Justice League: War is not a true adaptation of the Jim Lee and Geoff Johns (now) classic first story arc in DC's New 52 Justice League comic. Though it follows the same plot line, there are noticeable differences between this huge animated feature and the comic. Those differences are what makes this epic movie 10 times better then the comic!
They omitted Aquaman and replaced him with Shazam (which we found out) based on off of DC animation's plans for an Aquaman stand alone film. This omission actually works in favor for the JL: War. Where the comic lacked some heart, the film uses Billy Batson's adolescent charm to help connect Cyborg to his humanity and the group. Shazam's inexperience also helps bridge all the character's confidence as a working team. The connection between Cyborg and Shazam (Billy Batson is a fan of Victor (Victory) Stone's football team) brought a center to the movie that isn't quite their in the comic. Belief in each other comes across in this film and it was nice to see that. However, I would have killed to see the Aquaman / Shark moment, but hey, maybe we'll see that another time.
The character design is by Phil Bourassa, who was the lead character designer for Cartoon Network's Young Justice. The animation is top notch. If you think the Man of Steel had to much action, oh boy just wait to you see JL:War. It's non stop craziness. Jay Olivia really came to play for this film. Where we saw some amazing action in Flash Point: Paradox, compared to JL: War it's like comparing Kittens to dynamite. It's so crazy and wonderful and yet the action doesn't take away from the acting and story.
Without spoiling the film, you will notice they changed Cyborgs story a bit (it helps connect him with his father more) plus they hint at a Superman/WonderWoman relationship (which is in the comics). They kept all the great Geoff Johns jokes, Batman still breaks everyone's chops, Green Lantern and Flash are still slapstick funny and Darkseid is even bigger in the film version. Though I felt that all the characters came off strong, Wonder Woman stood out the best. They actually got her right this time. She's more athletic, funnier and more inspirational. There is a scene where protestors are questioning her outfit and calling her a whore. She didn't get violent at them yet she proved her point on why she has a kick ass costume. It's really well written and really fun to watch. Check this film out!
We had a chance to meet and speak with some of the crew of Justice League: War - James Tucker, Jay Olivia, and Andrea Romano at the New York Comic Con (13) and it was a blast. Here's what happened:
CC2K: What makes this film so different from the comic?
Jay Oliva: It’s not a direct adaptation, like I did with Batman Returns (Part 1 & 2). It’s loosely adapted from what Jim Lee and Geoff Johns had done in the (New 52) Justice League issues 1-6.
James Tucker: We adapt the book then broaden it. If it’s in the book (DC’s New 52 Justice League Issues #1-6) it’s in the movie. It’s like a romp. It’s got a lot of action, a lot of excitement. It feels like a big blockbuster summer movie.
Jay Oliva: There are moments that are from the comic but there are other things we kind of changed a little bit, we kind of elaborated on. Of course now we added Shazam into the mix. Overall, I think its one of the things where fans who read the comic will enjoy the film while fans who never read the comic might be interested to go back and read the original source material.
Andrea Romano: At the same time, once we record something they (the writers) might write more then what we could fit into a 70 minute film. We see what plays the best dramatically. Once the actors are voiced (recorded) we go: you know that scene doesn’t help anything move forward, it doesn’t give us any new information we need. We need to cut 3 minutes from the film, let’s cut that scene out. So it’s adapted and then even more cuts are made after that.
James Tucker: They are all new to it. They are all trying to figure out how to be their own individual heroes. Some of them have codes for not killing, others don’t. There are all these areas of conflict that they have that normally we don’t address in the earlier versions of the Justice League.
Andrea Romano: It’s a great story, a great story. We were lucky to get Shemar Moore from Criminal Minds to play Cyborg. It is his very first time ever doing voice over for animation (but) you would never know it. He’s really good, (he’s) physically so into it! You know there is a lot of screaming in that role because he (Cyborg) is almost killed but saved by his father. He (Shemar) didn’t trash his voice. He was really good.
CC2K: When we saw this movie, everyone sounded younger, a little unsure of themselves and the voice acting clearly demonstrates that. How do you find all these great actors?
