Superman Justice League

Is it possible to have too many explosions in a superhero movie? DC’s latest, ‘Justice League: War’ is 79 minutes long, and almost the entire run time is filled with things going “boom.” In theory that sounds great, but there are only so many hordes of Parademons a guy can watch get sliced in half, bashed and vaporized before one asks: “Is this all there is to it?”

For those who are unfamiliar with the tale, Batman, Cyborg, Flash, Green Lantern, Shazam, Superman and Wonder Woman find themselves together for the very first time, fighting the forces of Darkseid in a battle that will determine the fate of the earth (of course). The movie was adapted from the 2011 reboot by writer Geoff Johns and artist Jim Lee (although the animated movie replaces Aquaman with Shazam).

In short, ‘Justice League: War’ is great if you like endless strings of carnage and destruction, but less so if you expect at least a few scenes with emotional depth. Only Cyborg gets dealt a decent hand in the characterization department, and even that is rushed though as quickly as possible to get back to the front lines. While the final battle with Darkseid is impressive, the ease with which Superman, Wonder Woman and the rest dispose of Darkseid’s minions becomes tiresome after 30 minutes.

Perhaps the worst aspect of ‘Justice League: War’ is writing that directly undercuts the heroes’ complains that they’re irrationally feared by the general population. For instance, Wonder Woman acts somewhat incredulous that a group of angry protesters outside the White House are wary of super-powered beings, and then later in the movie she forces a street vendor to feed her and a child ice cream, free of charge, at sword point.

Could it be, Wonder Woman (i.e., writers at DC), that people “fear” you because of your “might makes right” mentality? Just wondering. It’s hard to root for a hero when her idea of “justice” is whatever she decides from moment to moment.

Wonder Woman Justice League War

‘Justice League: War’ also is diminished by gratuitous use of foul language. What could have easily been an animated movie for adults and kids to enjoy was squandered by the random interjection of “shit,” “ass,” “whore” and a joke about cross-dressing that seemed to serve no other purpose than to push the rating to PG-13. Does anyone ever watch a DC movie packed with action and say, “I would have given it an ‘A’ but Green Lantern didn’t swear enough for my taste,”? Of course not. Watch some old episodes of ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ to see how top notch DC entertainment is done.

Batman Justice League War

Speaking of Batman, ‘War’ actually does get an ‘A’ for its treatment of him this time around. True, I was disappointed that Kevin Conroy wasn’t voicing the Dark Knight, but Jason O’Mara did a decent job. DC nailed Batman’s interactions with Green Lantern — they were quite humorous — and there is a scene between Batman and Superman that captures the dynamic between the two of them almost flawlessly.

Superman Batman Justice League

How many mortal men can hold up their hand to Supes like a traffic cop and get him to come to comply? Not many, but Batman is one of them. DC deserves kudos for writing the scene so it all transpires believably.

Wonder Woman Justice League War Darkseid

While ‘Justice League: War’ does tend to drag on at times due to the never-ending stream of Darkseid’s minions populating the earth, the final battle is rather satisfying. It truly takes the team to take down Darkseid, and each hero has their moment to shine. Nobody’s power is underutilized and nobody is treated as if they don’t belong. While all of them essentially know deep down that Superman is in a “league” of his own, they also treat each other as equals on the battlefield. In fact, it is a collection of inferiority complexes — not pride — that often threatens to derail victory. It is only when the warriors begin to feel comfortable in their own skin — and trust the hero next to them — that victory is sealed.

Check out ‘Justice League: War’ if you get a chance, but don’t go in expecting some of the weightier issues tackled by, say, ‘Batman: Under the Red Hood.’ If you do that, you probably won’t go away disappointed.

Related: Superman vs. The Elite explores the big dilemma: Christ or Patton? To kill or not to kill?

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

8 comments

  1. I’ve been a bit torn about whether or not I want to see it. The fact that this and Flashpoint Paradox are based on the New 52 and works of Geoff “I like Villains More than I Do Heroes” Johns (who I’m not a fan of) doesn’t make me eager to check it out. Also, much as I like Darkseid, I prefer the original JLA origin: fighting against aliens called Appelexians who sent seven of their greatest warriors to Earth in order to determine who would rule it, and then the JLA defeated it.

