Review: Justice League – War / Cert: TBC / Director: Jay Oliva / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Sean Astin, Zach Callison, Christopher Gorham / UK Release Date: TBC
For all its accomplishments and all its faults, the way in which Joss Whedon’s Avengers Assemble was able to spend it's first act establishing and then integrating each of its characters was truly remarkable. Furthermore, the little skirmishes associated with bringing some of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes together were all inconclusive, ensuring credibility for the characters and fuelling debate amongst fans.
So you know that when an article reviewing DC’s latest movie, Justice League: War, starts off by praising the competition, things are not going to be pretty.
The fact is, JL:War is a rare and unfortunate misfire for the DCU and director Jay Oliva. After his incredible work on The Dark Knight Returns double feature, and slightly less incredible work on Justice League: Flashpoint, the young director has tethered his boat to writer Heath Corson (who may or may not be 14 years old, judging from his clichéd and clunky work), in adapting the superb Origins storyline by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.
War is the first feature to be based within the New 52 continuity and serves as the official origin story of this new Justice League. When a rash of abductions draw Green Lantern to Sector 2814’s Gotham City, he encounters the Batman and the two of them join forces (with quips a-plenty) to take down a mysterious Parademon (known to fans as Darkseid's minion army).
And so the film plods on and on at an incredibly uneven pace, till the whole team is amassed and staring down the barrel of Darkseid's invading army. The same Darkseid who stands an inexplicable 40ft tall and whose depiction never gets deeper than “Darkseid SMASH”, which is truly a shame as he tends to be one of the League's more charismatic foes.
The narrative deviates from the relaunch throughout and for no apparent reason, and to a great detrimental effect. A short sequence from the book that saw Superman cautiously engage Green Lantern and Batman is extended, and although exciting, it emasculates the two to the point where their worth is questioned. The artwork has opted for a very dark, very Korean-influenced style, chosen over Jim Lee's character designs, and is at times wildly inconsistent between scenes. That said, the combat (of which there is a substantial amount) is once intricate, fun and unnervingly brutal.
One of the cornerstones of the DCU production team, voice/casting director Andrea Romano very rarely gets things wrong. Which makes it surprising that every single role in War is just horribly, horribly miscast; with a particular low point being Alan Tudyk's interpretation of Superman as a brash, cocky bully.
A team is only as strong as it's weakest member, and in regard to Justice League: War, the critical flaw remains the missed opportunity to relaunch the DCU with an improved energy and maturity. But then again, Batman is Batman. And that's just great.