Andrea Romano: We look for the best possible voices. People usually ask how many times we’ve cast Batman, I think it’s 17. Whether it’s a Batman that had another Batman in that episode or a Justice League that met another Batman.
CC2K: Was it challenging to find new people to play these characters while and not using the same repeating voices.
Andrea Romano: Heck yeah, it was challenging the 1st time. Everybody has an opinion of what they think…if they grew up reading the comic books, in their head they heard a voice and I’m suppose to find that voice that makes everybody happy. It’s a responsibility and I take it seriously. If I can please myself and I’m very critical of that. If I do a good job and I’m satisfied then hopefully the majority of the fans will be.
Andrea Romano: It changes for every film. My first question (always) before I accept a job is: Can I use somebody that I’ve used before? Can I use Kevin Conroy? May I use Mark Hamill? Sometimes they say yes and sometimes they say: You know what, we are going to use a different visual style and we are going to play it differently then we have before. We are going to use a different color pallet so we want a different voice to go with it.
James Tucker: Because The Batman, Batman: The son of Batman, and Justice League: War are in the same universe they will share the same art style. That doesn’t mean they will look just alike. I want each movie to feel like it’s own genre of movie.
CC2K: Then I guess a high pitch Batman is out of the question?
Andrea Romano: See, then again you would have to say Terry McGinnis from Batman Beyond. He was a youthful, high pitch Batman. Yes, every once in a while that does show up.
CC2K: Why this story?
James Tucker: I worked on Justice League (with Bruce Timm) and Justice League Unlimited and I didn’t want to go back and do exactly that. When I read the New 52 Justice League, I could see that they were trying to break down the Justice League and not making something that you instantly knew what to expect. We kind of took that aspect of it and ran with it and kind of pushed everyone’s personalities into different areas. If the fans are expecting are carbon copy of the T.V. series, they aren’t going to get that. It’s going to be a little edgier and definitely more violent. It’s not Super Friends.
Andrea Romano: At the same time I want to bring my sensibility, which tends to be a slightly more feminine viewpoint so that not just the male fans but also the female fans will find something and that tends to be the more emotional scenes. The things where (in this piece) Victor (Cyborg) is talking to his father and is going “Dad are you ever going to go to one of my football games? I thought for sure that you were going to show up.” Letting the actor getting emotional probably isn’t what a male director would do and I wanted to bring that out. Because we all those issues with our folks and I like to bring that aspect of it (in superhero animation).
CC2K: They (DC Animation) announced a new Justice League Batman movie “Son of Batman,” and an upcoming Aquaman movie. Is this the start of a franchise?
James Tucker: They are not separate; Justice League and Batman are connected. They will be in continuity with each other. It’s a different thing prior to me showing up. They (DC films) won’t all be stand-alones.
Jay Oliva: They want to use all these Justice League movies in a way to introduce a character that’s centric to that (movie) like Justice League: Flash Point Paradox was clearly a Flash story. It (this trick) gives us more leeway to focus on these characters, give them the limelight while providing the other characters (Batman, Superman) that everybody loves.
CC2K: Why is that the DC animated films are always bigger and better then the Marvel animated films?
Jay Oliva: I worked at both the Marvel and DC studios and i've noticed that at DC, well, they leave us alone. I don't have to show my story boards to the president of animation or send it to Geoff Johns or any of those guys. They know we do good work. They never give us notes like: Hey wouldn't it be cool if we put Booster Gold in here. I think the success we had over the years, since Bruce Timm's Batman: the animated series, for the most part they let us do what we want to do. They know we are fans, we understand the source material, so they'll leave us alone. While Marvel, there is a lot of hands in there. (Especially) In their character designs, a lot of characters don't seem to fit with other characters. Some day I would like to work with them (again), but I would have never been allowed to do what I did with the Flash Point Paradox over there; never!
CC2K: We'd like to thank James Tucker, Jay Olivia, and the amazing Andrea Romano for their time and their professionalism. We would also like to thank Gary Miereanu for allowing us to meet this amazing crew at NYCC'13.
Justice League: War comes out February 4th, 2014 on DVD, Bluray and UltraViolet. It's well worth checking out. Plus there is a great extra scene following the credits.
4.5 out of 5.0