DC Universe Animated Original Movies - JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER

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As we continue our look back the the movies from the DCUAOM, Matthew Kresal revisits the 2008 release Justice League: The New Frontier.


The time is the 1950s: full of Cold War tensions, McCarthyism paranoia plus the beginnings of both the space race and the Civil Rights movement. Imagine that caught in the middle of all this are superheroes such as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and potential ones like test pilot Hal Jordan, Barry Allan aka The Flash or the Martian Manhunter who hides away as Detective John Jones to name a few. Now imagine that a mysterious primordial being known only as the Center threatened to wipe humanity off the Earth and led these heroes to come together to form the Justice League? All these elements come together in the animated film Justice League: The New Frontier, based on the award winning DC: The New Frontier comic book miniseries.

The film features a phenomenal cast of voices for its characters. They include Kyle MacLachlan as Superman, Lucy Lawless as Wonder Woman, David Boreanaz as Hal Jordan, Miguel Ferrer as the Martian Manhunter, Neil Patrick Harris as the Flash, Phil Morris as government agent Faraday, Brooke Shields as Carol Ferris and Kyra Sedgwick as Lois Lane. There's only one mis-cast role in the whole film in the form of Jeremy Sisto as Batman whose voice never quite seems to fit in the role. On the whole though, the voice cast all breathe a huge amount of life into their characters which both properly compliments the animated versions and give them the period feel they need.

While it may be animated, to be perfectly honest I'm not sure doing the story as a live action film would actually improve it. The animation allows for the film to be visually retro per its 1950s setting yet also be visually exciting. This retro feel is not only in terms of how characters look - with nods to the comics of the 1950s - but with the design work that matches the era well from aircraft to gadgetry. One of the best examples of the visual style comes in one of the film's finest sequences: its epilogue taken almost exactly from its source material which combines JFK's 1960 New Frontier speech with a montage of DC comic images and a stirring piece of music from composer Kevin Manthei. To put in another way, the animation is a strength not a weakness of the film.

Last but not least is the story. Justice League: The New Frontier is adapted from the award winning miniseres by Darwyn Cooke (who himself got his start on the acclaimed 1990s Batman: The Animated Series), the film puts these superheroes into the 1950s and watches as they live through, and are effected by, the events of that time. These events range from the beginning of U.S involvement in Vietnam (when it was still known as Indochina) to McCarthyism as well as early days of both the space race and the Civil Rights movement. The film manages to remain quite faithful to the original miniseries though it places greater emphasis on the “big name” superheroes over some of the perhaps more obscure comic characters featured in it, who nevertheless make appearances here such as the Challengers Of The Unknown and the Suicide Squad.

No superhero movie though would be complete without a villain and action sequences and this film has both. Its villain is the Center, a version of DC's previously established Dinosaur Islands this time portrayed as a mysterious primordial being who slowly makes its presence known as it works towards humanity's destruction. The film features a lot of action including a Korean War era dogfight between American and Korean jets, Flash saving Las Vegas, an attempted Mars mission, battles with dinosaurs, and all that's leading up to an epic climatic battle off Cape Canaveral. This combination of real world events and DC superheroes works as the film presents an epic tale in a mere 75 minutes.

With its combination of a phenomenal voice cast, retro design work, superb animation and an epic story, Justice League: The New Frontier packs quite a punch despite its brief running time. It also proves to be both a worthy adaption of its source material as well as being a superhero film that is head and shoulders above many of its live action counterparts in the genre. For those wishing to see the DC superheroes in a new light, look towards The New Frontier.

Previously
All-Star Superman
Batman: Under The Red Hood

Matthew Kresal lives in North Alabama where he's a nerd, doesn't have a southern accent and isn't a Republican. He's a host of both the Big Finish centric Stories From The Vortex podcast and the 20mb Doctor Who Podcast. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, amongst other places.
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