    And I still miss the old DC Animated Universe, which as of today seems to have been abandoned. I felt that there were still plenty of tales left, that they could’ve told.

  2. If every animated feature DC made was done in the same way that they approached Batman the Animated Series, then they wouldn’t have anything to worry about. From the trailers I’ve seen so far, I think the biggest draw has been the interactions between each of the heroes and their first meetings. Darkseid as a villain is also a treat. The action is nice, but the incessant amounts of it is definitely a turn off.

    I really don’t like their interpretation of Superman from what I’ve seen of the trailers. He looks a jock and a blockhead, not the down-to-earth and inspiring hero I’ve always known.

    I found a clip that’s less than 2 minutes and but has at least two of the gratuitous things you mentioned:

    1. Yeah, I don’t think this scene or the swearing would add anything to the movie. That’s a problem with the comics as well: they appeal more to adults (although given the actions of some fanboys, such as Slott fanboys, I’d say calling them “adults” is being generous.) than they do people of all-ages. In my own story, the most swearing I’ll use is “hell” and “damn,” as I don’t think using “shit” and the f-word would add anything to the story.

  3. Film makers actually throw in gratuitous profanity (and graphic violence, and sexual suggestiveness) to get a PG rating instead of a G, or a PG-13 instead of PG, or even an R instead of a PG-13. That appeals to the adolescents (the main fan base for comics and action movies), who associate “dirty” and “violent” with “cool.” Forbidden fruit.

    1. I remember how when the second Fantastic Four movie came out (although I didn’t care for either of those movies, apart from Jessica Alba, that is), some people were upset that it got a PG rating instead of PG-13. Not sure why that would be a problem.

  4. Just got this from Netflix and watched it, came over here to see if you had the same reaction I did.

    So first of all, this story being an adaption by Geoff Johns explains… much. If you want a comparison, Doug go look up “justice league” (or maybe justice league unlimited) on Netflix and watch it’s first episode (Secret Origin) where the JL ALSO come together in response to an alien invasion. The comparison between the two will be very instructive from here on out (it’s like, seriously good, if you haven’t seen it already I’ll donate $3 to you as a wager that you’ll find it much superior to War).

    For instance, Wonder Woman acts somewhat incredulous that a group of angry protesters outside the White House are wary of super-powered beings, and then later in the movie she forces a street vendor to feed her and a child ice cream, free of charge, at sword point.

    Thank you. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one bugged by that. I’m like, “Diana just straight up mugged a guy!” Then I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop like… someone explaining money or not taking to her but it never came. Then a guy offers to take her somewhere and she’s like, “I could make you.” I mean… how is compelling someone to do what you want not a villain thing?

    And don’t even get me started on the whole deal before at the protest with Diana embarrassing a guy. This is a sure sign of SJW style arguing. Don’t address a guy’s legitimate points, or ever acknowledge they might be right about something (heck Diana realizing she might have to do better would have been a character arc), no it all has to be completely invalidated because the guy wears women’s clothing. W… T… F! She didn’t address the point! His legit argument doesn’t go away because you embarrass him!

    DC nailed Batman’s interactions with Green Lantern — they were quite humorous

    Barely. Bats & Hal were usually mostly ok, it’s only with Geoff Johns more recent decade treatment that Hal went from being the straight-laced hero to the “rebel without a cause” style guy he is now.

    and there is a scene between Batman and Superman that captures the dynamic between the two of them almost flawlessly.

    WHAT? WHERE? I protest your claim good sir! I mean when they first meet Superman straight up nearly kills Bats quite a few times – that’s not Supes/Bats friendship. They’ve always been a bit of an odd couple true but their friendship is also one born of knowing that each makes the other a better hero. Batman helps Clark realize that sometimes things can go worse and to be prepared. Superman helps Bruce realize that there is good in the world. I mean, THIS is who they are. That movie? Not it. It’s banking on you knowing the previous link, but it didn’t put in the work to get there on its own. Superman in this was just a straight up dick.

