Justice League animated DVD

Film:
DVD:

Written by Stan Berkowitz, Rich Fogel
Directed by Butch Lukic, Dan Riba
Starring the Voices of Susan Eisenberg, Kevin Conroy, George Newbern, Michael Rosenbaum, Phil LaMarr, Carl Lumbly, and Maria Canals

Features:

  • Character Bios
  • Cast & Crew
  • Trailers of other WB Family titles
  • DVD-ROM Web links

Rating: NR, suitable for audiences 7+
Anamorphic: N/A; episodes presented in their original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Rent it.

Most of my generation remembers well their first real exposure to DC's Justice League: the venerable (though incredibly cheesy) Hanna-Barbera production Superfriends. The plots were goofy, there were ridiculous sidekicks thrown in (I can't decide to this day if I dislike the Wonder Twins or Wendy & Marvin worse), but it was cool when we were seven and Saturday morning was awash in cheesy cartoons. So it was with a great deal of joy and anticipation that I awaited the premiere of Cartoon Network's new treatment, Justice League. Developed by the same people that brought out the wicked Batman/Superman Adventures show, it promised to provide a new look at the Superfriends of old, without Gleek or silly craft projects led by Aquaman.

And, as expected, they delivered. This new show kicks righteous arse. Using the "Magnificent 7" standard for good Justice Leagues, the team includes Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, and Hawkgirl. While the team composition has raised a few eyebrows among fans (particularly Hawkgirl and the choice of John Stewart to wear the ring), the balance of personalities works quite well. The animation is the same top-notch standard common to the previous DC endeavor tackled by this team.

The DVD presents the pilot movie of the new series, aptly titled Secret Origins. A hostile alien invasion hits the ground all over Earth, and the newly-arrived Martian Manhunter assembles a squad of super-beings to help him repel these all-too-familiar (to him, anyway) invaders. The story is straight out of H.G. Wells, tweaked to incorporate super-powered opposition from Earth. The comicbook purists will get bent because of the anachronistic details of the team. Wally West is Flash while Stewart is Lantern, and nobody has any idea who Wonder Woman is (she makes her first appearance in the world of humanity during this story). But if you're not picky about those kinds of details, it's a great flick.

Shortcomings are few, but notable: the story, as stated, is pretty much a straight H.G. Wells rip-off, though it serves to spin the "white Martians" into the series mythology nicely. The writers don't possess an ounce of imagination with regards to Green Lantern, who uses his ring for three things: flying, making bubbles to protect people, and firing green laser beams at stuff. Seems a waste of a perfectly good power ring. And the length limitations prevent a really good introduction to the team as a whole. Hawkgirl gets next to no actual dialogue, and there's no discussion of exactly where she came from and what she's supposed to be doing with these other heroes. Those details aside, it's a solid action flick/super-hero yarn, without anything to scare away the kiddies.

While violent, there's very little in the way of blood (the aliens don't precisely bleed, so much as dissolve). And, perhaps most importantly, the story is epic enough to merit the whole team. Too often in previous superhero toons, the "huge dilemma" always seemed like something that Supes could have fixed himself, if he weren't so busy pulling everybody else's fat out of the fire.

The DVD treatment is mediocre, with only some text character bios and cast notes, and a lame DVD-ROM feature that amounts to little more than a collection of Web links. And, true to WB's form, it's packaged in one of those awful cardboard fold-up keepcases, instead of a proper DVD box, so the case is just begging to be folded, spindled, and mutilated. You'd think with a DVD aimed at a younger audience, it would occur to them to make the case of sturdier stuff, but apparently not.

If you liked the Batman/Superman show, then you'll dig on the new Justice League. And if your childhood nostalgia has ever led you to watch an old episode of Superfriends recently, this disc will serve to get that Velveeta taste out of your mouth. It's always nice to see American animation doing something that doesn't involve singing animals or giant rodents, particularly when it holds up nicely next to Japanese imports, and Justice League holds up very nicely indeed.

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