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Justice League – A Review

justice-league-posterIt’s fine. The movie is fine. It’s not great or as grand as a Justice League movie should be. It feels small, but not in an intimate way. It’s scale and tone reminded me of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. For a movie that cost as much as it did, I sure doesn’t look great. There’s a lot to dislike about the movie, but, for the first time in this non-solo Wonder Woman series, there’s some stuff to generally like.

After the face-slap that was Man of Steel and the so-dumb-I-feel-bad-for-it Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, I pretty much retired any hope of ever enjoying these films. Some people like the darker tones, the hopeless characterization, the over-complicated plotting and maybe that’s a good thing. We don’t want every superhero movie to look and feel the same. I simply had to resign that, like Deadpool, these movies weren’t being made for me.

After Wonder Woman gave Warner Bros. their first great DC movie since The Dark Knight, I felt a bit better but could tell from the lead up and trailers that Justice League was going to be messy. Zach Snyder leaving for personal reasons and bringing in Joss Whedon to rewrite and reshoot seemed like a good way to mess up the joint. And messy it was! But, somehow, the worst feeling I had while watching it was boredom. The anger I used to feel has burnt out and maybe that’s due to the small amount of sunlight that’s allowed through all the sepia tone and CGI-smoke.

justice-equipo-960x480First, I suppose, the good. Ray Fisher came out of nowhere and impressed me as Cyborg. In fact, while watching his story, I kept wishing I was seeing the Cyborg movie already, because it would have to be more compelling than what I watching at the moment. I didn’t hate this version of Aquaman, despite being the bro-est bro of bro-dom. I look forward to being surprised by him in his own, solo movie. And Gal Gadot is still a Wonder Woman I would follow into battle. Oh! That reminds me! The fight in Themyscira was fun! And, when there was action on screen, it was entertaining, for the most part.

Now, for the rest. During any scene that there was no fighting, I was bored. And, hey, I’m not some action junky who needs people to shut up and punch! The conversations between these characters, Justice League members or not, felt like time killers or placeholders for the real script. There was always the element of humor laced in the lines, but nothing was able to be truly funny, except for Batman’s, “I don’t not” line.

1024x1024Ben Affleck’s Batman was less interesting this time around, lacking the fire of his previous performance. The Flash doesn’t really impress and I’m sure that’s due to the fact I’ve been watching a successful representation of the character weekly on the CW for three years now. And Superman, well, that character has been a wash since day one. They try to clean him up a bit, make him a beacon of hope and all, but it’s not enough. He’s still not a Superman I want to watch, even when using all his cool powers. These movies love showing off how strong he is, but the heart is never there.

I’ll say this, and I don’t want anyone thinking I like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice or think it’s even close to a good movie, but Justice League feels small in comparison. BvS felt like an event, albeit a dumb one. It’s tone, cinematography and over-dramatic dialog made it feel like an important, stupid moment in history. Justice League just sort of happens. A big, gray monster-man shows up and is going to make more CGI fire and smoke and some people get together. This doesn’t feel mythic or memorable. If anything, it feels like a preview for a real Justice League movie, with a full roster and characters who aren’t learning their powers or motivations.

warner-bros-2-1So, to summarize, Justice League is fine. It’s watchable and has some moments that make it worth the time. It’s not epic and it’s not a trendsetter, which is a shame. The Justice League deserve better, they deserve to have the best superhero movie, to put the Avengers to shame. This is a team with the biggest names in super-lore and I had hoped for a feeling of awe and insperation. But, that feeling never comes. Sometimes, during the movie, Batman and Superman’s classic musical scores of the past will play and I was reminded of the good feelings and pleasant memories I had for these characters. Unfortunately, I realized, nothing on screen was causing that to happen this time around.. If anything, those themes emphasize the lack of direction and identity this movie has, requiring past visions to guide the way.

