Based on the acclaimed comic book series by Darwyn Cooke, Justice League: The New Frontier takes place in the 1950’s in a timeline where most of the Justice Society retired after World War II, leaving only Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman as societies saviors. With McCarthyism running rampant many people are suspicious of superheroes and the government is trying to track them down and capture them to see what makes them tick. All the while a new threat is growing and threatens to wipe out all of humanity. The threat is an ancient evil, born out of the center of the Earth, called The Centre and it’s growing more afraid of the violent tendencies of mankind.
With McCarthyism running rampant, superheroes are being treated as criminals. Batman, voiced by Jeremy Sisto, has gone into hiding and The Flash, voiced by Neil Patrick Harris, helps out under the threat of arrest. The only superheros operating in the open are Superman, voiced by Kyle MacLachlan, and Wonder Woman, voiced by Lucy Lawless, and that’s only because they signed a loyalty oath to America.
While Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are the most famous characters, you’ll find that the Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern and the Flash are the real heroes of the film, with most of the story being told through their eyes. Each of these heroes has a distinct character arc of which they ultimately dovetail together. Unfortunately though it seems as if the producers were rushing to get their stories told so they could move on to the next chapter. Ultimately this really hurt the movie, which clocked in at 1 hour 14 minutes (and that’s with all of the credits in the beginning and ending making the actual story around an hour). There was so much from the comic series that could have been touched on, John Henry, the Challengers of the Unknown and more could have been dealt with and they still would have managed to make it a short movie.
The short length of the movie is what really hurt it, too often you’d jump from one story to another and not feel like anything was accomplished with the prior story. It was as if they were rushing to get to the big battle scene, which itself was only a few minutes long. While the producers might have been aiming to do a little bit of character development the manner in which they went about it hurt it. Just as you started learning about a character they’d jump to another part of the story. Nothing felt coherent.
While I have my gripes with the films pacing, the animation is clean and colorful, with the characters looking like they came straight out of Cooke’s series. Watching this in high def the colors really stood out. The voice casting, which if you like at the crop of actors and actresses you might wonder “huh?”, for the most part was good. I thought that Batman was cast horribly and I couldn’t buy the fact that he was Batman when he spoke. The thing that stood out most to me though was the lip syncing. Now you’ll find that when they animate movies the characters mouths will sync to the words being spoken, unfortunately someone forgot to mention it to the animation studio this time around. So often the mouths were running at different speeds compared to the lines being spoken that it became a bit of a distraction and an annoyance.
After anxiously awaiting the release I was completely let down. Giving it only just over an hour was clearly not enough time and it’s as if you could tell that the producers knew it because of how much they were condensing into it. It should have received a proper time allotment to help flush out the stories a bit more. While the animation was good and looked great in high-def, overall it was rather disappointing. If you’re a fan of the Justice League or DC characters in general then definitely check this out. If not I’d best wait until it’s released on tv.