    How many mortal men can hold up their hand to Supes like a traffic cop and get him to come to comply? Not many, but Batman is one of them. DC deserves kudos for writing the scene so it all transpires believably.

    That one? Hm. I’ll meet you halfway. It was adequate, not flawless.

    While all of them essentially know deep down that Superman is in a “league” of his own, they also treat each other as equals on the battlefield.

    See that also bugs me, because Captain Marvel (excuse me, “Shazam”)? Yeah he’s supposed to be Superman’s equal – only magical instead of alien. Instead he gets so badly nerfed I wonder why they bothered having him on the team. I mean compared to the JL regulars Cyborg is kind of underpowered but they at least worked him into the plot logically. And then the movie wants to have a payoff that it didn’t earn! If Shazam had held Darkseid in a fight while the rest of the league secured the world (what happened to all those people elsewhere?) then the closing applause would have felt earned. Instead we get the impression that apparently thousands (millions?) were kidnapped elsewhere in the world and possibly changed to parademons while the JL fought over one American city.

    And what is up with most of the heroes acting like assholes? I’m not even a big Captain Marvel fan but I’ve seen enough of the classic stuff to know that Billy Batson was always a bit precocious but he was mischievous brat in the Tom Sawyer variety, not the straight up, “you need to be slapped” jerk territory he was in this!

    Then Superman starts off with his fists in this. There’s a reason in the Superman Animated Show they frequently started off fights with Superman trying to talk to the opponent before taking a few lumps from it getting in the first few sucker punches. 1 part of it was that doing so makes Superman really look like the good guy, and the other part is that it keeps him from coming off as a bully. No wonder he and Wonder Woman get the hots for each other in this movie as she’s a bully too! And if you ever read the nu52 comics, there’s almost constant talk about how “good and noble” Clark is which is apparently the writers trying to shortcut their inability to write anybody actually good and noble.

    Oh wait, we did have one guy on here legitimately good. The Flash (Barry Allen version). This is where Geoff Johns really shows his finger prints as “his” flash Barry is always a near saint. If Hal Jordan is Johns’ Han Solo, Barry Allen is his Yoda. (or maybe R2D2, who would you consider the best moral character of SW?) And I’m not necessarily complaining about those portrayals, he can get me to care about Barry and Hal when I never did before, the problem is that he gets in these ensemble teams and ends up kind of making everybody worse.

    You know what this really reminds me of? Young Justice – a show which I loved (seriously, it’s good) but, of course since it involves teenagers, sometimes the characters involved can be moody and conflicted between each other. Ok, that’s not too bad especially as many of them are either inventions, or given reasons, or still true to their characters. But that was a show about teenagers, this was a movie about ADULTS and they come off written like teenagers (or written by teenagers who think they know what adulthood is like).

    AND I WANTED TO LIKE THIS MOVIE! I’m a huge sucker for Justice League anything.

    I’m going back to the original cartoon. Give me a naive wonder woman who is courteous to others. Give me the Superman that loves life and gives his enemies a chance before striking. Give me the Batman who can communicate with others and voice his thoughts to the team. Give me Flash (in that case, Wally West) who enjoys what he does and loves to run. Give me Green Lantern (John Stewart) who knows right from wrong and is willing to face the consequences of what he’s done. Give me a Captain Marvel who is just a big kid at heart but knows what’s right.

    Give me a Justice League with adults and heroes.

    1. “You know what this really reminds me of? Young Justice – a show which I loved (seriously, it’s good) but, of course since it involves teenagers, sometimes the characters involved can be moody and conflicted between each other.”

      If a JL movie reminds you in many ways of “Young Justice” (which I watched many times with my wife), then it’s hard to argue that it is not good. It’s in the ballpark. It’s a double to left field instead of the home run you wanted, but it’s still a double.

      If DC is getting a Marvel guy like me to watch and enjoy its JL movies, and they’re getting you to say you like it but you’re annoyed because it reminds you of Young Justice — which you also like — then the company is doing something right.

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