The first in what is apparently meant to be an over-reaching continuity
of DC animated films based on the New 52 gets off to a bad start with
what is honestly one of the worst stories from the New 52 right out the
gate, JUSTICE LEAGUE: ORIGIN by Geoff Johns, re-subtitled WAR here
presumably because it sounds cooler.
Plot or lack thereof: Darkseid invades Earth. A handful of DC's big
hitters plus Cyborg ban together to fight him. Chaos and mayhem ensues.
Geoff Johns, who wrote the original story, is a good writer, not a
perfect writer but a good one. I've enjoyed his work on Green Lantern,
and he did a very good job on the opening arcs of New 52 Aquaman - who
sadly was taken out of this feature and replaced with Shazam, the hero
formerly known as the original Captain Marvel - but his New 52 Justice
League: Origin was a terrible story, full of bad dialogue and unlikable
over the top characterizations for half the characters assembled,
wasting the beautiful artwork of Jim Lee on an invasion plot thinner
than paper. In short, it was NOT one of his better efforts. Anyone who
reads that opening New 52 arc can clearly see that Johns heart wasn't
invested in the story he was trying to tell.
Sadly, this animated adaptation opts to embrace the sloppiness of the
original story rather than fix it or improve upon it. While some of the
bad dialogue of the book was dropped (such as Green Lantern's rather
stupid "Talk in a deep voice" response to Batman criticizing him for
creating a green plane for transportation) they've gone out of their
way to add more to the list of casual profanity, which now includes
"whore" and "douche bag", and that's just in addition to the regular
profanity which seems to be on higher display than usual, which just
feels incredibly forced as they're trying way too hard to make this
feature as "mature" as possible, except this isn't mature - this is a
13 year old's idea of mature.
The painfully unlikable characterizations of half the cast remain too.
Fans who thought Superman wasn't "nice enough" in 2013's "Man of Steel"
probably won't like him here either; you see the New 52 portrayed
Superman in his early career as a cocky rebel, much like he was in the
Golden Age (though he seems to mellow across a few time skips), but
here as in the original story this is taken to the point that he's
portrayed as a straight up thug who appears to be fighting not in the
defense of Earth and innocent people but rather he is merely fighting
because he happens to enjoy causing property damage and smacking
opponents around. There's no sense of altruism in him, no sense of
compassion, something even a younger, more rebellious Superman should
have, and something he did have in MOS regardless of what the haters
Wonder Woman and Green Lantern don't fair much better. Wonder Woman is
portrayed as a dumb, spazzy child trapped in a woman's body who would
much rather hack and slash her way through monsters than actually learn
from and establish ties with the modern world, and the scene where she
freaks out over tasting ice cream for the first time is painfully
unfunny. Meanwhile, Green Lantern's arrogance is dialed up so high that
he comes off being stupid and mean rather than just cocky. It seems the
WB/DC folk are still trying to pass Green Lantern off as their Iron Man
- which some believe was one of the reasons why the 2011 film failed at
the box office - and they're still failing at it, since they don't seem
to understand that there needs to be genuine likability behind the
sarcasm, and here GL has none.
Shazam/Billy Batson is an interesting case - Shazam is surprisingly
likable if only because Sean Astin manages to make a somewhat engaging
character out of the material, but Billy is an obnoxious brat ala the
New 52 who insults and degrades those around him (he gleefully calls
his friends/foster family morons). Meanwhile the villain, DC favorite
Darkseid, is little more than a monster on the rampage rather than the
highly intelligent ruler that fans know and love him for being. He
could've easily been replaced with Doomsday and it wouldn't have
seriously altered the plot.
Voice acting's hit or miss. Batman, Flash and Cyborg are reasonably
close to their normal characterizations and their voice actors reflect
that, but Jason O'Mara is a shaky Batman at best. Alan Tudyk's voice is
too small and too soft for the Superman design, Michelle Monaghan
sounds too contemporary and "American" to be convincing as a Wonder
Woman who has just arrived to our world and sounds like she would have
been better suited to voicing Lois Lane, while Justin Kirk's nasally
frat boy voice is a painfully poor fit for Green Lantern.
It's rather telling that the more lighthearted, kid friendly "Justice
League Adventures: Trapped In Time" released around the same at select
Target only featured far more likable characterizations of the heroes
than this overblown "popcorn film" which lacks the heart, soul, and
genuinely likable characterizations of the truly great popcorn films.
If this is truly the future of DC direct to DVD animation then the
future is a bleak one.