate question though relating to him; why have Darkseid as your villain? Why have the first villain in your story arc be the biggest villain in the DCU?

Captain Marvel... just stop existing please.
You see, the biggest problem with this story is that this is an adaptation of an origin story for your entire universe. You take every single hero in your lineup and have them fight against the biggest possible threat ever. It raises the stakes like no other, but where do you go after that? Not only does everything else in comparison seem less climactic, but you’re reducing your villain to a joke. The biggest villain in existence, a being of pure evil and power, was defeated by a team of people that knew each other for less than half an hour. Come on. You can’t have a much more embarrassing and pathetic loss than that. We’re talking about the same Darkseid that was able to kill Batman when every other Justice League member, who have worked with each other for years, tried to fight him, and now we have him taken down by seven people who just met.

Getting away from the plot (and man did I harp on the plot for a long time), the animation itself, surprise surprise, isn’t that good either. Characters don’t look like they should and have really odd costumes. Wonder Woman just looks weird in this movie with her outfit being a dark navy blue and red, while Superman has a chin that makes Chuck Norris blush. Adding onto that, none of the hero’s voices work for me. I know I talked about Darkseid’s terrible auto tune, but Superman, Wonder Woman, and Shazam just sound off to me and that they belong for completely different people. Green Lantern and Cyborg are spot on though and are by far the best parts of the movie, both sound and character wise.

I really wanted to give War a chance. I wanted a good Justice League movie so bad, but instead I got this movie. The sad part is, I can’t even blame that film makers for this movie. Granted, the animation and sound work was alright in spots and not so alright in others, but it’s the plot that destroys this movie. Because the plot is so weak and disappointing, I’m not as invested in the movie, and because of that, I’m not enjoying it as much as I should. Now if the plot was good and the animation was subpar, I could put up with that. But when the plot isn’t interesting and loses me, then I’m sorry, but I can’t enjoy it.

This isn't Darkseid! Darkseid is! DARKSEID IS!!!
 DC just doesn’t seem to get its characters or making animated movies, and when combined together the outcome isn’t that good. There are merits of a good movie here, but because its source material isn’t strong in the slightest, the movie suffers for it. I would love to see a movie based around Cyborg and Green Lantern, but I feel that the characters that do have good development will be pushed aside to make more Batman movies and more Justice League movies that will feature no character development and just be big battles.  For being a huge disappointment and stopping my interest in seeing a shared DC animated universe, I give Justice League: War a 2 out of 5.




Please don’t let Man of Steel 2 be like this movie. Please…?

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