Justice League: The New Frontier My Reviews 07 JUN 2008

Justice League The New FrontierAs the Earth was formed all those millions of years ago and life slowly but surely began to inhabit her, another creature was being born into existence at her very core, the centre of her being. This powerful and slumbering power chose simply to watch, to observe as time passed by and in doing so recorded the entire birth and rise of humankind. However, in watching, this power, known only as “The Centre”, grew impatient and disillusioned with mankind’s propensity for destruction and despair and the time has finally come to put an end to all life on Earth so that Earth may once more be cleansed of the plague that is human beings.

It is the 1950s and McCarthyism is in full swing in the United States where the Communist threat now runs paramount to any other threat to national security. As a result of the strict political atmosphere, superheros and costumed vigilantes have been outlawed and the Justice Society is long since no more. Despite this, some heroes will never go away as Superman continues the good fight, standing tall in the light while Batman continues his crusade against criminals of all sorts from the shadows of the night.

Of course, there are other, less active heroes around, but the majority of them have gone undercover, waiting for the time when they will once more be called into service. People like Wonder Woman, The Flash and Green Arrow to name but a few.

And then there are the heroes that are still being birthed. Ace pilot Hal Jordan who survived the Korean War and is now a test pilot destined to journey to the stars and one day come into possession of one of the strongest weapons in the universe – the legendary ring of Green Lantern. J’onn J’onzz, the Martian accidentally transported to Earth who takes on his human detective persona and starts his crusade against crime as John Jones.

All these heroes are about to be brought together as knowledge of the global threat known only as “The Centre” begins to emerge and in order to solve this mystery and in the end take on the very creature that is capable of destroying all of mankind, these heroes must cast aside their differences, be accepted by a government that is suspicious of all and work together to save Earth before it is too late!

Justice League: The New Frontier is a 2008 direct-to-video animated film adaptation of the popular DC Comic, DC: The New Frontier limited series. It is directed by Dave Bullock and written by regular Justice League writer, Stan Berkowitz, with Darwyn Cooke (the guy behind the comic on which the movie is based) serving as story and visual consultant. This is the second in a line of DC Universe animated original movies released by Warner Bros. Animation, the first release being Superman: Doomsday.

Before it even begins, the story is guaranteed to be a hit because you have all that wonderful origin material to work with and Stan does a great job of weaving it all together into a single coherent movie. We get a lot of focus on the rise of Hal Jordan and his eventual taking ownership of the Green Lantern Ring as well as the Martian Manhunter’s arrival and assimilation into Earth culture. Then we get how Superman and the original Flash continue their struggles in a country that doesn’t want them and even how Batman continues to do the work that he has always done, always cloaked in the shadows. And of course, what would any comic book storyline be without some global threat arising to band these various heroes together, and in doing so form the basis on which the Justice League was formed in the first place!

Of course, with so many different plotlines all hanging together on the thinnest of threads, the movie doesn’t have a very tight feeling to it and it is pretty much all over the place until the final few scenes where everything finally comes together and we get off with the usual big slugfest. While it is great to have this many heroes and their stories crammed into a single movie, it is a bit disjointed and you can’t help but feel that they should have perhaps focussed on just a single storyline which would have given the movie a more unified feel to it.

Of course, this movie is based in the McCarthy era and as such has a lot of political commentary to make as well as a very strong pro-American rhetoric to expound. For non-Americans this is more than a little annoying, but you have to realise that the Justice League and its forebear, the Justice Society has always been “of America”. So as a non-American I find the pitch of the movie more than a little annoying, but taking its target audience into account I can’t hold it as a fault against what is in the end not a badly written piece.

Visually, Justice League: The New Frontier shies away quite a bit from the style usually employed for the DC Animated line of cartoons, instead going for a far more angular look to its line work, something that goes a long way in giving the movie a very classic feel, the same type of feeling that gets invoked if you ever care to pick up one of those dusty old Golden Age comic books. The art isn’t overly detailed but this doesn’t matter that much thanks to the gorgeous colouring employed which really makes the whole work seemingly jump out of the screen.

The animation itself is extremely fluid and the whole package is actually quite pleasing on the eye. The movie slips in a little bit of CG here and there, but on the whole this feels like a traditional 2D feature and the slightly aged stylistic feel to the art fits in perfectly with the time period for which this story is penned.

As for the voice acting in Justice League: The New Frontier, you can’t help but marvel at the professional level of every single one of the talented people employed to voice some of the greatest superheroes of our time. Although no real A-list celebrities are used, you still get some pretty famous people thrown into the mix, including Kyle MacLachlan, Jeremy Sisto, Lucy Lawless (of Xena fame) and Brooke Shields of all people! Kevin Manthei is the man responsible for the more than decent orchestral based soundtrack and he certainly delivers some great material for your aural pleasure – just as every superhero movie should!

Honestly though, apart from the sheer fun as a long time comic fanboy in seeing all these Golden and Silver Age heroes up on the silver screen, Justice League: The New Frontier just doesn’t do it for me. Sure the movie is stylistically visually appealing, the voice acting is superb and the soundtrack just as good, but the various elements just don’t tie together enough to make it a superb story. Another problem for me is this being one of those very American-centred patriotic pieces makes it a little hard for a non-US citizen to accept and the pro-American way rhetoric becomes a little hard to swallow after a while.

However, this movie does do a great job of bringing the origins of some of the greatest comic book creations ever to life and manages to weave a good, global-scale threat storyline which makes for your classic comic book yarn and therefore a perfectly average superhero movie as what you have come to expect from the genre. It is a solid and entertaining movie, but the huge cast of characters and the swapping between multiple storylines holds back the movie from being very, very good.

So, a great watch for all those long time DC comic book fanboys out there, but not necessarily the greatest of movies to get people new to the genre onboard and is therefore NOT one of those movies that you HAVE to pick up unless you are like me, a diehard comic book fan.

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Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justice_League:_The_New_Frontier

About Craig Lotter

South African software architect and developer at Touchwork. Husband to a cupcake baker and father to two little girls. I don't have time for myself any more.