Three Tales of Heroism
Justice League: Warworld (DCT 06)
I like DC's superheroes. I have put myself on the record several times saying that the heroes from the DC ComicsOne of the two biggest comic publishing companies in the world (and, depending on what big events are going on, the number one company), DC Comics is the home of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and just about every big superhero introduced in the 1930s and 1940s. stable of characters are among my absolute favorites. Marvel and Image have their share of interesting characters, for sure, but DC, for me, is where it's at. Give me BatmanOne of the longest running, consistently in-print superheroes ever (matched only by Superman and Wonder Woman), Batman has been a force in entertainment for nearly as long as there's been an entertainment industry. It only makes sense, then that he is also the most regularly adapted, and consistently successful, superhero to grace the Silver Screen., SupermanThe first big superhero from DC Comics, Superman has survived any number of pretenders to the throne, besting not only other comic titans but even Wolrd War II to remain one of only three comics to continue publishing since the 1940s., Wonder WomanLong considered the third pillar of the DC Comics "Trinity", Wonder Woman was one of the first female superheroes ever created. Running for as long as Batman or Superman (and without breaks despite a comic downturn in the 60s that killed superhero comics for about a decade), Wondie has the honor to be one of the longest serving, and most prolific, superheroes ever. over the likes of WolverineAlthough not one of the original X-Men, Wolverine is certainly the most popular, even before he was played, to much acclaim, by Hugh Jackman in the Fox film series. or The HulkOnce the brilliant Dr. Bruce Banner had dreams of making the world a better place by building super soldiers to act as a shield for all mankind. Then an accident at his lab bathed him in gamma radiation. Now he has a living nightmare, as a big green guy lives within, just waiting for the rage to take over so he can be free. (although SpidermanSure, DC Comics has Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman, but among the most popular superheroes stands a guy from Marvel Comics, a younger hero dressed in red and blue who shoots webs and sticks to walls. Introduced in the 1960s, Spider-Man has been a constant presence in comics and more, featured in movies regularly since his big screen debut in 2002. is legit). Almost no character from competing comics can stand tall with the likes of DC's best.
As such, a movie focusing on that top trinity -- Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman -- should be absolute must watch film. Right? Well... not so much. The issue with Justice League: Warworld (which, to be clear, is a Justice LeagueThe premiere team at DC Comics, their version of the Avengers (which actually came before the Avengers and, really, has existed in some fomr since the early 1940s), the Justice League is the team-up to end all team-ups, featuring some of the most popular, and longest running, characters in all of comics history (and also Booster Gold). film in name only) is that it's saddled in the DC TomorrowverseA fresh start for DC's direct-to-video animated films, this is the successor universe to the DC Animated Movie Universe, promising bright new stories for DC's classic stable of heroes.. I had high opes for this new universe of films, starting off strong with Superman: Man of Tomorrow and Justice Society: World War II, but the series has been pretty hit of miss. Batman: The Long Halloween was over long and felt like it lost the thread of the comic series. Green Lantern: Beware My Power was just bad, with rushed storytelling and no one you could actually care about. And while I liked Legion of Super-heroes it seems as though I'm in the minority there.
That brings us to the sixth official entry in the series, Warworld, which has many of the same flaws of the previous films. Namely, rushed storytelling and a lack of compelling characters. That's interesting in its own way because the three leads -- Jensen Ackles's Batman, Stana Katic's Wonder Woman, and Darren Criss's Superman -- have all featured in their own films in the Tomorrowverse prior to this movie. Take those characters, put them together, an you have a winning dynamic. Except all of these characters are changed and morphed and made into versions we don't recognize, and it's not until the film is nearly over that we finally get versions we know and like again. By then, of course, it's too late. There's no other way to put it: this film is a totally misfire.
The movie is essentially broken into three parts, telling us three "alternate dimension" stories for our heroes. The film starts strong, with a old West story involving a gunslinger come to town. This woman, called a "Wonder" and an "Angel" by the people of the town, is there to fight against a group of bandits led by Jonah Hex (Troy Baker). She sides with the townsfolk, led by Bat Lash (Brett Dalton), in an attempt to free the town and save the folks. Unfortunately while she is able to stop the bandits, Lash is killed in the process. Angry, the gunslinger beats Hex nearly to death before stalking off, leaving the town to fend for itself.
