DVD Review: Justice League: The New Frontier

OK, I’m actually holding out to buy this on HD-DVD when it hits on March 18th, but I couldn’t wait to see it any longer, so I bought the rental of this through the Xbox Video Store last night. It’s available in Standard and High Definitions, and for these rentals, it’s pricier than normal. Hoosiers is also new to the Xbox Live marketplace, and it’s standard def version costs 240 points, whereas JL: TNF costs 320 (and the High-Def is 480 points compared to Hoosier’s 360). I DLed the Standard def version and watched it late last night.

Justice League: The New Frontier is the second direct-to-dvd animated feature from Warner Brothers and DC Comics, following up last year’s spectacular Superman: Doomsday. This is an adaptation of Darwyn Cooke’s six-part series which basically took a look at the DC Comics characters from the start of the Silver Age and set them against a more realistic backdrop then what they were in when originally published- covering a 7 year period from 1953 to 1960. Cooke’s original series is one of my all-time favorite DC Comics stories, and for the most part, the animated film does a great job of capturing the spirit of the piece. The biggest drawback to the animated feature is basically it’s running time. This easily could’ve been a 90-minute or even a 2-hour film and had felt more full, but right now, Warners is pushing to keep these features in the 70+ minute range, probably for budgetary considerations more than anything else. Within those constraints though, they do a pretty good job of covering the high points of Cooke’s series, and almost all of the other points are at least mentioned in some form or another.

It’s very nicely animated and of course, Cooke’s style lends itself to this animation very well. It at least looks like a mix of 2D traditional animation with 3D cel-shaded animation for vehicles, and for the most part it’s a great look. Some of my favorite bits in the film involve the Flash taking on Captain Cold in Las Vegas, Batman saving a young child from a cult and just about any scene with Superman in it.

The voice cast is absolutely stellar here, and kudos go out to Andrea Romano for her consistently high standards for these Warners productions. This features the following in the voice cast:

David Boreanaz – Hal Jordan/Green Lantern
Neil Patrick Harris – The Flash
Kyle MacLachlan – Superman
Jeremy Sisto – Batman
Lucy Lawless – Wonder Woman
Miguel Ferrer – J’Onn J’Onzz, The Martian Manhunter
John Heard – Ace Morgan
Kyra Sedgewick – Lois Lane
Brooke Shields – Carol Ferris

They all do a great job, but I was really surprised by two in particular: Brooke Shields did a terrific job as Carol Ferris, strong, confident and sexy all at once in her performance, she really committed to this and Jeremy Sisto as Batman, which is about as different a vocal take on Batman as any, yet for this time period, it just seems really right.

I really enjoyed this, I truly did, but I wasn’t as blown away as I expected to be, and I think it’s just a matter of having my expectations so high considering the source material, but with that said, I expect I’ll be taken with it even more on subsequent viewings, just because that initial phase is over. I give Warners and DC huge credit for even attempting to adapt this as an animated feature, as it’s pretty ambitious and it’s take on the characters is hardly the contemporary take that everyone’s used to. I honestly cannot wait to watch this again when it hits on HD-DVD, and I expect to have even more fun with it then.

Now keep in mind too, I’m a huge DC Comics fan, I’m a huge comics fan in general, but DC Comics were my first exposure to comics and thus, they’ve always been my favorites out of the big two publishers. I don’t think JL: TNF is a movie that someone who knows nothing of these characters is going to enjoy that much, I think at least some sort of passing familiarity is needed, and really the more you know, the better. I think if you at least know who the Superfriends were, well then you’ll probably be able to pick up on this, but after that, this might be a struggle for a casual viewer.

Still though, this gets a big recommendation and the DVD package features a lot of great extras, including a history of the Justice League, a couple of commentary tracks (one from Darwyn Cooke), a making of featurette, and a preview of Batman: Gotham Knight the next DC direct-to-dvd project.

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

28. February 2008 by Darren Goodhart
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