DVD REVIEW - JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER
Sunday, February 24, 2008
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jett's review is based on a screening copy of the DVD, not the "World Premiere" at Wondercon."
When reviewing JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER, I had to think about the angle at which I’d examine this movie. I could look at it as a whole, or I could look at it exclusively from a “Batman” standpoint.
Even though I cover things other than The Dark Knight, this site’s name is BATMAN ON FILM, so I figured that most folks who read this site would want to know about it from a Batman fan’s point of view.
With that said, what I decided to do is both -- but with a focus on Batman, his role in the film, and how he’s portrayed in JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER.
The first thing that grabbed my attention was the fact that this certainly isn’t a “cartoon” for the kiddies. There’s violence, blood, and sexual innuendo. Anyone reading this thinking that they’ll pick this one up for junior needs to realize that this ain’t rated PG-13 for nothing. DC and Warner Bros. Animation said that they wanted to make these films for a more mature audience, and they’ve certainly upheld their end of the bargain.
Of all the superheroes featured in JL: TNF, Hal Jordan -- The Green Lantern -- is front and center. In fact, this movie pretty much belongs to him. It’s his story to be honest, complete with a love story and his transformation into Green Lantern.
To be honest, this film could’ve been called GREEN LANTERN. If you are a fan of the character, you’re certainly going to be happy.
In terms of the main characters, The Martian Manhunter isn’t far behind Hal. No origin or love story here, but J’onn J’onzz plays an important part in the story as well. Not only does the character provide the “Can’t we accept those who are different?” angle, but he’s pretty much a replacement for Jim Gordon when it comes to Batman.
As far as “The Big 3” -- Batman, Superman ("The Fleischer Superman" anyone?), and Wonder Woman -- they are all supporting characters in THE NEW FRONTIER. No origins or story arcs to be found. Each have a specific role to play in the story and each do it well.
Now, let’s move on to The Batman.
I must admit that Batman is much darker here than I expected him to be. If you are a regular reader of this website, you know that I’m not too hip on Batman mixing it up with the super-powered beings of the DC Universe. However, kudos to the writers for giving us a dark Dark Knight and one who still probably prefers to work alone when it’s all said and done.
Well, sort of.
When you watch the film, you’ll notice two distinct looks of The Batman. The first is an obvious nod to his original 1939 appearance. He has the long, “Kane-style” bat-ears, as well as the short, gauntlet-less gloves. Even the Bat-logo across his chest is just as it looked on the cover of DETECTIVE #27 way back in the day.
The second look of Batman in the movie is definitely circa the 1940s to the mid 1960s. In other words, he’s the “Silver Age Batman.”
Personally, I didn’t care for the explanation of why Batman decided to alter his costume. Let’s just say it has something to do with the events that transpire when we first see Batman in the film as well as the later inclusion of Robin into his world.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Jeremy Sisto’s voice performance as Batman -- mostly due to the fact that I was very familiar with the actor. If I had to describe his “Batman voice,” it’s certainly got a BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES/Kevin Conroy vibe to it. And it’s definitely not the whispering, gravelly voice that were used to hearing in the live-action films. But it’s good, no doubt. I wasn’t disappointed.
There are two Batman scenes in the film that I was particularly fond of and both involve The Martian Man hunter. I won’t spoil anything, but both definitely nail Batman’s persona and what he’s all about -- especially his interactions with others.
The only negative thing I can say about this interpretation of Batman is that I wasn’t too fond of the scene of him in the Bat-Plane zipping around a bunch of flying dinosaur-looking monsters. Which by the way, brings up my only real negative about the movie -- the villain.
The main baddie is something only known as “The Center.” Other than its name, very little information is provided to explain exactly what The Center is. It’s like some living hybrid of a UFO and a jellyfish that spits out flying dinosaurs.
Maybe I’m just not sophisticated or smart enough to figure out what the The Center was. Regardless, I thought it was, well, lame. Perhaps reading the graphic novel provides more insight into The Center, but shouldn’t viewers not have to read it to enjoy the film?
One other thing that bugged me about the movie (Sorry, I know I said I had one issue here, but one more please.) is it’s look.
If you’ve ever watched an episode of the aforementioned B:TAS, the 90s animated Superman, or JUSTICE LEAGUE series, then you know exactly what to expect esthetically. Was the look tweaked a bit? Sure. But nothing so drastically different that one couldn’t say it’s just the same ‘ol same ‘ol.
Regardless, I thought that JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER was a well-done operation and a fine second entry into these new, PG-13/adult-orientated animated films based on the DC Universe.
JETT'S GRADE: B+