We then cut to a post-apocalyptic setting. There, a mercenary is captured by Warlord Travis Morgan (Teddy Sears). The mercenary, a dark figure with seemingly out for his own kind of justice, agrees to take the Warlord and his army to the castle of the wizard Deimos (Damian O'Hare). But after a series of set backs and double-crosses, it seems like the mercenary was working for the wizard all along. Except he then betrays the wizard too, out for himself to gain treasure and escape the castle. He frees a slave woman with a golden lasso and then two make their escape through a portal, not sure of who they are and where home may be.
This then leads them to the 1950s in Grover's Mill in the USA. The man is Officer Wayne, the woman Diana Prince, and they're there to meet with Agent Kent. It seems that there's a secret threat in the small town that only the CIA can handle, and Kent is there to investigate. What do they find? Aliens, who can be anyone and look just like us. The three have to battle the aliens, and a distrustful CIA, while they work to figure out who they really are, where they are, and what's really going on in this strange, shifting world.
Justice League: Warworld is a wildly uneven movie, flawed in its construction and concept, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that the Tomorrowverse hasn't really done the leg work to build up its versions of these characters. It only has sex films so far and yet it has a massive roster of characters introduced over those films, most of whom haven't been fleshed out or given the kind of repeating stories that we can know who they are or understand what they want. This is unlike the previous series DC produced, the DC Animated Movie UniverseWhile DC Comics was amping up production on this big "MCU-killer", the DC Extended Universe they were also quietly putting together another shared movie continuity, the DC Animated Movie Universe. This series was more closely related to the comics, directly adapting a number of famous storylines to, arguably, better effect than the live-action movies could., which had 18 films and made sure to spend plenty of time on character development and story.
As the sixth film in this series, with new versions of these three lead characters, it seems really weird to take them and put them in a film where they all act differently and are given new, alternate world tales. This is the kind of film you put out as the 16th adventure for these heroes, not their sixth. Right now we don't have enough time with them to understand how different these alternate versions are. Hell, Wonder Woman has only shown up once before in the series and that was also an alternate version of her from a different timeline (Justice Society: World War II). Is this that Diana? A different one from the main timeline? We don't know because the film barely addresses it. We just gloss past important character details and move on. Hell, maybe the creators don't even know.
I liked the first of these three stories because it felt like a Wonder Woman adventure. Sure, putting her in the Old West and having her battle Jonah Hex is a different setting for her character. But with her sense of justice, her lasso, her red and blue highlights on her outfit, the innate qualities that make her Wonder Woman shine through, The first of the three adventures in this film feels like a solid Wonder Woman adventure, through and through, no matter the time period or the setting. Even if we've only seen her once before, her in this context makes sense. It leaves you curious, sure -- how did she get here, why is she a gunslinger -- but it works.
The rest of the stories, though, do not. Batman turned into a mercenary and dropped into a post-apocalyptic mash up of Conan styling doesn't feel like a Batman story at all. And Superman is not the guy to lead a paranoid alien hunt story since he's supposed to be the beacon of hope, not one of the alien-hunting agents. Maybe these latter two stories were meant to show how these characters could shine through even in settings they didn't fit, but the stories they were given didn't let them show any of that shine. They could have been any characters, not Batman and Superman.
Of course, then the film concludes with a reveal of where the heroes actually were, what all was going on, and the coming threat that awaited them. This whole last act twist (without spoiling it) really just comes out of nowhere and doesn't feel earned at all. It lands with a thud when, I assume, the audience was supposed to be primed and ready for big answers. I was not; instead I was bored and just wanted the movie to end. The promise of a big threat (which, if you know anything about DC, you could see coming) just makes me tired. This whole film made me tired. I'm tired of this Tomorrowverse already and, at only six films, it's arguably just finally gotten going.
This whole new universe keeps swinging wildly between good stories and bad, but what's clear is that the creators don't really have a grasp of who these characters are at all. They're writing archetypes, not actually characters, and then slotting voice actors into the roles. The stories feel empty, the characters are hollow, and it's hard to care about anything that's happening at all. But, hey, maybe DC will reboot again soon and then we can go through this whole mess all over again. Perhaps next time it will be better.