Thursday, March 3, 2016

"Justice League: War" (2014)

Starring Jason O'Mara, Alan Tudyk and Michelle Monaghan
Written by Heath Corson
Directed by Jay Oliva
Rated PG-13 — Animated violence, language
Running Time: 79 Minutes

Green Lantern (Justin Kirk) heads to Gotham City to investigate a series of kidnappings being blamed in the media on the Batman (Jason O'Mara). Instead, he discovers the culprit is an alien creature from the dark world of Apokolips attempting to plant some kind of device — a Mother Box — in the city's sewers. After totally flubbing his encounter with the parademons, Batman saves him and the two head for Metropolis, hoping to question Superman (Alan Tudyk) about the device's alien origins.

Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, Wonder Woman (Michelle Monaghan) is frustrated at having to wait for a meeting with the President when she encounters parademons attempting to breach the White House. In Central City, scientist Silas Stone (Rocky Carroll) and his son Victor (Shemar Moore) are having an argument while Silas investigates a dead parademon captured by the Flash (Christopher Gorham). An ensuing explosion from the creature's Mother Box infects Victor with an alien energy, forcing Silas to transform him into Cyborg to save his life.

Soon enough, the Mother Boxes open more boom tube portals between Earth and Apokolips, allowing Darkseid's (Steven Blum) army of parademons to assault various cities. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Cyborg and Captain Marvel (Sean Astin) realize they must join forces to protect the entire planet from a full-on alien invasion.

They just don't like each other all that much.

I wasn't a huge fan of the six-issue opening arc of the "Justice League" comic book that this movie is based on, and the movie doesn't do much to improve on it. I thought a similar story was told better in the "Justice League" TV series, which also had the benefit of a much better cast.

Still, this is half decent for a couple reasons. The animation works, even if some of the character designs are a little awkward. Superman's face is strangely tiny compared to the size of his head, for example. Much the film (almost its entirety, to be honest) is given over to ever-increasing fight sequences between the Justice League and the parademons and ultimately Darkseid. So there's lots of opportunity for large scale comic book-style destruction of municipal property. Still, by the third time you've seen Wonder Woman use her lasso to swing one parademon into a group of others and knock them through a building, it gets a bit dull.

The second reason is because this movie takes a hilariously dim view of Green Lantern, who is characterized here as a total buffoon. Throughout the entire movie, Batman throws shade on GL, and his utter disdain is a joy to behold. Even the other characters can barely seem to stand the guy, and in a brief encounter with Superman, the Man of Steel seems almost amused at GL's attempts to fight him. I've made no secret of my own dislike for Green Lantern, who on a conceptual level is one of mainstream comics' worst creations. It's good to see an entire movie that plays with the idea of how stupid GL is.

Other than that, there's really not much here. Very little in the way of character development occurs, and what there is could be generously referred to as perfunctory. These sort of team-up stories often eschew character development in favor of team dynamics, but even that feels slight here. It's not until the film's final moments that the characters really figure out how to work together (and then somehow the climactic battle against Darkseid seems to take forever).

If you want to see a better take on a similar story, check out the early 2000s "Justice League" TV series, which also streams on Netflix. This movie isn't terrible, but there's very little here beyond the lengthy battle sequences that grow pretty repetitive.