Posted January 31, 2014 by Alvin Minon in Comics

What Else Went Wrong With JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR?

A couple of days ago Flipgeeks has its article What Went Wrong with Justice League: War. For those of you who haven’t seen the latest DC animated film, go watch it now! For those who have, please bear with my own list of not-so-good things that I could say regarding the movie.

Been a DC fan since who knows when and I said I couldn’t miss the chance to write about the movie once I’ve seen it. But now that I have seen it, there’s just so many that I find so disappointing. And this is coming from someone who got disappointed with New 52 but was still able to get over it and give it a chance. I’ve seen all DC animated films and I’ve been disappointed a couple of times, too. It’s just that there’s so much high hopes for Justice League: War since it’s about DC Animated Universe (DCAU) transitioning into the new generation but instead it fails to start off with a bang.

Listed down below are a few of the points I had in mind, thoughts that perhaps could be to the things our fellow Flipgeek Yuri listed in his article:

(Note: Beware of spoilers beyond this point)

An origin movie that isn’t really noob friendly

We have a movie that introduces Justice League, superheroes that were bonded together by a common mission, which in this movie happens to be to protect those who could not protect themselves. We’re given the New52 take on the formation of Justice League, a group that would later on expand to include heroes from other countries, planets, galaxies and even have its own sub-groups specializing in different cases and phenomena. Sure it’s fun to watch and us geeks would be having each of our own fangasms, we get to see our heroes don new costumes, Hal Jordan ditching lines about each and every character and Batman being the coolest out there (forever Batfan, sorry!). But try wearing the hat of a five-year old who hasn’t read comics as extensively as most geeks, or wasn’t able to grow up watching our favorite animated series such as Superman or Batman or Justice League and Justice League Unlimited.

As an older brother, I’m actually thinking of having my youngest brother or cousins watch JL: War. Yeah he was able to watch a few episodes of the animated series years back, but the kids have no idea who the original founding members really are (or at least the founding members in the latest retcon), how they bonded together or how their personalities meshed. Now flash forward to JL: War. Would a new kid have any idea what GL’s talking about when he blurts out stuff about guardians and space sectors? Why is Batman being chased around while Flash is totally buds with S.T.A.R. folks, when in fact he has the police coming after his back (see JL#2)? How come Flash and GL are already buddies while Batman’s practically a myth to the interstellar police? Why is Superman acting like the typical douche jock here instead of the tight-ass boy scout most of us know? Yes, there are differences and changes made when New52 rolled in and I’ve somewhat got past all of that already. But why didn’t this movie bother explaining much that would justify the new characteristics? Not really an awesome job of shoving the “new generation” into the old and new audiences alike.

JL:War’s League is missing a king.

Aquaman-less Justice League

It seemed wasteful not going with the New52 JL lineup, dropping Aquaman and putting Shazam instead. Though I kinda get it seeing how his personality fitted with the rest of the team, plus how they used Shazam to insert humour and interaction with the rookie Cyborg, I still feel like the movie wasted the shot to work on Aquaman and build him up for future movies.

In New52, Geoff Johns made it an early effort to get rid of the misconceptions regarding the Atlantean King, thus allowing Arthur Curry to get some badass stories later on such as Throne of Atlantis. Given his background as a monarch, he’s even suggested to be a plausible leader for the super team!
I thought they could do the same with the animated movies since Aquaman looked nasty and more appealing already in the Flashpoint Paradox but DC just had to drop him off again and switch in a different character in JL: War. I couldn’t help but think it would take effort for new blood to think of Aquaman as an original member of JL, or get out some good New52 Aquaman stories in case the animated universe’s really going for New52 from now on. While some people might point out that the movie has it’s own sneak peak of what would happen next (see post-credits scene with special appearance from Ocean Master), I still believe that Aquaman deserves the JL post in the movie and he should be one of the characters to be developed from now on.

On exploring character potentials and their personalities

And since we’re talking about Shazam replacing Aquaman already, let me point out how JL: War failed to maximize Shazam’s potential. We have a hero who has the wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus, courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury. But we get to see Shazam doing stupid things such as ruining a pretty sound plan, charging straight for personal glory and hit on Wonder Woman, shoot bolts that don’t seem really heavy and transforming back to Billy early even before Darkseid’s defeated. But what we get is basically Billy buffed up after shouting the magic word, sticking to his childish naivete and fanboying over Victor Stone. There isn’t much spotlight focusing on the hero’s altruistic pursuit of good and justice, or how much powerful he is, enough to give Superman a beating. Don’t get me wrong though, I appreciate his role being the middleman for Cyborg’s adjustment to becoming part of the team.

