Justice League: War (Blu-ray) (2014)

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Released 2-Dec-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Adventure Featurette-Deconstructing War with Jay Oliva and Jim Lee
Featurette-Creating Heroes: The Life and Art of Jim Lee
Featurette-Justice League: War Act D Ė From animatic to pencil test
Featurette-A Sneak Peek at Son of Batman
Bonus Episode-From the DC Comics Vault
Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2014
Running Time 79:26
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jay Oliva
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Jason OíMara
Alan Tudyk
Justin Kirk
Michelle Monaghan
Sean Astin
Christopher Gorham
Shamar Moore
Steve Blum
Ioan Gruffudd
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $19.95 Music Kevin Kliesch


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Spanish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Mid-credits scene

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Plot Synopsis

††† Although Warner Brothers have been producing DC Universe Animated Original Movies since 2007, the resultant productions have not exactly abided by a shared continuity, instead telling standalone stories without a real through-line. This all changes with 2014ís Justice League: War, as itís intended to be the beginning of a linked franchise of animated superhero movies, not unlike what Marvel has achieved with their live-action blockbuster franchise. Starting afresh, War is an origins story for the titular superhero gang, designed to follow the DC Comics ďNew 52Ē reboot which kicked off in 2011. An adaptation of the six-issue Justice League: Origins series, War is a blast on its own merits; a fun, action-packed superhero outing with all the bluster and bombast that comic book fans will be anticipating. However, greatness lies just out of its reach, and the fact that it falls so short of becoming a masterpiece is frustrating indeed.

††† War chronicles the beginnings of the Justice League of America, consisting of Batman (Jason OíMara), Superman (Alan Tudyk), Green Lantern (Justin Kirk), Flash (Christopher Gorham), Wonder Woman (Michelle Monaghan), Cyborg (Shemar Moore) and Shazam (Sean Astin). Mysterious explosive devices begin appearing in major cities, planted by alien creatures, which compels the various heroes to stop bickering, put aside their egos, and work together to stop an alien invasion led by merciless planet terraformer Darkseid (Steve Blum).

††† Running at a mere 79 minutes, thereís unfortunately not enough breathing room here to do the narrative justice, as the movie takes a number of shortcuts in order to introduce the main heroes and the villains, and develop the storyline pertaining to Earthís destruction. Itís disappointing that the movie was not split into two features (a la The Dark Knight Returns), but Heath Corsonís script does about the best job possible in the limited timeframe, giving the ensemble proper introductions and bringing them together in a natural-feeling way. Nevertheless, there isnít a lot of depth to the heroes, a flaw felt most glaringly in Wonder Woman, whoís too comical. Furthermore, the dialogue is often sophomoric and pedestrian, with the characters given snarky, jokey banter to disperse which doesnít always work. Itís clear that the movie was deliberately designed to compete with The Avengers, but itís only marginally effective. The Avengers had the benefit of a 150-minute running time, far more money, and Joss Whedonís witty screenwriting tongue - thereís simply no comparison between the two.

††† Justice League: War was directed by DCU mainstay Jay Oliva, who also oversaw The Dark Knight Returns and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. Oliva has a flair for colourful action scenes, and War delivers in spades, creatively allowing the superheroes to utilise their various abilities in combat without going too over-the-top. The productionís centrepiece is the extended city-wide scuffle with Darkseid and various aliens, which takes up the entirety of the third act. Itís interesting to see the various heroes putting aside their differences and bonding for the greater good, and the movie seriously delivers when we get to watch these guys working together. Admittedly, the animation remains strictly average, with shortcuts clearly having been taken for various sequences. It does look like an animated television show at times, but it nevertheless does its job well enough considering the budgetary limitations. Plus, the movieís opening titles are hugely impressive; a stylised succession of comic book panels which set the tone beautifully.

††† The design of each of the superheroes have been updated for DCís New 52 series, with Batman now donning a gorgeous suit of rock-solid armour, while Superman wears darker colours, and so on. While the ďclassicĒ outfits of prior animated features were acceptable, itís nice to see the franchise get a visual makeover, especially since Batmanís fabric costume has always looked a bit silly. Fortunately, the voice actors are fairly solid across the board. OíMara is an underrated actor whoís never really gotten his due recognition, and heís a robust Batman, with a gruff voice that also has a degree of charm to it. In the absence of fan favourite Kevin Conroy, this is about the best we can rightly expect. The wonderful Michelle Monaghan is also on hand to voice Wonder Woman, and she gives the role plenty of spunk and spirit despite the characterís one-dimensional disposition. Meanwhile, Alan Tudyk is a bit nondescript as Superman, and Justin Kirk overdoes the jokey demeanour of Green Lantern. Faring better is Sean Astin as Shazam, while the rest of the cast hit their marks respectably.

