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Movie Review: Justice League: War

Justice League: War Batman Superman Green Lantern Flash Wonder Woman Cyborg and Shazam

It’s a brave new world for the DC Animated Universe, as Justice League: War becomes the first New 52-based storyline to get feature-length treatment. And while it was fun to follow the 20-odd years of DCAU spawned by Batman: The Animated Series way back in ’93, this reboot comes as a refreshing reset and a perfect point to start watching animated superhero movies again.

Justice League: War is an adaptation of Geoff Johns’ first storyline after Flashpoint reset the DC universe and created the New 52. And by the way, if you haven’t watched the animated Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, it’s easily one of the best straight-to-video animated films made in the last few years.

But back to business. Justice League: War tells the story of how the Justice League first formed to combat Darkseid’s invasion of Earth. Darkseid’s goons are planting devices all across the world to set up entry points for his invasion, and the planet’s heroes must come together to stop it. It’s early days, uncomplicated stuff, with a pared-down roster of the familiar heavy-hitters including Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Flash and Wonder Woman, along with the recently-elevated Cyborg and Captain Marvel Shazam. Everyone is still raw and new, to the point where most people – including Green Lantern – think Batman is a vampire, and only GL and Flash are acquainted.

Batman steals Green Lantern's ring Justice League War

Batman’s not a vampire – just a pickpocket.

And it’s that getting-to-know-you phase that makes this movie fun. Lantern can’t believe Batman is “just some guy a in a bat costume,” and the two of them have a difficult first meeting with Superman. Cyborg gets an origin story, and Wonder Woman discovers ice cream for the first time.

But there’s emotion here, too, mostly in the orgin story for Cyborg, a.k.a. Vic Stone. Vic gets shafted by his father Silas time after time – pops is too busy researching alien technology to come to his son’s football games – and it all comes to a head during the alien invasion. Vic gets blasted by a Darkseid bomb and Silas has to use all of his alien tech to keep Vic alive, RoboCop-style. Enter Cyborg, a hybrid of Darkseid technology and human ingenuity.

After beating up plenty of Darkseid goons, the Leaguers finally come together and put the beatdown on Darkseid, saving Earth and recognizing the value of a super-team in the process.

The animation is the same anime-Western fusion style used in The Flashpoint Paradox, with lots of muscle-bound characters but a decent sense of realism to it. In terms of voice acting, don’t hope for Kevin Conroy’s Batman here; Jason O’Mara is the latest to try to replace the legendary Conroy, and he does a solid job playing the hard-bitten grump of the League. And get used to him, because he’ll be back for the next animated feature, Son of Batman, when Damian Wayne makes his debut. As for the rest of the cast, Jason Kirk plays the funny man as Green Lantern and Michelle Monaghan’s naive but badass Wonder Woman is a standout as well. Sean Astin is adult Shazam, while DCAU fav Alan Tudyk takes a solid run at playing Superman this time around.

Justice League War DC Animated Movie
Filled with clever banter, on-point character interactions, brutal fight scenes and character development for the lesser-known Leaguers, Justice League: War is a top-notch restart of the DC Animated Universe. And it comes with ambition, too: the ending teases Aquaman’s Throne of Atlantis storyline as the next Justice League film.

8 out of 10

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