I hope a Justice League sequel will be better and I hope the characters can rebuild from here. Whereas the continuity in the Marvel films feels like a boon, these DC movies suffer from it. Every time a movie comes out, I can’t shake the past these heroes are burdened with. You can lighten Superman up, but he still snapped a man’s neck. You can make Batman a team player, but he still loves his guns and shooting people. But, with Justice League, they’re now another step in a more enjoyable direction. I hope they can keep that momentum and get past this version I’ve had not interest in before. I hope I can enjoy future DC films. But, for the first time in a long time with these movies, at least I can hope.

DC Universe Animated Original Movies

I’ve been planning to do this for a while and since I finally sat down and watched Justice League: War, I figured now is as good of time as any to review all the DC Universe Animated Original movies. There have been a lot of good and not-so good moments in this line, so let’s see how they all stand up.

Superman: Doomsday
Considering how jarring this was to watch at when it came out, it being the first DC animated project outside of the DC Animated Universe, I was surprised by how much I liked the movie. Once I got past the different (but still miscast) voices, I found this an enjoyable, action packed Superman story. It has four villains and never feels crowded (a skill these movies actually share), strong animation and condenses the long, complicated Death of Superman story into a short seventy minute movie.
Filed Under: Good

Justice League: The New Frontier
This movie wants to work but the elements never quite come together. I love the concept and the setting, the designs of the characters and even the voice acting. But the plot and final act seem to collapse on themselves. When the main villain shows up, the movie loses all momentum, which is too bad since that’s when the big fight happens and the action kicks into gear. I suppose it would be hard to make an evil, living island compelling, so I’ll give the producers some slack. If the movie had the same nostalgic, retro feel throughout, it would be better. But in reality, it is not to be.
Filed Under: Meh

Batman: Gotham Knight
The first Batman movie in this series and the first bad one as well. I was excited for this before it was released, but it doesn’t work at all. You have six, unconnected stories, set in the Dark Knight movie universe, all with different anime styles and every one seems to be as boring as the next. Many of the stories have the “been there, done that” feel damaging them, especially with the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini show still in memory. It might be that western attempts at mimicking eastern animation result in boring material, it might be that Christopher Nolan’s universe doesn’t translate to animation, it might be a lot of factors. But this movie was a let down and one I’ve yet to rewatch.
Filed Under: Bad

Wonder Woman
This is one of the best DC Animated movies. Focusing on Diana’s origin and first encounter with Man’s World, the story is a tightly plotted action movie with more humor than the previous installments. Wonder Woman’s warrior skills are on full display here as she kicks mythological butt and battles Ares, who is perfectly cast as Alfred Molina. Actually, the whole movie is the first of these films to feel like it nailed the voice acting. unfortunately, the DVD sales were slow at first, so Warner Brothers canceled any chances of a sequel. In hindsight, I wonder if they realize how stupid that move was since it’s gone on to be one of its highest selling movies, above all their Justice League offerings.
Filled Under: Good

Green Lantern: First Flight
This, along with the live action movie, really hampered my getting into the comics. While this DVD doesn’t suffer from repeated stories like Gotham Knights, it is bland. There’s nothing really interesting about this story, which is too bad given its Training Day comparisons. The characters never pop, the actions never sizzles, and the only moment that really works is when Sinestro turns at the beginning of the last act. This is disappointing, since Lantern really needs as much positive exposure as he can get after Ryan Reynolds.
Filed Under: Meh

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies: After five movies of having to adjust to new voice actors, they finally threw a bone to long time fans and brought back Tim Daly and Kevin Conroy. It really did add a lot to this movie, which is great on its own. The animation style is hard to take seriously, and Power Girl is the stupidest character to use, especially in a world with Supergirl. But without those quibbles, the rest is a fun, action powerhouse with great back and forth between the heroes and a perfect Clancy Brown chewing the scenery as Lex Luthor. I watch this when ever I need a pick me up because it just puts a smile on my face.
Filed Under: Good