††† Justice League: War is merely a good animated superhero movie as opposed to a great one. Itís definitely enjoyable, but it falls short of its potential - thereís no getting around the fact that the story is all over the shop and a 79-minute runtime is hopelessly insufficient. Itís worth noting that while these movies are often for kids, the violence here is perhaps a tad too excessive for more sensitive viewers, though itís not too bad. Thereís also a mid-credits scene to potentially set up a future title in the DCU canon, once again highlighting that this new series is taking its cues from the Marvel handbook of superhero franchises.

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Transfer Quality

Video

††† Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1, Justice League: War is watchable on Blu-ray, but itís far from reference quality due to the limitations of both the budget and the source. After all, these animated flicks are produced for scant sums of money, thus thereís only so much that this 1080p, AVC-encoded high definition transfer can do.

††† Like many other DC Universe Animated Original Movies, Warís HD transfer suffers from a fair amount of banding, which is very apparent. One assumes that the banding comes as a consequence of how these movies are animated, but it nevertheless detracts from this transfer, with buildings and skies being noticeably affected, among other things. On top of this, there is some aliasing as well, while some lines around the characters look soft rather than sharply defined. And just to top everything off, macroblocking does crop up on an alarmingly frequent basis (see an explosion at around the eight-minute mark for an example).

††† Thankfully, however, the video remains watchable in spite of its flaws. Clarity is usually solid, despite the occasional haziness which appears to be an aesthetic decision on the part of the animators. The animation is excessively basic, and the encode does a reasonable job of handling the uncomplicated textures. When this transfer is on, itís on, with sharp edges and well-defined animation. But when the digital artefacts crop up, itís a bit of a mess. Still, avid watchers of these productions are probably familiar with such shortcomings.

††† Subtitles are provided. The English track is problem-free to my eyes.


Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

††† This is more satisfying. Justice League: War receives a bombastic DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that leaves very little to be desired. Itís not an especially subtle track due to the productionís nature, but it does deliver when it comes to explosions, fights, and all manner of destruction. For a low-budget animated feature, it makes great use of surround channels and creates an enjoyably immersive experience.

††† Dialogue is well-prioritised, with most of the chatter reserved for the front channels. Itís always easy to hear, without being overwhelmed by other sound effects, and it remains clear from start to finish. Solid dynamics are used as well, with precise use of surround channels, and the music also comes through clearly. This is a solid track.

††† The disc also contains lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in French and Spanish.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

††† A reasonable selection of extras.

Deconstructing War with Jay Oliva and Jim Lee (HD; 21:26)

††† This is essentially a compressed audio commentary/picture-in-picture, with director Jay Oliva and artist Jim Lee deconstructing various clips from the movie. They compare the adaptation to the comic book series on which the movie is based, and Oliva probes Lee about his work on writing comic books. Worth watching for comic fanatics, but itís less interesting for movie fans.

Creating Heroes: The Life and Art of Jim Lee (HD; 37:19)

††† Rather than a movie-specific documentary, this is a lengthy supplement concerned with Jim Lee, containing interviews with many industry professionals to paint the story of his life and discuss his work on comic books. Itís comprehensive, even concluding with a discussion of the New 52 reboot series, and about the place of comics in contemporary pop culture.

Justice League: War Act D Ė From animatic to pencil test (HD; 23:45)

††† Now this is more like it. This third featurette on the disc is a meatier examination of what goes into the making of one of these animated movies. Itís over twenty minutes of comparisons between pencil tests, animatics, storyboards and final animated footage, while Oliva provides an insightful commentary on the production process. Unfortunately, Olivaís commentary ends at about the thirteen-minute mark. Still, this is worth watching.

A Sneak Peek at Son of Batman (HD; 9:29)

††† How amusing. Son of Batman received a local Blu-ray release in 2014, but since the release of War was delayed for some reason in Australia, we have this sneak peak for an already-released movie. Since this is a promotional piece, itís not especially insightful.

From the DC Comics Vault (SD)

††† Here we have a selection of four episodes from various DC animated television shows. DC fans will probably dig this. We have the following:

Trailers (HD)

††† A few additional trailers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

† † The local release appears to be a direct port of the Region A release from Warner Bros. Draw.

Summary

††† It never quite comes together as well as it should, but Justice League: War is a fun distraction that provides easy entertainment for those who enjoy superhero movies. But of course, you still need to be forgiving towards the basic animation.

††† Roadshow's much-delayed release flaunts a very problematic video presentation, though audio fares better. Extras, however, are strictly mediocre. Rent before buying.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Review Equipment
DVDPlayStation 4, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42LW6500. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationLG BH7520TW
SpeakersLG Tall Boy speakers, 5.1 set-up, 180W

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