Blu-ray Review -- Justice League: War (2014)

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Before they were officially known as the Justice League, the Super Friends or even the Super Seven (as suggested in this early account of the first official team-up to save the Earth by a number of DC Comics’ most notable superheroes), there was an awful lot of friction in the group.

For starters, there’s wisecracking (and scene-stealing) Green Lantern’s evolving assessment of Batman as everything from a vampire (in need of Tru Blood no less) to a “tool” or a “douchebag,” to his yelling “Dibs!” on Wonder Woman despite Superman’s obvious attraction to her that is teased in this WB Justice League themed prequel animated feature.

Furthermore when you couple the massive egos that abound along with the intergalactic sized daddy issues of the newly initiated Cybog (whose origin story is unveiled in the film), there’s a lot of progress to be made before they’ll be able to fight like a cohesive unit aligned for good.

And unfortunately, that’s a large part of the uneven DC Universe feature’s problem as despite the gorgeous artwork, impressive star caliber on display in its voice cast and memorable one-liners, Justice League: War is far too disjointed in its approach.

Whereas the one or two character centric films they’d released in years past had smoother character arcs and maximized the potential of the medium to tell tales so successful as to rival some live-action superhero fare (as in Lauren Montgomery’s phenomenal Wonder Woman, for example), this one is clunky and all over-the-place. Likewise, by constantly jumping from one point-of-view to the next, War shortchanges many of the memorable fan favorite characters in the process as some superheroes seem like they're mere cameos in a Green Lantern movie at times.

And honestly, it may have been far too ambitious for its own good in bringing the 2012 Justice League: Origin graphic novel by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee to life in such a limited running time. While the DC division at Warner Home Entertainment should’ve perhaps divided the storyline across two features to devote more time to each character before just sending them off to get lost in the background of the epic battle that unfolds after Darkseid threatens the Earth, War is nonetheless still much more entertaining than most traditional episodic comic book television fare.

Elevated not only by its spectacular visuals, War stands out even when its plot does not, thanks to its clever dialogue and writing, including a hefty seasoning of darker, more modern themes and references that serve up tongue-in-cheek observations throughout.

Yet as a graphic novel transferred to film, it’s the beauty of the work that really attracts and War looks and sounds phenomenal in its sharp Blu-ray presentation complete with a digital high definition Ultraviolet copy along with four bonus animated shorts, a sneak peek at the franchise’s upcoming Batman themed feature nicely timed to celebrate the caped crusaders seventy-fifth anniversary and a behind-the-scenes exploration of legendary DC artist Jim Lee.

Needless to say, with its super-sized bonus material, the Justice League: War Blu-ray makes up for what’s missing in the feature presentation with worthwhile extras designed to appeal to superhero devotees. And even though it isn’t as great as some of the studio’s strongest entries, DC enthusiasts won’t want to miss this early exploration of what happened when Batman first met Greet Lantern (as well as all of their other Justice League favorites), back when the superheroes thought of each other more as strangers versus than sidekicks and well before they ever became Super Friends. 

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