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
The second Justice League offering and it’s not a winner. CoTE comes complete with uninspired voice casting, bland animation, one heck of a boring story and completely unforgettable action. The one redeeming quality that keeps this from going into the ‘bad’ listing is James Woods as Owlman. His nihilism caused by the knowledge of the multiverse is perfectly translated through the actor and his moments against Batman work well. Maybe if this had been used as a bridge between Justice League and Justice League Unlimited like planned, it would have been better.
Filed Under: Meh

Batman: Under the Red Hood
I did not expect to like this movie. It’s based on a comic I don’t love, the last Batman animated movie was terrible and they Bender Bending Rodriguez doing the voice for the Joker. So, color me surprised when I finally watched the movie and found that it was great. It improves upon the original comic by changing the most problematic elements, it has multiple villains with enough room to breathe, terrific action and the final act is just boiling over from all the pressure. The first animated Batman movie to show that there’s life after Bruce Timm.
Filed Under: Good

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
Considering how much I enjoy(ed) the first Superman/Batman movie, I had high hopes for this one. unfortunately, those expectations were not to be matched and this film falls under apart quickly. They somehow made Supergirl a boring character, made Doomsday a non-threat and spent WAY too long on Apokolips (that’s just a ridiculous spelling). I don’t know why they bothered calling this a Superman/Batman story as the Bat is barely in the movie and Superman isn’t much better off. The last fight that is Superman and Supergirl vs. Darkseid is overlong and pointless and is only there to satisfy action junkies. Too bad, considering the first film.
Filed Under: Bad

All-Star Superman
I’m willing to except that this movie isn’t for everyone. It’s weird and it draws from Superman’s entire history, as well as focusing on his most bizarre scifi elements. But I love this movie. To be fair, I loved the comic as well but this movie did a great job at adapting the story. All the little moments in the film are great; from the date between Supes and Lois to the tour of the Fortress of Solitude. This Lex Luthor is great as he goes on an evil, superpowered journey to finally kill Superman. This isn’t an action packed take on the character but a thoughtful look at one of pop culture’s greatest icons. Not to be missed, even if you disagree with me on the greatness of the movie.
Filed Under: Good

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
It may have taken a horrible live action movie to make this, but it’s almost worth it. Emerald Knights is the first good Green Lantern movie (and maybe the last). With a slightly anime style and a frame setup, we get a look at all the different aspects of being a Lantern. This movie proves that the Green Lantern Corps could be on equal footing with Star Wars if it was ever handled right. Laira’s story is probably the best of the bunch and it’s a shame she isn’t a prominent character in the comics. A lot of these stories have an epic feel to them and the action feels like a full blockbuster. It’s fun and huge in scope and should win over those who aren’t so sure about Green Lantern.
Filed Under: Good

Batman: Year One
This was a strange choice to me, though I understand wanting to cover the landmark comic. But, in almost every way, Batman Begins is an adaption of this story and Mask of the Phantasm showed a lot of this as well. I would think, post-2005, we’d move past Batman’s origins. But Bruce Timm loves Miller’s work and it’s not a bad story if you’re going to revisit it. The results are faithful, though redundant, hourish movie. Everything is decent in the film, from the animation to the voice acting, but nothing ever jumps out as incredible and I’m not sure how many people would be interested in this anymore.
Filed Under: Meh

Justice League: Doom
I was actually excited for this movie. It had the old animated series crew coming back for voices and it was based on the Tower of Babel story from the Justice League comics. But then they recast Ra’s al Ghul with the bland Vandal Savage, took out Aquaman for Cyborg (a tactic that would come up again) and made the movie more like a version of the Superfriends. All of Batman’s plans for taking out the League pale in comparison to his comic book contingencies. The rest is boring, with Savage having neither motive (they League might be a problem, someday, maybe) or method (oh no, a rocket). It really is a shame, because the source material was ripe for an adaptation but the end product wasn’t up to the task. Another wasted Justice League attempt.
Filed Under: Meh

