Justice League: War is not a fundamentally bad movie. It’s techinically great and has moments of fantastic genius. But Justice League: War kind of encapsulates everything that’s messed up about The New 52, and I don’t even hate The New 52 like most people do. I actually really like The New 52, and probably would even if they weren’t the only game in town to get new stories about my favorite characters.
Justice League: War is based on the first “volume” of The Justice League comic to come out in The New 52, telling the story of how this team was formed. Hal Jordan is fighting a large armored monster in Gotham City and he and Batman encounter one another and sort of fight but sort of don’t. Then they find a motherbox and track down Superman and Flash gets involved, and teenager Victor Stone becomes Cyborg, and Shazam shows up and Wonder Woman is there, and the fight Darkseid.
It’s a good plot, and absolutely what a Justice League story should be, and one that I liked OK in the comics, but here just felt grating. It’s a lot to do with how the characters are presented. There should absolutely be some friction as this group begins meeting each other and working together. Hal Jordan and Bruce Wayne should not be friends immediately. Wonder Woman is really violent, every should be somewhat wary of this person. Batman and Superman should not understand how the other one works right away, and given Cyborg’s origin story, Victor should be super angry.
Flash should tell jokes. He does. We’re cool there.
Um, here’s what shouldn’t happen. BILLY BATSON SHOULD NOT BE AN ASSHOLE! Oh my God! Within the first half hour, Billy has run away from home, snuck into a football stadium, been a dick to Vic, stolen Vic’s championship football jersey and been mean to his foster siblings. I was staring, agape at the TV screen. Who was this kid and why on earth did the wizard give him these powers? Billy earned his power by being pure of heart. This kid? He should be punched in the face, not given the wisdom of Solomon.
And that to me is the big problem with The New 52 and frankly a lot of comic books and comic book movies, is that there’s this need to make it gritty and that’s great. I love Frank Miller, but The Dark Knight Returns doesn’t work because Bruce is a dick to everybody, nor is that why the Nolan Bat-Movies work. It is why Iron Man works, but that’s because Tony Stark is a dick. If when Constantine hits on NBC he’s a dick, I won’t be mad, because that’s who John Constantine is. But Superman isn’t. Barry Allen isn’t. Hal Jordan can be, but it shouldn’t be his defining characteristic. (He’s not Guy Gardner!) And Billy Batson, Captain Marvel, Shazam, whatever you want to call him, he should be the best person ever.
Anyway, that’s my problem with this movie, that is very good and has good moments. Let’s talk voice cast! This version of Shazam that I hate? Is voiced by Sean Astin, who should be a great Shazam because he’s the most likable presence. How do you not root for Rudy and Samwise Gamgee? Ugh. Anyway. He does a good job, this movie just left a bad taste in my mouth. Christopher Gorham’s Barry Allen is good and definitely underused and Justin Kirk nails Hal Jordan’s attitude. My favorite aspect of this story is that Hal and Barry cannot deal with the idea that Batman is hanging out with them. They are in awe. It’s cute. Michelle Monaghan, Jason O’Mara and Alan Tudyk turn in admirable big three performances and I’ll never ever get over the moment of Diana eating ice cream for the first time. It’s adorable. If the whole movie was just Wonder Woman eating ice cream and befriending children and then they all fight Darkseid? I would love that movie.
Up next is Son of Batman. Guys, guys, guys! No, but guys. Guys! (I’m sorry, unless you know my friend Nancy, you wouldn’t understand how that was supposed to be said.) I am SO EXCITED! I miss Damian so much. Like SO MUCH.