Tuesday, March 4, 2008

4 Color Cinema

Justice League: The New Frontier
Justice League: The New Frontier

Okay, right off, no, I have not read DC: The New Frontier, though, yes, I have heard good things about it. I blame this solely on it being published in that period after I got out of college before I got "mad on" into the DCU. Because, in all honesty, this is a series right up my proverbial alley. But I'm here to talk about the movie, so let's get to that.

Right from the start you realize that this is not your typical Justice League adventure. In the late 50s, superheroes are still a source of fear and paranoia in the United States. The Justice Society of America has disbanded, Batman is seen as a menace, and Superman and Wonder Woman seem to be on shaky ground. Into this world are introduced three very important young men: police scientist Barry Allen, secretly the Flash; Air Force pilot and now fearless test ace Hal Jordan; and J'Onn J'Onnz, a Martian transported accidentally to Earth. It is through the eyes of these men that we see the planet face a peril heretofore unimagined, and begin down the path to a new age of heroism and courage.

New Frontier is a mature, relevant fable using the creation of the Silver Age as a very effective backdrop. The film ditches a lot of the politics, as well as some of the setup and supporting cast, to focus more on the members of the Justice League and their stories leading up to the it's formation. There's plenty of action and mystery, and cameos galore for those who are in the know. But even for casual fans or non-fans, there is a lot to enjoyed here, and even with the relatively brief running length of 75 minutes, the story never really feels cramped, abridged, or otherwise impacted.

The cast is an impressive group, and though the majority are primarily "face" actors, they do a good job on the voice acting. Miguel Ferrer stands out as the Martian Manhunter, giving him a human quality which was missing from the character's portrayl in Justice League, and David Boreanaz's Hal Jordan is equal parts likeable, impatient, confused, and confident. Jeremy Sisto's Batman is stony and intimidating -- the fact that he is only Batman, and not Bruce Wayne, helps add to this mystique. The ladies are also well represented, including Brooke Shields playing a fiesty and unstoppable Lois Lane, and Kyra Sedgwick of all people voicing the kinda-but-not-really-all-business Carol Ferris (a casting job I never could have predicted). And casting Lucy Lawless as Wonder Woman? vey apt. Also of note is Neil Patrick Harris as Barry Allen, giving the Silver Age Flash more personality than he really had back then, but that's alright. And I'd be remiss if I failed to mention Phil Morris as King Faraday, who brings a solid, WW2-era toughness to the all-around hardcore dude that is Faraday.

The design of the film is very true to the retro feel of the original series. It harkens back to the Fleischer Superman shorts as well as the very earliest Batman: The Animated Series episodes in it's human rawness, but also throws in strong dashes of Jack Kirby and Carmine Infantino, which mixes things up nicely. Most everyone looks pretty true to their Wonder Woman rocking her old style eagle breastplate. All in all it's a distinctive, memorable look, one which I would like to see more of, even as I know that is not going to happen.

There's some neat little tidbits for the nerds in the audience. Besides the stars, we also get a few cameos of note, including Robin, a beard-less Green Arrow, the Blackhawks, Adam Strange, and Aquaman. In the finale, we see brief appearances by the Teen Titans, Black Canary, and a host of freakish villains. Even Captain Cold shows up! The DVD (I purchased the single disc version) contains a 40 minute documentary on the history of the League (which I sadly have not had a chance to watch yet), as well as 10 minute preview of the next DCUA feature, Batman: Gotham Knight. The two-disc set features more swag, including some bonus episodes of Justice League Unlimited for good measure.

The final verdict here is that if you are a fan of the DC Universe in any way, then you will almost certainly enjoy this film. It's a nostalgic trip back to a "simpler time," without being ham-fisted about it, a rolicking adventure, and just plain fun.

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