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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Superhero > Action > Feature > Justice League: The New Frontier (Blu-ray + HD-DVD/DVD Combo Format/Warner Bros./DC Comics)

Justice League: The New Frontier (Blu-ray + HD DVD/DVD Combo Format/Warner Bros./DC Comics)

 

Picture: A-/A-/B     Sound: B+/B+/B     Extras: A-/A-/B     Film: B-

 

 

This reviewer is one of the biggest Batman and Justice League fans that you can find, so the prospects of a new full length Justice League film was almost too much to handle.  Justice League: The New Frontier takes the crime fighting conglomeration to a new level by revisiting the heroes’ pasts.  We could delve deeply into the comics that inspired this Justice League adaptation, but we will keep it simple by saying that Darwyn Cooke (who previously worked on Batman: The Animated Series) is the true visionary behind this particular variation of the Justice League mythos.  Cooke’s comic book ideas were always innovative and only furthered by his smooth and crisp animation style.  Other comic book visionaries (like Bruce Timm) obviously recognized his genius and decided to adapt his New Frontier comic into a full length feature.  Cooke drew inspiration in his New Frontier comic series from his love from the 1950s comics and the culture that surrounded them.  The main difference between the comic series that Cooke created and Justice League: The New Frontier is that the film is incredibly compact and rushed, rather than using Cookes original intention of sprawling his comic series over multiple comic volumes to build intensity and depth.

 

The basic premise of Justice League: The New Frontier is that as the people of post-Korean War America become enamored in the anticommunist mentality, they also become wary of the masked men and women who have been protecting them.  Superman and Wonder Woman have signed a loyalty oath to America, but the Flash and Batman still run free as vigilante heroes.  While the old heroes of earth work out personal issues, as well as worldly criticisms, two new beings arise on the earth’s surface.  The first being has arrived from a distant planet after a scientist sent out an encrypted message for the being to intercept, the being arrived on earth (the details are sketchy) to respond, but in turn scared the scientist to death with his Martian appearance; this being was Martian Manhunter.

 

Martian Manhunter apparently sits around for awhile watching television and learning the ‘human ways,’ before becoming a heroic detective (in disguise, of course).  Another being arises from the depths of earth as an entity that has always been and has watched the violence that humanity brings grow out of control and now sets out to destroy the evils of man (yea that means everything); this being is The Center.  So the film now chooses to focus on an array of storylines all at once.  You have the Martian Manhunter, Superman, Batman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, The U.S. Government, a Super Villain (who is not even present until the end of the film; besides mind control), and a distressed war hero; all of which who have different storylines that only SLIGHTLY connect.  The heroes eventually all get together to fight the ‘evils of the world,’ but by that point the viewer is confused at the surplus of unresolved storylines.

 

This reviewer felt that Justice League: The New Frontier had an insanely good comic foreground to work from and it could have been a great film.  New Frontier, however, turned into a rushed project that was not spaced out enough and the creators tried to fit way too much into a 75 minute space.  The 1950’s edge that the film utilized, as did the comics, is a great concept that works well and brings something fresh to the table.  Along with the 1950’s inspiration it is more than obvious that the 1960’s comics were also a source for the creators to look back to as far as style and artistic edge.  The voice acting fell somewhere between great (The Flash) and horrible (Batman), the creators and artists have free range to try new things, but some things should not slide by so easily as passable.  Does this reviewer recommend the film?  Yes.  Is it the best Justice League adaptation? No.  Was it fun nevertheless?  You bet you last Gotham Dollar it was.

 

The technical features on this superhero fueled feature are not out of this world but are very nice.  The picture is excellent on the Blu-ray and HD side of the HD-DVD Combo in its 1080p High Definition 1.78 X 1 presentation (enhanced for 16 X 9 televisions) demonstrating vibrant and fluid colors throughout the film with little to no other distorting issues.  The DVD side (anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1) does not demonstrate the same degree of clarity and vibrant colors that are found on the HD side, but still remains a solid presentation.  The sound is not quite as good as the picture but has its own merits in its Dolby TrueHD English 5.1 Surround presentation that is a bit softer in the action sequences than it should have been and the voice work at times did not always demonstrate the ‘punch’ that was needed, but that is just this reviewer being picky.  The DVD side is nice in its Dolby Digital 5.1 Surrounds but does not hold up next to the Dolby TrueHD.  This reviewer was still hoping for a DTS track, but both the Blu and HD seem limited by 16-bit ceiling.  Otherwise, the mix is good.

 

The extras are very well done in that they give a full fledged commentary attack from creators, producer (Bruce Timm), voice directors, DC Comics Vice president/Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck, and many more.  If that one commentary track was not enough the feature also offers a second track by comic book writer and artist Darwyn Cooke, who is simply fantastic for creative input.  Besides the amazing commentary tracks there is also a comprehensive documentary entitled Super Heroes United!: The Complete Justice League History that is insightful, interesting, and a big treat for long time comic and cartoon fans.

 

All the following extra features are available on both the Blu-ray and HD/DVD Combo releases.  The extras on the High Definition releases contain various exclusive features that include a second full length documentary entitled The Legion of Doom: The Pathology of a Super Villain that is interesting in that it is the opposite end of the spectrum from the Justice League United! documentary as far as mythology goes and there is a second featurette on the HD side entitled Comic Book Commentary: Homage to a New Frontier that explores the transformation of turning a comic book into a full length animated feature.  If all those features were not enough the HD side also gives the fans 3 fantastic bonus episodes of Justice League (Dark Heart, To Another Shore, and Task Force X) to enjoy in HD.  The episodes have some picture and sound issues of their own, but this reviewer is assuming we can expect better from the series once it is released in Season sets on Blu-Ray.

 

Justice League: The New Frontier was not exactly what this reviewer was expecting, but was still pleased to a degree with the overall presentation and concept.  There are storyline and character issues that this reviewer feels could have been executed in much better and solid way, but it is a nice start to a new era of Justice League features and possible series.  This reviewer doubts The New Frontier story arch will be involved in any future Justice League ventures (at least any time soon), but it was still an excellent and interesting model to use.  The idea of throwing back to the past is something that is being emphasized everywhere from football jerseys to Starbucks’ cups these days, so fans being interested in seeing their favorite heroes back in their hay day is no surprise either.  Here is to a new frontier of superhero appreciation!

 

For more on the film and a more enthusiastic review, try this link to the DVD version:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/6645/Justice+League:+The+New+Frontier

 

 

-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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