…And Justice for All

Justice League: New Frontier DVD Review

I recently purchased, sight unseen, the new direct-to-DVD long-form cartoon from DC Comics and Warner Brothers entitled, Justice League: New Frontier. The movie is based on the critically acclaimed New Frontier mini-series from writer/artist Darwyn Cooke. In short, it’s great.

First and foremost, this ain’t a glorified Super Friends cartoon. It’s rated PG-13 and thank goodness for that. There’s violence, but no sex. A guy shoots himself in the first few minutes and though you don’t see anything, it’s a shocking POV. Speaking of headshots, one of our main characters, Hal Jordan, infamous for never firing his jet fighter’s guns during the Korean conflict, gets shot down and to survive he has to shoot a soldier and the blood spatter was more CSI than JLA. I don’t recommend younger children watching this DVD.

Overall, Cooke deftly intertwines mid-1950s, Cold War era communist paranoia with super heroes. The story jumps effortlessly from Hal Jordan’s journey becoming a test pilot for Ferris Aircraft to the unexpected arrival of the Martian Manhunter to Superman and Wonder Woman arguing about women’s rights to the Flash trying to prove his place in the world. Finally, throw in Batman for good measure and several cameos (Green Arrow, the Blackhawks, Aquaman and more).

The story is about a monstrous alien island calling itself “The Centre” affecting the people of the Earth’s minds. Various heroes and the government have been investigating “The Centre,” but it all seems like the ravings of madmen and cults. However, when “The Centre” attacks Paradise Island, home of Wonder Woman, and moves to threaten the United States, the heroes join forces to stop the creature.

While this story certainly has a great deal of action, characterization is at the forefront. The characters react like individuals. I understand the personality of every character and what is driving each one to do what they do. The filmmakers must be applauded for emphasizing motivation versus muscle. Add in the relevant paranoia of the day plus individuals overcoming their fears, and you have an amazing story.

It’s too bad, the filmmakers could not include even more of Cooke’s narrative regarding The Black Hood and the KKK and his obvious love for non-spandex heroes such as The Losers, Sgt. Rock and Easy Company and the Challengers of the Unknown.

I was startled by how great the voice casting turned out. David Boreanaz as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern carries a great deal of the story as does Miguel Ferrer as the Martian Manhunter and they both added weight to their characters. I half expected to hear too much Xena with Lucy Lawless as Wonder Woman, but I didn’t think of her once. Neil Patrick Harris as The Flash was just the right level of insecure and confident. Jeremy Sisto stole the show as Batman and Kyle MacLachlan as Superman was as flawless a performance as I’ve ever heard.

While I didn’t think Superman Doomsday was a terrible direct-to-DVD film, New Frontier is leaps and bounds ahead of it. I think it far surpasses the Marvel direct-to-DVD offerings.

If you are thinking of buying a super-hero film, do yourself a favor and spend 70 minutes with some of your favorite DC heroes. I think you’ll be glad you did.