This review was written in June 2016.
The DC Universe is incredible. While the blockbusters may not always be great, the TV and home video universes are consistently fantastic. Every direct-to-video I’ve watched on Netflix has either been great or super-great, and “Justice League: War” is no exception.
First and foremost, however, I must say this is a PG-13 film. This is not a cartoon for kids; it’s a movie. We begin with Hal Jordan, aka the Green Lantern (voiced by Justin Kirk), pursuing a strange creature seen kidnapping people in Gotham City. Hot on his tail is the Dark Knight of Gotham himself, Batman (Jason O’Mara). In this universe, the Justice League does not exist yet so Lantern and Batman are at odds initially, until they come face to face with the last son of Krypton, Superman (Alan Tudyk). They discover there are more of these creatures known as Parademons and they are placing strange boxes around the city called Mother Boxes. The heroes duke it out until Batman calls Superman “Clark” and he recognizes Batman as Bruce Wayne (“Who is Bruce Wayne?” asks the Green Lantern). Once their identities are known to each other, they begin working together.
The Parademons came from the planet Apokolips, home to Darkseid, who has sent them out to terraform worlds for his destruction. When Darkseid learns that the heroes are onto his plan, he orders a full-scale invasion of Earth.
Meanwhile, at STAR Labs in Central City, Dr. Silas Stone is analyzing another Mother Box recovered by the Flash when his son, Victor arrives to ask why he missed yet another of his football games. Suddenly the Mother Box is activated and Victor grabs it from it’s containment unit as it opens a portal to Apokolips, melding its alien technology with his own body, creating the Cyborg. Very soon, hundreds of thousands of Parademons descend on Earth and this rag-tag group of superheroes must stop at nothing to defeat them and return Darkseid to Apokolips before he destroys the world.
Man oh man, this was fun to watch! Such great casting; Kirk is hilarious as Green Lantern (To Batman: “Oh right, because you’ve got a satellite… Wait, you’ve got satellite?!”) and O’Mara, whom I’ve seen one other time as Batman in “Son of Batman” was fantastic was well (Son of Batman, not so much). Michelle Monaghan voices Wonder Woman and she is amazing in this film. If they made a stand-alone Wonder Woman story half as good as she was in this, I’d buy it on Blu-ray. Tudyk as Superman is a great choice as well, though I am very partial to Tim Daly assaying the role. Not knowing much about the origin of Cyborg, this was a great introduction to his character. Shazam – another character I know little about – is introduced as well, voiced by former hobbit Sean Astin, and plays a very prominent role in the formation of the JL.
It has a few of the same short-comings of the live-action movies, namely the needless destruction of EVERYTHING IN SIGHT. Superman, buddy, could you maybe NOT throw every bad guy through a building? Maybe? There’s also some pretty 90s CGI in few scenes which seems unnecessary in an already animated film. Along with being a little graphic for kids, there is a very minimal amount of swearing, but enough that you wouldn’t your kids repeating what Green Lantern calls Batman during their (very funny) banter.
The highlight of any of these exceptional DC movies is that they make me want to read more comics. Often times, they will be based on a specific story available in comic form and nearly all of them are available online through sites like Amazon and Kindle or apps like Comixolgy. If you or your kids love comic books, both are a great way to devour great stories but not have boxes and boxes of books to store.
In summary: I loved it. Watch it.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Snack Packs
Lincoln L. Hayes is an actor and filmmaker in Vermont. He often live-tweets the movies he reviews. Follow him @LincolnLHayes. That’d be cool of you.