Justice League: The New Frontier (JLNF) reminded us of Watchmen. If you read our take on Watchmen, you know that is not a good thing. JLNF is based on a graphic novel (2004) as was Watchmen. Both had large ensemble casts, multiple disjointed plot threads, and no clearly understood enemy to galvanize the plot. Both were filled with political overtones (and undertones) and had varying levels of nihilism.
The patented Fortress one sentence synopsis: In the late 1950’s all the (self-loathing) golden age DC heroes face a government that is suspicious of them, a military who fears them, and a public who is hostile to them while somewhere deep under the Earth a mysterious and ill-defined disembodied voice called “The Center” threatens all of mankind – somehow – so that eventually all the heroes must unite to fight a stupid talking island and along the way they will give heavy handed speeches, break an arm or two, kill a lot of dinosaurs and learn about the power of believing in oneself. Gag.
The lack of any central plot backbone to carry the feature dragged this production down mightily. It starts with the depressing prologue where a disembodied voice takes a few minutes to tell us how loathsome mankind is. It ends where a bunch of heroes are conveniently gathered to fight a thrust belching floating island that spawns dinosaurs.
We did not read the graphic novel, nor do we wish to. The graphic novel medium is far different than that of a feature. Features based on books can flop if they do not adapt. Features that rely on a myriad of fractured subplots from a multi-part graphic novel are doomed to questionable dramatic value.
Fully 45 minutes into the 75 minute feature, little had actually happened regarding the main plot – such as it was. It was a sometimes interesting collection of scenes, featuring various heroes having their 5 minutes of action, but little drama. It was as if a dozen superhero stories were dropped into an animation studio and exploded with a grenade.
On the smaller bright side, the art direction was nifty. It took great advantage of the 50’s technology and fashions. The women looked rather nice, aside from Wonder Woman who has had better depictions. The male heroes ran the gamut from dull to strange. The credits were the most stylish. However, next time perhaps they should put some of that effort into adapting the material to a feature instead.
The music was well done and tried to inject some drama where it could. Voice casting veteran Romano gathered another star studded cast, but this was not her best effort. The Batman voice in particular was very “un-Batman”. Any previous Batman voice would have been better, including Adam West.
At times we felt like we were watching an animated public service announcement. “Hey kids! Don’t forget it is wrong to judge people by their looks!” If you are seeking a stylishly presented but heavy handed superheroes story, JLNF may be for you. If you are looking to be hit over the head with a 5 minute ending montage set to one of John F. Kennedy’s speeches, this underwhelming production will be right up your alley.