FILM REVIEW - JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER
Author: Sean Wathen
Monday, February 25, 2008
EDITOR'S NOTE: The following review is based on the screening of JL: THE NEW FRONTIER at Wondercon 2008 as well as attending the press roundtables for the film at the convention.
The Justice League first appeared in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #28 back in 1960. Ever since there have been several renditions and combinations of characters who filled out the “League” (including a failed CBS television show pilot that you can still find clips of on Youtube).
Most recently, Darwyn Cooke created a six-issue comic book limited series titled DC: THE NEW FRONTIER His award winning series has now been adapted into the straight to DVD animated film JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER.
JL: TNF is the second animated feature Warner Bros Animation and DC Comics have produced in their attempt to release more mature, PG-13 rated comic-book films. The first was the SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY movie that revolved around the death/rebirth of Superman. While I did find that film entertaining, I was a little disappointed with the over all product.
I went into JL: TNF thinking it was going to be more of the same, but I am pleased to announce I was more than blown away by this piece. The animation has improved, the story was compelling, the voice actors were terrific, and the ending will leave you with chills. This sophomore effort was truly an improvement from the last film and only makes me anticipate what is next to come.
The story of JL: TNF takes us back to the 1950’s, World War II has ended and we are in the middle of the Cold War where the government isn’t sure anymore if Super Heroes are our friends or just vigilantes. Batman himself has had to go into hiding. Most of the story revolves around Hal Jordan, a pilot during the war, who later becomes the Green Lantern.
Elsewhere, we see different heroes dealing each with their own issues and stories but all their different parts come together when they must take down a supervillain known only as “The Center.” The unfortunate thing is that the film starts out a little jumbled. This story was created from the six-issue comic and at times you can really feel it. It starts out jumping all over the place. There are times when it even became a little confusing. This clears up quickly and we’re left with a phenomenal ending that I will never forget. Before the screening began, I had a chance to speak with Bruce Timm who talked about the challenges of adapting a six-issue comic into the 75 minutes they had budgeted for. He and Darwyn Cooke had both wanted to begin the film on Dinosaur Island with The Losers but unfortunately they said there just wasn’t time for it.
The animation in SUPERMAN: DOOMSDAY was good but there were parts that while minor were distracting to the viewer. The most obvious of course were the strange “cheek” bones on Superman’s face. Well, I’m glad I can tell you that his cheeks in this film are perfectly clear along with everyone else’s. In fact, all the animation is clean and beautiful to behold. Toward the beginning of the film, the animation is dark and that of a classic film noir. As the story progresses, the Noir fades but leaves a lasting impression that sticks with the characters.
When I asked Bruce about how he chose the voice talent for this particular film, he said that at first the studio had given him a list of “Name” celebrities that they wanted on the film. However some of these names were a little bigger than the budget would allow.
While I can understand studios wanting “Names” in a film, sometimes it can ruin an animated character. Just because someone is a famous actor doesn’t mean their voice would be right for the part. Just like fitting an actor to a live-action character, you have to fit a voice to the right animated character. In the end, Bruce said he is “thrilled” with the actors in the film and I can see why!
You’ve got David Boreanaz (BONES) as Hal “Green Lantern” Jordan, Neil Patrick Harris as Barry “The Flash” Allen, Lucy Lawless as Wonder Woman, Kyra Sedgwick as Lois Lane, Brooke Shields as Carol Ferris, and John Heard as Morgan Ace. As impressive as all these actors were, I do think Batman’s voice was a little off. At times I thought I heard Vin Diesel (cringe) but Batman is in fact voiced by Jeremy Sisto of SIX FEET UNDER. All the voices fit the 1950’s era in their tone perfectly without sounding corny.
The ending of the film, to me, was the greatest accomplishment of the movie. It brings a smile to my face to see all the great characters we grew up reading on the screen together. Also during the film, the animators have a few surprise characters for you. I was told that they were not in the script so most don’t have lines, but the animators just had to include them anyway.
Over all, I really enjoyed this piece. It’s definitely worth the twenty dollar price tag. JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER is a gorgeous animated film with lots of dark story, incredible action, and an ending I can’t say enough good things about. I can’t wait to see what this team does next.
SEAN'S GRADE: B+