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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Justice League: War

JUSTICE LEAGUE: WAR

** SPOILERS **

War is Bad

Justice League for Dummies might as well be what Justice League: War is titled, though perhaps Justice League as Dummies is even more appropriate. Justice League: War launches the rebooted New 52 era of DC Animation, as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, et al meet each other for the first time and band together to fight off an alien invasion. Adapted from the best selling comic book series "Origin," by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, itself no bastion of sophisticated storytelling, War follows the mandate of making the Justice League younger and raw, as prone to fighting amongst themselves as they are battling the Parademon hordes of the evil Darkseid. They're the World's Greatest Superheroes in potential only; Batman is the sole hero presented as competent as ever, the only relative adult in the group. Everyone else seems like they fell off the back of the short bus.

Justice League: War follows the basic plot of the comic book: Batman (voiced by Jason O'Mara) and the staggeringly arrogant and idiotic Green Lantern (Justin Kirk) hunt down a Parademon in Gotham City, quickly determining it's an alien invader, which leads them to Metropolis and the most famous alien in the world, Superman (Alan Tudyk). More following the tradition of Marvel Comics where the superheroes first fight and then team up (the overall story is similar to the final act of Marvel's The Avengers, though "Origins'" publication does predate the Joss Whedon blockbuster), the Justice Leaguers gradually come together as Darkseid launches his full invasion of Earth. Wonder Woman (Michelle Monaghan), the Flash (Christopher Gorham), Shazam (Sean Astin), and Cyborg (Shemar Moore) join the fray in short order, bickering with each other as they rip Parademons to shreds and combine their powers to battle Darkseid (Steve Blum).

The screenplay is embarrassing, with its dubious efforts to make the Justice League "edgy" and "cool." Within seconds of introducing Wonder Woman, a character says she dresses like "a whore." When she confronts her accuser, her Lasso of Truth reveals he secretly cross dresses like Wonder Woman because it's empowering. Wonder Woman agrees that her uniform is indeed empowering. The very next scene Wonder Woman appears, someone hollers at her calling her a "bimbo." Not that Wonder Woman is depicted as particularly admirable; in War, she is a sword-swinging, bloodthirsty simpleton who has never tried ice cream before. Cyborg is a self-pitying whiner with serious daddy issues. Superman is hardly an inspirational champion of inherent goodness; he's a Heat Vision-first, punch-second bruiser with no brains who tries to carve Batman in half with his laser beams the first time they meet. (Superman also chokes Desaad to death later in the movie in a forehead-slapping ode to Man of Steel.) Shazam is probably the worst of them all; his childish alter ego Billy Batson is a lying, obnoxious thief, and when he magically transforms into The World's Mightiest Mortal, he sounds and acts like a drunken college kid at the local sports tavern. But no, Green Lantern is still the bottom of the barrel, by far the most insipid and infuriating of these "heroes," hardly worthy of the responsibility of being a police man who "protects the entire universe."

Action is the viewer's reward for wading through the extent of Justice League: War. With countless Parademons Boom Tubing their way to Earth, there are ample opponents for the Justice Leaguers to tear asunder, incinerate and eviscerate. The full range of the superheroes' superpowers are on display, and when Darkseid (grotesquely redesigned and sporting a Mohawk that makes him resemble a stone-faced Mr. T) arrives on Earth to do battle with the League, no one holds back in the savagery department. The Justice League's master plan to defeat Darkseid is, I shit you not, poke his eyes out with Wonder Woman's sword so he can't shoot Omega beams from his eyes anymore. When the Justice League stops talking, i.e. behaving like 8 year olds playing with their action figures, and starts fighting (like 8 year olds playing with their action figures), the action has entertaining moments. (Though for a more satisfying fight on all levels against Darkseid, see his smackdown with Superman and Supergirl in 2010's Superman/Batman: Apocalypse.) Watching the Justice League fight is the only passable enjoyment gleaned from Justice League: War. Best to watch the Justice League wage war with the sound off.

Zack Snyder, David Goyer, and Warner Bros. Pictures, whatever you do when you make your Justice League feature film, please don't do this.

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