Superman vs The Elite
You know, from the previews and the awkward character designs, I was sure this movie was another dud. And for the first act or so, the movie doesn’t do much. The Elite are a bunch of losers with powers and Superman seems to be the butt of a joke. But then the Elite go too far and the movie becomes an intelligent character study as well as a discussion on Superman’s place in modern comics. Should all superheroes be written as seriously as the Ultimates, Authority and Watchman? Is there any room left for heroes who don’t believe in killing? In a world like ours, with movies like Man of Steel, this animated movie makes strong cases for old school, super ethics and shows what a Superman with no rules really looks like and why we don’t really want heroes like the Elite. Unless you loved Man of Steel. Then I have no help to give your poor, lost soul.
Filed Under: Good

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
The last Bruce Timm effort in these original animated movies and he goes out with a bang. Adapting one the most classic Batman movies and going all out for it, DKR is a massive story. Originally, the movie was split into two parts, but patient people like me waiting for the release of a supercut combining the films. It’s now as long as a live action piece and as meaty as the comic, though without the narration. With an excellent, 80’s score and appropriate voice casting, the movie looks and sounds like something from both the past and the future. This might not be for everyone but it’s one of the most ambitious projects out of these movies and a fitting end for Bruce Timm’s involvement.
Filed Under: Good

Superman: Unbound
Oh boy. This was is DULL. I don’t know how they did it, but this movie failed to entertain completely. I don’t understand how Superman is unbound in this either. Brainiac has never been less interesting, Supergirl underused and Superman’s voice actor forgettable. This is one of those movies you have to think really hard about afterwards just to remember it exists, like something out of The Graveyard Book. There is far superior interactions between Superman and Brainiac elsewhere so skip this if you’re someone who can skip these kinds of things. People like me? We get stuck enduring crap because of some personal defect.
Filed Under: Bad

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again.
And so, the New 52 breaks into film, joining DC’s comic book continuation and leaving the old world and reality behind. But, where Flashpoint was an unimpressive comic borrowing too much from Age of Apocalypse, this movie feels bigger and far more interesting. The action scenes are huge and full of characters not seen since the JLU ages. It’s also nice to see the first Flash centered movie, even if he has to get paired with Batman to do so. It’s sometimes too gruesome for its own good, as if it’s trying to prove something but the action is impressive. I wish Barry’s mother was a bigger part of the story rather than just the reason, but the emotion isn’t completely lost between the characters and the climax is exciting. Too bad it brought about the New 52.
Filed Under: Good

Justice League: War
And now we come to the first New 52 adaptation. It doesn’t look like classic stories that have stood the test of time are up for movies anymore but instead we get to watch animated version of mediocre comics that haven’t even stood the test of this time. The first Justice League story in the New 52 was shaky and lacking, focusing on big action scenes and characters that are more jerks than heroes. The movie is about the same, with lots of repetitive fighting, character being mean to one another for no reason, and a completely wasted Darkseid who goes from would-be conqueror to JL punching bag. There are moments when the movie is funny and I almost wish they had gone for complete comedy over what we got. I’m sure there’s plenty that liked this, but it’s not for me; weak voice acting, animation that can’t make up its cultural mind (just pick a coast) and characters who are just too cool and mature to be taken seriously.
Filed Under: Bad

So, there you have it, a complete rundown of all the DC Animated Original movies, and my own personal commentary on all of them. I’m sure plenty will disagree with me as taste will vary. I found half of them to be good, six to be dull and uninspiring and four to be downright bad. I don’t know what the future holds, but if Justice League: War is any indication, I’m not too thrilled to find out. Batman and Son does not look like something I want to watch since I hate Damian Wayne. And the idea of more Justice League movies does not do it for me anymore. I don’t know if they’ll ever go back to non-New 52 stories like The Long Halloween and Sinestro Corps War, so I guess I’ll keep checking their next release plans with hope in my heart.

Eric’s Favorites!
Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
Wonder Woman
Batman: Under the Red Hood
All-Star Superman
Green Lantern: Emerald Knights