Justice League: The New Frontier
Justice League: The New Frontier 2008
I think one of the hardest part about watching and reviewing some of these DC titles is the fact that so many of them are in different, overlapping continuities and when there is that continuity that connects in a great way then it’s that much harder to connect with any different continuity. And that’s really my biggest problem with The New Frontier. It was one of the earlier efforts by DC Animation coming out after Doomsday and even though I watched it fairly early on it didn’t really connect with me then. And watching it again, there have been a few other animated projects that did connect strongly with me that now that I’m finishing my run of the currently released DC Animated movies, this is the one that tends to fall flat with me considering that almost all of the members of the Justice League represented in this movie except for possibly Martian Manhunter, I can think of another movie that represents what I think of as the definitive version of that character. But considering that this is one of the earlier movies, it still holds up well and has a lot more violence in it than I remembered it having, and yet still nothing near what has been in some of the most recent titles. It could be considered a sort of origin story for this incarnation of the Justice League, even though there is mention of the breakdown of the Justice Society, and there are a few origin stories laced throughout the movie for some of the individual members, but there’s also an underlying theme of trust and coming together for the good of us all.
One of the more significant problems I had with this movie is that there is so many origin stories and pseudo origin stories laced throughout the movie. What I would consider the central one is centered around J’on J’onzz aka the Martian Manhunter which shows his arrival to Earth, his shapeshifting abilities, and ends with the creation of his pseudo humanoid form that most people are familiar with which honestly felt like a rather absurd look based on the context of the rest of the movie combined with the more alien looking form that he starts out in. There’s also the third version of Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern origin story that I’ve seen, even though this is the one that came out first. There’s also a pseudo origin story of the Flash, even though he existed as a hero in the context of this movie, this is where he transitions from a small time vigilante to a big time hero. There’s also a very brief introduction to Aquaman, and of course the whole thing implicitly ends with the creation of the Justice League of America.
The whole thing takes place in the 50’s shortly after the Korean War, Wonder Woman has left the country and there’s a slight blowback against some of the costumed heroes, especially the ones who aren’t working directly with the government like Superman is. There’s a long and slow buildup of this villain called the Center who is able to infect the minds of others and seems to seek to destroy the world and the lesser beings therein even though it is able to sense the presence of the superheroes. It all culminates in a rather bizarre battle with a flying, living island that spawns giant dinosaur-like creatures, shoots energy beams, has a mind altering center, and is able to take Superman out of the battle almost immediately. This is another part of the movie that really loses me, it’s a battle that’s just so immense, so off the rails, and just plain bizarre that it’s hard to get a sense of scale, a sense of danger, or a sense of reality to it. Which is also one of the biggest problems I had with All-Star Superman, and yet in that movie, I was able to laugh at the absurdness and I got the feeling that the movie was laughing at much of it too. Where in this movie, it took this extreme sense of non-reality way too seriously.
The voice acting was also something that I had a bit of a disconnect with stemming from the fact that the voices of many of the heroes are so disconnected with what I’m much more connected to. Neil Patrick Harris vioces the Flash, and while I liked him a lot in the role of Nightwing in Under the Red Hood, I wasn’t fond of his take on Barry Allen which gives him a fast-talking spin that veered a little too close to chipmunk territory. The one voice who I thought worked the best was Martian Manhunter which does carry a good chunk of the movie. And even though I’m a fan of Nathan Fillion’s version of Green Lantern, I didn’t have a problem with David Boreanez’s take on Hal Jordan.
What I do think this movie does very well is the way it handles all the little stories leading up to the giant battle with dino island. I love all the great scenes with Martian Manhunter assimilating himself into Earth culture and the slightly noir-ish detective work that he ends up doing along with his run ins with Batman. I also enjoyed the fights with the Flash and his more minor villains. The lead up with Hal Jordan getting into the space program was ok, but it’s slightly soured by how much I enjoyed his origin story in First Flight much better. And it all ends with an odd series of still images featuring a lot of DC heroes and villains I know of and plenty I’m not familiar with, and it’s presented with no real context. It’s still a good movie, and fits with the quality of all the other DC Animated movies, but it’s one of the lesser ones overall. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.