Same issue could be said on how Wonder Woman’s portrayed too. She gets a new look and I don’t really mind the voice acting. She goes on hacking and slashing like a juggernaut which is all fine by me too! She looks damn awesome and hot at the same time because of what she does and not because of how she looks. Plus we get to see her sweet side with that little bit of conversation with a girl in the park while eating ice cream. But I don’t get why she has to be impatient and hot-headed, charging mindlessly at enemies, or even waving a sword at some random ice cream vendor without any thought at all. She’s supposed to be an Amazon princess, trained to be the best warrior she could be, which means having a sharp mind go together with the sharp blade while giving courtesy to those who deserve it. I don’t see which part of her reckless rampage shows that, or how waving and pointing a sword could be considered being appreciative of ice cream even if it’s the Amazonian culture we’re talking about.

“Praise Hera for ice creams!” Or something like that.

She’s the symbol of feminism and at the same time of vulnerability. She embodies strength and womanhood and character. Yet we get to see Diana chuckling after lassoing some protester and making him announce against his will that he cross-dresses. It was funny of course but we’re talking about a guy who’s keeping secrets due to fear of public discrimination. Wonder Woman chuckling at something like that doesn’t seem really right. I bet someone like Batman, who wouldn’t really seem the empathic type of person, could deliver a better line to comfort the person and come up with an appropriate response to how heroes choose their clothes.

Call me nit-picking or what, but I’d rather have a movie getting Diana’s personality right than one that never passes the chance to hint at the budding romance between the two of JL’s big three. For non-New52 readers, yeah that’s right: there’s a Clark-Diana thing. She’s oblivious to the existence of ice cream, like some female Thor or whatnot, yet she gives us an easy “ohh that’s some hot jock” look when Diana encounters a flying alien lifting a plane while shooting lasers out of his eyes. And I thought that line hinting the David Graves’ Gods Among Men was cool until it turns out to be one heck of a pickup line from Diana. Ugh.

Focus on the big guns

Remember Flashpoint Paradox? Some malnourished Superman with a somewhat disproportionate head unleashes his superpowers and poof, the scale’s tilted and everything goes “better” sooner than expected. An instant fix. Guess what, almost same thing’s done here. Supes arrives at the scene where all the rest are struggling with Darkseid, Supes shoves Darkseid back to the portal and voila, all that’s left is to close the portal on him with some help from Cyborg. Oh wait, it’s not actually just Cyborg unlike in the comics. He needs the help of Shazam who provides him with some lightning bolt that channels through the box instead of instantly dealing damage and changing Shazam. How convenient!

For a movie featuring a variety of heroes with different specialties, there seems to be a deal of focus on the heavy hitters. We see Batman being helpless against parademons, Flash throwing punches that are only great in quantity and GL’s constructs being shattered too many times. Sure they’ve got more dialogues, together with Billy Batson and Cyborg, but look at the action and you see it’s Superman and Wonder Woman doing the sweeping. Instead of actually making the other characters shine, what we get is the idea that GL can’t focus enough to make his constructs stronger or that Batman can’t stand up to the big guys if it wasn’t for his cunning. I was actually waiting for the line where Cyborg shows his strength by overcoming the limits of the A.I. inside him but nah, we get a scene where it looks like the box worked out of sheer luck!

Darkseid didn’t really seem like Darkseid

I remember New52’s JL#1 being hard on action and there’s the feeling of despair having to go against Darkseid individually. But the tension lacks in the movie. And without that tension, JL: War just feels like some Jersey Shore or Big Brother supes edition where they have to get along to finish a weekly mission. Honestly, after watching the movie, you could go ask yourselves: did Darkseid seem scary or menacing? He’s got the growling evil voice, yes plus those cool-looking Omega Beams but he doesn’t really look menacing. His entrance was even short of being grand. Even Lady Gaga makes better appearances than the master of Apokolips.

Sure works as some concert poster.

Darkseid has super strenght, super endurance, immortality, invulnerability and genius-level intellect. His eye beams are so badass that those red homing disintegrating/teleporting/resurrecting optic lasers are called Omega Beams. He’s searching for something called Anti-Life Equation, for chrissakes! Yet, the guy barely looks like the end of the world personified. Not the level of impeding doom that would unite godlike beings in tights and capes. Again, this is another wasted shot on making Darkseid a name to remember for people who’re only into DC’s live action movies or animated features.

Nope, I’m not over-glorifying our pal. He’s really been dumbed down. If you don’t believe me, I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

Guess that beauty product!

Disappointments and wasted opportunities. It’s still a good movie to watch though. Nope, I’m not contradicting the long tl;dr post I’ve just written. The movie isn’t what I expected it to be, or what I wanted it to be, but I wouldn’t mind watching it just for the sake of seeing my heroes hang together and pummel bad guys together. All the items I’ve listed down, they somewhat broke my heart (awww, but seriously!) but I’m still the same DC fan that got through retcons and animated series ending.

Fingers crossed for Son of Batman!


Alvin Minon