Yesterday saw the release of one of the most eagerly awaited animatedsuperhero movies in quite some time; JUSTICE LEAGUE, THE NEW FRONTIER.Adapted from the award winning mini-series by Darwyn Cooke, it portrays the beginning of the Justice League of America against thebackdrop of the late 1950's.
Making the series into a brief 75 minute movie was no easy task. Because of this, many parts of Cooke's narrative were excised to barethe plot down to it's pure concept. Something called 'The Centre' is about to wage war on humanity and only the heroes can defeat it. Unfortunately, we lose parts of the story that (although marginal to the pure concept) provided some of the most poignant and emotional scenes. The death of the WWII group The Losers (as well as virtually the entire first volume of the mini-series) is cut as well as the creation of the Challengers of the Unknown and the side story of John Henry (a black man fighting racism in the deep South) is only briefly mentioned in passing.
But the movie is not a celebration of what was excised as much as what was retained. Many of the best scenes were perfectly rendered such as Superman's confrontation with Wonder Woman about the Korean women prisoners and Hal Jordan's ascent into greatness.Overall, Cooke's series was about heroism. Not only what makes a hero but what made THESE characters heroic. This is carried over into the film with such passion and joy that it made this old Silver Age fan misty eyed on more than one occasion. I challenge any true comic fan to not feel a catch in their throat when Flash overcomes his insecurity to save the day or when Jordan's ring flashes a bright green from within the Centre itself. It is scenes like this that made us love comics all those years ago.
The voice casting is nearly flawless and is so good that it is barely noticed. Kyle McLaughlin makes a perfect Superman whose voice drips with self-confidence and belief in what is right. Neil Patrick Harris brings the right amount of boyish enthusiasm to the Flash and David Boreanz is pure Hal Jordan.The art direction takes it's cue from Cooke's own art and is like watching the comic come to life. This production bodes very well for DC's continuing animation line. In fact, with this film, DC's animation has already out paced their live action movies!
Of particular note in the extras was a 40 minute documentary on the history of the Justice League. It is an interesting look at this concept that has survived for nearly 50 years although I would have liked hearing from more of the artists involved. Special kudos to the documentary for not ignoring the infamous 'Detroit period' of the group which has been roundly reviled by many.
In the end, JUSTICE LEAGUE NEW FRONTIER was not only worth the wait but a worthwhile companion to the original graphic series. It not only adapts but enhances the original source material and can one really ask for anything more?