Cinema Sunday: Justice League: The New Frontier

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Title: Justice League: The New Frontier

Distributor: Warner Bros.

Writers: Darwyn Cooke (original story/Graphic Novel), Stan Berkowitz (screenplay)

Director: David Bullock

Producers: Bruce Timm, Mike Goguen

Starring: David Boreanaz, Brooke Shields, Lucy Lawless, David MacLachlan, Neil Patrick Harris

Released: 2008

MPAA: PG-13

 

I typically only review older films, for the simple fact that is where my greatest interest lies, and I believe film-making as a whole has lost something it will probably never regain from these past decades. After learning of the recent passing of comic book creator, Darwyn Cooke, I felt compelled to review this wonderful film based off of his story.

By the time the story was written, there were of course many origin stories written for these characters, and retcons, reboots, etc., but Cooke not only used elements of all that material, he infused something in the characters using the whirlwind of ideas found in the revolutionary times of the 1960’s. That decade is probably second place in the history of comics (as far as relevancy) to the  Golden Age that birthed Superman (Siegel and Shuster), Batman (Bill Finger and Bob Kane), and Captain America (Jack Kirby and Joe Simon), just to name a few. These pioneers shaped and molded things to come, and most certainly influenced Cooke. Godspeed, Darwyn!

 

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The film begins with a monologue, or better yet, a recounting of Earth’s history since before the dawn of man. It shows the age of the dinosaurs, all the way up to the creation of the Atom Bomb (The Manhattan Project). The person speaking is never shown, but calls himself, “The Center,” and speaks as if it’s some kind of elemental force of nature that needs to purify the Earth because of its latest discovery (atomic energy). We then see that this “person” is writing a book called “The Last Story,” and at its conclusion, the writer picks up a revolver and apparently commits suicide.

 

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The following scene shows two pilots, one of them being Hal Jordan (David Boreanaz), flying jet fighters at the conclusion of the Korean War. As the two joke around, suddenly two communist jets attack them, and after Hal causes them to crash into each other, one more appears, and shoots down Jordan. As he lands in hostile territory, he attacked by a communist soldier. He has to kill the enemy soldier, and he apparently never had to kill before, so this traumatized him to the point of having a nervous breakdown or basically, PTSD.

The scene switches to an observatory in Gotham City. A scientist is on his death-bed from a heart attack brought on by an alien (John Jones, voiced by Miguel Ferrer) from Mars that was transported to the planet while the scientist was trying to beam a message to Mars. The alien looks rather scary, but shows absolute compassion for the man, and covers his corpse with a jacket. The alien then assumes the identity of the scientist by shape-changing into his likeness. Meanwhile, a world away in Indo-China, we see Superman (Kyle MacLachlan) flying into a jungle area. He sees an entire village on fire, but then hears someone celebrating. He enters a shack, where Wonder Woman (Lucy Lawless) tells him that the women from the village were captured, while the men and children were murdered. She set the women free and let them kill their oppressors. This doesn’t sit well with Superman but after a heated conversation, she tells him…”there’s the door, spaceman!” He walks out without arguing any further about her methods.

 

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Back in Metropolis, we see the alien that assumed the form of the scientist, as he’s living a somewhat normal life, and that he’s addicted to television. On the roof of the Daily Planet, Superman and Lois Lane (Kyra Sedgwick) are trying to figure out what the “right” thing to do is these days. Over in Las Vegas, Hal Jordan and his friend “Ace” are having a good time, gambling and boozing. They talk briefly about a mission, but quickly get back to having fun. Over in a corner, Iris West is interviewing some Hollywood type sleaze, but shortly after makes a quick phone call to her boyfriend, Barry Allen (the Flash, voiced by Neil Patrick Harris). Suddenly, Captain Cold (James Arnold Taylor) bursts in the casino, and robs the place. Of course, he doesn’t get very far before the Flash shows up to apprehend him though. As he’s all but beaten, a different voice comes out of his mouth, stating that Barry’s “not like the other lesser beings” and that “the Center is coming.”

 

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Batman (Jeremy Sisto), Green Lantern, and other heroes are introduced, and we see that it seems as if a cult is rising and taking over the minds of people all over the world. We also see that the martian, has assumed a new identity as a policeman named John Jones. He has a run in with Batman and the two begin to pool their resources to figure out what’s going on. Will they be able to find out the sinister secret of The Center? Will they be able to unite the heroes of the world while the government is becoming increasingly uneasy with super-powered beings running around unchecked? Watch to find out!!!

 

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OK, here are my thoughts:

While I admit I haven’t rad this story yet, if it’s even half as good as the film, it must be incredible. I’ve seen Cooke’s artwork many times, and his style is very good, and not comparable to really anyone else of that caliber. His vision and use of the zeitgeist of the times was absolutely brilliant. The mysterious elements as far as the government and the cult blend together nicely. I wonder if he was influenced by Alan Moore’s Watchmen slightly, as those heroes were under scrutiny from the government and within their own minds.

The animation in this movie is top-notch, and that is to be expected when Bruce Timm is involved. He’s set a high standard for DC animation, I’m not sure anyone can ever top it. Voice director Andrea Romano has been a part of that team (Bruce Timm and company) for a long time, and always does a great job getting quality voice actors for these roles. Stan Berkowitz is another name from the good old days of Batman the Animated Series, where these names all came together to begin molding the DC animated universe into the gem it is now.

Do yourself a favor and buy this DVD/Blu-Ray, there is no way you will be disappointed by the film. It just isn’t possible, because Darwyn Cooke put his heart and soul into this story. Rather than post shots from the film, I’m going to show some of Cooke’s work from the actual comic books themselves.

 

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Click here for the trailer!

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