The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Justice League: War
Available on Blu-ray Combo pack, DVD and Digital HD 2/4/14

Although Marvel has been eclipsing DC when it comes to live-action superhero movies (by which I mean bringing more of their characters successfully to the big screen), DC has been trumping Marvel when it comes to animated fare. The line of DC Universe titles released to DVD and Blu-Ray has generally been of high quality, with the company turning out individual superhero titles as well as some Justice League adventures. On Feb. 4, the newest movie, Justice League: War, hits stores and digital outlets, and it's one of the best to date.

The evil villain Darkseid is sending an army of minions to Earth for a suitably nefarious purpose involving total domination of our fine planet. Batman and Green Lantern are individually working on the problem when they meet and hesitantly join forces. As the threat grows stronger, they recruit Superman and, later, Wonder Woman and Flash. In a subplot, a young football player named Vic Stone confronts the scientist father who never has time for him. He is accidentally zapped by a mysterious artifact his dad is studying. This transforms him into Cyborg, a half-human/half-machine with the helpful ability to understand the technology Darkseid is using to control his forces. Cyborg joins the others in fighting him off, with acquaintance Shazam following close behind. The movie climaxes with a massive battle between the superheroes and their seemingly indestructible nemesis.

The DC Universe features are special because they represent one of the few places where you can still see traditional hand-drawn animation. For movies based on comic books, this fundamentally feels right. Justice League: War is adapted from Geoff Johns and Jim Lee's Justice League: Origin, and it has the look of a graphic novel, albeit one with motion. Bright colors abound, while the characters are drawn with personality. At the same time, the film also takes this quality and makes it distinctly cinematic. Adventure sequences are shot like live-action superhero movies, with inventive angles and highly-stylized visuals. There's no doubt that DC has upped the ante on this series with War.

Having all these superheroes join forces is an obvious draw for fans, but the story is just as much a selling point. Justice League: War has a good plot that allows each hero to make an impact. No one sits on the sidelines here. The addition of the Cyborg origin story provides a welcome human element, as does the inclusion of humor. (At one point, Wonder Woman confronts a Tea Party-esque group outside the White House.) You even get the now-requisite “credit cookie” which teases the next Justice League adventure.

Justice League: War is a lot of fun, and the Blu-Ray comes loaded with exclusive bonus features. “Creating Heroes: The Life and Art of Jim Lee” is a tribute to one of the creators of the book on which War is based. It's a thorough account of his career that's sure to please his many admirers. “Act D – From Animatic to Pencil Test” shows the progression of the animation in its early stages. “From the DC Comics Vault” offers four episodes of DC-related TV series, while “Deconstructing War” finds director Jay Oliva and Jim Lee doing a sort of video commentary track for specific sections of the movie. Finally, there's a sneak peek at the next DC entry, Son of Batman.

Justice League: War looks and sounds great on Blu-Ray. Fans of this series will get their money's worth.

Justice League: War is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some language. The running time is 1 hour and 19 minutes.

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