Sunday, March 2, 2008
Justice League: The New Frontier
Using the “Justice League” title with “The New Frontier” is somewhat of a misnomer as Darwyn Cooke’s original comic dealt with the transition from the Golden Age of superheroes to the Silver and the period just before the creation of the Justice League of America. But the Justice League is a recognizable brand and tying this project to that brand makes sense from a marketing standpoint.
But is it any good? Yes, it is good. I was a little worried because the online chatter had been mixed, however, I realized after watching JLTNF that most folks who were disappointed wanted something else and not Darwyn Cook’s amazing work. What they wanted was some sort of tie-in to the Justice League cartoons, this is simply crazy as the New Frontier story could never connect to those shows because it’s set in the 1950s and it's different in theme to those shows.
The story is very faithful to the original comic, but it does drop most of the mini-plots to focus in the main thrust of the story, that thrust being the rise of a new era of heroes and a threat to human existence on the planet. The story was so faithful in fact that there weren’t any surprises for those of us that have read the New Frontier comic book. So, the film’s enjoyment comes from seeing a great story animated, with excellent voice acting. It would be interesting to hear reactions from folks that haven’t read the original.
There are a few things to keep in mind. Much of JLTNF focuses on lesser-known characters in the DC Universe. The big three, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, have supporting roles. The main storyline focuses around Hal Jordan and the Martian Manhunter. The New Frontier is infused with events and the ethos of the 1950s and very early 1960s. Not knowing anything about the time period could reduce someone’s enjoyment (I’m thinking about you Dana Perino). This movie is certainly for the older crowd as suicide, murder, and horror figure into the plot of the film.
It’s a good film and despite some of it’s darker elements. The New Frontier gives a fresh take on the concept of heroism and what it really means. Many of the topics from the show resonate and that’s part of the appeal beyond the amazing artistic style. The idea that some shadowy crap is going on but at the same time there is still great hope for a new future truly resonates. That’s part of the brilliance of Justice League: the New Frontier.
Here is what I liked in no particular order (spoilers):
Darwyn Cooke’s original drawing style and designs are intact and look wonderful when animated.
I like the way Cook draws women and, by extension, how they appear in this film. They’re my kinda’ sexy.
The Martian Manhunter is great character. I never knew much about him before but both the comic and the movie have peeked my interest. He’s a great combination of sci-fi and noir.
Now we have a good reason for the new look Batman.
I like the Lovecraftian elements. It’s almost like the age of the Superhero finally overcomes its pulp origins with The New Frontier.
They kept the nod to John Henry in and I appreciated that.
I enjoyed the voice acting
The 1950s look of the story really helps convey how exciting the dawning of the silver age was.
I bought the cheap, single DVD version and was surprised by some good extra features like a Justice League doc, and commentary tracks.
Wonder Woman’s invisible plane bit is pure genius.
The “not so good” side of the 1950s is touched upon.
Events seem more connected in the film than in the comic.
Here is what I disliked in no particular order (spoilers):
Something is a little off with the Hal Jordan/Green Lantern storyline but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Why didn’t The Martian Manhunter just impersonate one of the astronauts instead of showing up at the last minute and trying to ride the rocket from the outside?
I don’t think this film works well cross culturally.
I would have liked animated sequences rather than static images for the end speech.
Sometimes the horror aspects and Cooke’s style don’t quite work together. (Although, I think they work better here in the film than the comic)
WB's site for the film here