Sunday, March 16, 2008

Justice League: The New Frontier

As comic-book fans grow up, so do their comics.

This is displayed clearly in the new animated Justice League movie Justice League: The New Frontier.

Although it features Superman, Batman and all the rest of the caped crusaders we loved as kids, this is clearly a grown-up film aimed at an adult audience.

Set during the fifties, New Frontier mirrors the dubious McCarthy witch hunts of that period with the suspicious activities performed today under the mandate of the War on Terror. An elegant script ponders the question of what makes America great - and what 'superhero' America's place is in this violent and terrifying world.

Featuring an all star line-up of voice talent - with the likes of square-jawed Kyle MacLachlan as Superman and cocky Angel star David Boreanaz as the Green Lantern - New Frontier isn't limited by it's animated format. In fact, it uses animation to show on-screen what could never be accomplished without a $150 million live-action budget.

The plot features America's greatest Superheros, like Wonder Woman, the Flash and Batman, struggling to understand their place in the world. Superman is the government's 'go to' guy when it comes to national emergencies, while Wonder Woman is a free agent, racking up bad press with her violent crusade for justice. The Flash, voiced by Doogie Howser star Neil Patrick Harris, just wants to be left alone by a government determined to capture him and discover the secret to his amazing superpowers.

But all their troubles pale into insignificance when an astounding alien menace - 'The Centre' - comes to earth threatening to wipe humanity from the planet. As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, the superheros unite as The Justice League to save America and the world.

Too Short

My only criticism of Justice League: The New Frontier is that it's too short. For commercial reasons, Warner Brothers demanded that the movie by squeezed into a tiny 72 minute span - meaning the pace and scripting are racked up a notch and an enormous amount of story is unsuccessfully crammed into not-enough time.

With a slightly longer airtime - and more space to expand some of the characterization - this could have been a truly exceptional project. As it is, it's a thought-provoking cartoon that is marred by the endless superhero cameos (Was that Green Arrow? Did we just see Aqua Man in the background?) which wasted time that could be better spent focusing on the smaller, central cast of characters.

Grown Ups Only

What's really surprising about this movie is just how adult it is. With a suicide in the opening scenes, pacifist Green Lantern being forced to kill a North Korean soldier a few moments later and a thinly-veiled reference by Wonder Woman to Indo-Chinese women being raped by the enemy (and later allowed their bloody vengeance) you can clearly imagine that Justice League: New Frontier won't be making it's way to Saturday morning television any time soon.

There's on-screen blood. Characters are injured and die. Questions are raised about America's right to interfere overseas (and how it polices it's citizens back home.)

All in all, Justice League: The New Frontier turns out to be an incredibly brave piece of film making that would have been even better if Warner Brothers had been as daring commercially as they were creatively.

Justice League: The New Frontier is available now from Blockbuster


The Chronicles of a Fashionista in PDX said...

Interesting! I'm a HUGE Batman fan, but I was never a Justice League fan. I have some of the Justice League comic books from the series of when Superman died and Justice League just never appealed to me.

However, I WILL check out the movie. It sounds like it's worth a watch! :) Thanks!

Meghan said...

I've never seen any cartoons of the Justice League but have to say you made it sound do interesting I'm off to check out Netflick!

Anonymous said...

so i take it i shouldn't let my 4 year old watch this? :)

very interesting stuff here, roland. i will have to check it out! i was obsessed with some of these characters as a kid. especially wonder woman, i used to pretend i was her while jumping off my ma's cabinet and putting yellow wristbands on!!

have a great week!!